GREENWICH — For the first time, Mike Mason has taken his effort to be elected first selectman to the public, unveiling a campaign built around the theme of “Greenwich united.”
The longtime member of town government is seeking the Republican nomination for Greenwich’s top elected office. Though he officially began his candidacy in February, he held his first campaign event on Tuesday night speaking to a crowd of nearly 200 supporters at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center.
A Greenwich native, Mason highlighted his roots in the community, where he grew up in the middle class, attended public schools and was a part of service organizations ranging from the Boy Scouts to volunteer firefighting.
But it is Mason’s three decades of government service, including his current work on the town’s Board of Estimate and Taxation, that he said has prepared him for the job of first selectman.
“I’ve had the good fortune of interacting and getting to know with thousands of residents, members of the RTM, volunteers on town boards, and concerned citizens,” Mason said Tuesday night. “To get things done in Greenwich, we need to work across the aisle and with all the town bodies. I’ve done that and will continue to do that as your first selectman.”
Capital planning and setting priorities will be top issues for the campaign to come, said Mason, who is a former chair of the BET and is currently the leader of its Republican caucus and a member of the powerful Budget Committee. He said voters are also concerned about fields in town, the upcoming revaluation and the possible increase in state taxes and fees.
In his speech, Mason called for increasing efficiency in town government through better technology to reduce operating costs, investing in town schools and infrastructure; and ensuring dialogue among the town’s decentralized boards and commissions.
“I have been part of many decisions and policies for our community,” Mason said. “I am asking for the opportunity to lead Greenwich’s future vision. Greenwich is already a very special place to live. Our task should be to ensure that Greenwich will be an even better place to live for many generations to come.”
Former state senator William Nickerson, who served in the 36th District, was in the crowd, along with many current and former members of the BET. James Lash, who was first selectman from 2003 to 2007, introduced Mason and will be honorary chair of the campaign.
Since beginning his campaign, Mason said he is humbled by the response he has received.
“The support from the team members has been amazing,” he said. “The race to November will be long and challenging.”
First Selectman Peter Tesei is not seeking re-election this fall to a seventh term, leaving open a job he has held since 2007. While town Democrats have made significant gains in Greenwich in recent years, the job has traditionally gone to a Republican; a Democratic first selectman has not been elected since Richard Bergstresser in 2001.
State Rep. Fred Camillo, R-151, is also seeking the Republican nomination for first selectman. The Republican Town Committee will make its endorsement in July, but there could be a primary in August.
“I am speaking with people every day who are excited about the campaign and sharing their thoughts on the various issues facing the town now and in the future,” Camillo said Tuesday. “Many are advocates for worthwhile projects, some of which I have been involved with and or supportive of. So the campaign gives each endeavor more exposure and focus. I truly believe the voters need to hear what a candidate’s vision is, what his or her records shows and if the person is actively engaged with the community that he or she seeks to lead.”
But even with the two high-profile Republicans both seeking the seat, Camillo said residents should not expect a fight.
“Mike is a longtime friend who has served the town well in his civic roles,” Camillo said. “I look forward to a campaign based on issues, vision, and record. We are two friends who just happen to be public servants interested in serving our town in this capacity, so when all is said and done, we will still be friends.”
Mason agreed, saying on Tuesday that he and Camillo have known each other for a long time and share visions on how to work for the residents of Greenwich. Mason recalled that Camillo nominated him for the BET.
“I think we’re going to help each other be better candidates,” Mason said. “There’s going to be very good ideas coming from both of us during this campaign.”
RTC Chair Richard DiPreta was on hand for Tuesday’s event and said Mason would make “an excellent first selectman.” The party chair was also at Camillo’s kickoff and has made clear there will be no public endorsement.
“Greenwich is fortunate to have such strong Republican candidates like Michael Mason willing to serve this town at all levels,” DiPreta said. “I am encouraged that so many dedicated individuals have expressed a willingness to serve in all of the positions of town government for the upcoming municipal election this November.”
Mason said he would be doing a lot of meet and greet campaign events. “My hope is that our residents see me as the most experienced person for the position, having the established relationships with all town management and the ability to begin work day one,” he said.
There is a second opening on the board — Republican Selectman John Toner is not seeking re-election, either. Democratic Selectman Sandy Litvack, who challenged Tesei for first selectman in 2017, has not announced his plans. Asked if would run again for first selectman or selectman, Litvack said Tuesday he will make an announcement “soon.”
According to Democratic Town Committee Chair Tony Turner, there is a lot of interest from possible candidates.
“Our candidate interview and vetting process is underway,” Turner said Tuesday. “Candidates with strong credentials continue to consider continued public service. And, some desire to serve in some capacity for the first time and in numbers we have never seen before.”