Stonington Borough warden candidates share similiar goals
Stonington ― Shaun Mastroianni and Michael Schefers have announced their candidacy for borough warden.
The election to replace Jeff Callahan, who is not seeking reelection after serving five terms, will be held May 1.
The two candidates have similar goals, saying they share a love for the borough and a desire to continue the work Callahan has done.
Mastroianni has challenged Schefers to a debate, but Schefers declined, saying he prefers a “candidate’s night,” as has been held previously at the Stonington Community Center, where residents can meet the candidates and ask questions.
“What is there to debate,” Schefers asked, pointing out the similarities in the candidates’ platforms.
Mastroianni, 42, moved to the borough in 2015 where he currently resides with his husband and their daughter. He has been endorsed by the Forward Party.
He said his role as chairman of the Charter Revision Committee, which saw it recommendations approved by voters in 2019, gave him a unique insight and understanding of the charter and the future of the borough.
“I became the senior burgess in 2019, and so I’ve worked in the government of the Borough, I understand what’s going on, and it’s sort of training for the position of warden,” Mastroianni said last week.
He currently works as the chief operating officer and administrator for Connecticut Baptist Homes in Brooklyn, where he oversaw an $8 million construction project, developed a 13-apartment memory care unit, and developed a $2 million dollar budget.
His resume boasts extensive management experience over the last 14 years, and he holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of New Haven.
Mastroianni has served on the Mystic Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Stonington Beautification Committee, among others, and initiated a survey on community issues which demonstrated 77% of respondents want to see public restrooms in the borough.
As the Stonington Village Improvement Association president, he was involved in seeking funding to bring the restroom project to fruition.
“I really think that in a civilized community, we need to have public bathrooms. We need to offer it. We need to be welcoming,” he said.
Mastroianni also wants to fully fund the Fireman’s Retirement Fund within the next two budget cycles. He believes that funding it at 100%, rather than the current 76%, is a good way to show current volunteers and potential volunteers that the community supports them.
He also noted work he has been doing with Burgess Kevin Rogers to potentially bring electric car charging stations to the borough. He said there are grants available for the project, and they are needed due to parking restrictions that keep people from charging their cars at their homes.
He plans to mail absentee voter applications to all registered voters at his own cost because he wants people to get involved. He pointed to low voter turnout for elections, and difficulty finding volunteers for committees and boards, though he has seen an increase since the pandemic.
“It’s the community I live in and the community I love,” he said, adding, “it’s a great community—a walking community where you know everybody, so why not invest in the community you live in?”
Like his opponent, Democratic party candidate Schefers, 71, believes in the necessity of supporting borough and town first responders, charging stations for electric vehicles, broadening citizen involvement in the borough’s government and bringing the public restroom project to fruition.
He said he believes that his years of experience handling large budgets and managing people and projects, from his work at Electric Boat and as an electric utility executive and consultant, have given him the skills needed to manage the borough’s budget and implement projects.
“I am a good manager and a good administrator,” he said.
Though now retired, he and his wife operate Anguilla Brook Farm & Gardens and a small farm stand in the borough, with a sign that reads “Just Dug Potatoes.”
He approaches his extensive platform as a candidate with an eye for preserving and protecting the history and character of the state’s oldest borough.
“It’s about this wonderful little village and protecting it,” he said.
In that vein, he said he is committed to preserving the borough’s open spaces, harbor, scenic waterfront and right of ways, partially through monitoring coastal management and global warming issues, making sure the lighthouse museum is fully accessible and supporting merchants, local nonprofit organizations, and the fishing fleet.
A resident since 2002, Schefers has been a member of the Stonington Plan of Conservation and Development Implementation Committee and the president and trustee of the Stonington Historical Society.
He said that during his tenure as president, the historical society took over management of its own investments, realizing significant savings that could be funneled back into supporting the society’s projects.
He is currently a member of the Stonington Conservation Committee, the trustee and treasurer of the Waldron-Williams Fund, chairman of the Borough Democratic Committee, and the borough tax assessor.
He spoke extensively about maintaining Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Program Community Ratings System certifications for the borough.
“If that gets away from you, people’s flood rates go through the roof,” Schefers said.
He noted that individual homeowners with a mortgage are required to have flood insurance and maintaining the current certifications are essential to keeping insurance premiums reasonable.
“I want to make a positive impact,” he said, adding that his candidacy is about “maintaining the village we know and love.”