Clarion call for political cooperation
Updated: Feb 4
Canton seeks — and often finds — antidote to partisan politics
By Bob Bessel
Special to Today Magazine
Even in ordinary years, few experiences can prepare someone for public office. In a year of COVID, Black Lives Matter and a massive increase in unemployment, nothing prepared me for the job of First Selectman in Canton.
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Thankfully, I've had the good fortune of a cooperative Board of Selectmen, skilled staff at town hall, and Bob Skinner, a deeply experienced Chief Administrative Officer who has also served as First Selectman in Suffield. I could write volumes about the talent in town hall. But equally important is the nonpartisan spirit in Canton.
In today's hyper-political atmosphere, it may sound strange to hear that Canton Democrats and Republicans listen to one another and regularly agree on solutions for the town. But it's true! Votes on the Canton Board of Selectmen, Finance and Education are largely unanimous — not because we don't ask tough questions, but because we do!
I would further suggest that cooperation is more the norm beyond Canton as well. Why do I say that? Because in meeting after meeting, conversation after conversation, I hear the same thing: People want solutions, not endless debate. They want their public servants to work together to implement the most effective solutions.
There are good reasons for all of us to cooperate this way. A deadly virus, insidious racism, retail businesses struggling and unemployed citizens will not wait for every public servant to settle their political differences.
Together we are smarter, more thorough and more effective than we could ever be on a single side of the political aisle
I am proud of every citizen who reaches out and offers ideas, service, donations and encouragement. Together we are smarter, more thorough and more effective than we could ever be on a single side of the political aisle.
If you believe your voice doesn't matter, think again. If you believe that you can't help, let me encourage you to see the magic of America in the palm of your hand. Once you see it, you will become part of the solution that we need right now to face the challenges ahead of us.
You are more prepared than you know. It's time to put your talents to the test of public service. +
A longtime Canton resident, Bob Bessel was elected Canton’s First Selectman in November 2019 — before that, he served as chair of the town’s Economic Development Agency ... for the record, he’s a Democrat
This article first appeared in the August 2020 issue of Today Magazine