by KAITLYN NAPLES
After 30 years of public service, and 10 years on the Board of Education, Democrat Chris Wilson has decided to run for mayor in the upcoming November election.
“My family lives here, my adult children live here, my grandchildren live here, and my business is here,” Wilson said. “I have an invested interest in making Bristol a better place to live, work and play.”
Wilson said he started thinking about running for mayor about one year ago, and made the switch to the Democratic Party because he said he didn’t feel comfortable in a part that he felt “didn’t support education.”
Wilson said he has always been a big supporter of the education in Bristol. He has been on the Capital Region Education Council since 2004, and a member of the Board of Education in Bristol since 2003, where he now serves as chairman.
“Over time, it has appeared the Republican Party hasn’t been very supportive of education, and I didn’t feel it was a good fit for me anymore,” Wilson said, adding he has always been a “centrist” and “moderate.” On the national level, Wilson said he felt the Republican Party was beginning to “lean too far to the right.”
Wilson said he is qualified to be mayor because of his vested interest in bettering the city, as well as his mission to “change the culture of Bristol and the politics and policies.” He said right now the city and its politics are “partisan and polarizing” and he wants to use his leadership to “bring people together and portray Bristol as a city that is on the go and a good place to live, work and play.”
This practice, he said, will bring more business and younger families into the city also. He said the city’s economic development strategy is a good one, but can be adjusted to emphasize the city’s good schools, the civic groups, athletics, arts, and more.
With his professional experience in the insurance industry, and as the owner of C V Mason and Co., he said he has the knowledge to work with smaller businesses and “can articulate a positive vision for Bristol” so that more businesses are attracted to set up shop in the city.
If elected, Wilson said he would also focus on striving to make the education system in Bristol “a 21st-century” one, to make sure students were successful, either in post-education, or preparing them for the work force after high school. He said it is also important to create a stable and predictable tax base, one that is competitive and one that residents can expect.
For the vacant downtown parcel, Wilson said by the end of his first term as mayor he hopes “the concept design Renaissance Downtowns has proposed will, in fact, be realized.”
Wilson said he is optimistic Bristol can have mixed-use buildings downtown. However he said if the project can’t receive the private investments it is seeking, the city should “take a whole new look at the plans for downtown” and collaborate with civic groups and residents to find a “use for the community and add tax revenue.” Wilson added Renaissance has “a very engaging plan” and said he was happy that they included the local community while designing its concept plan.
Wilson said he thinks it is also important for the city to continue focusing on marketing and branding itself.
“It is critical we do a self-evaluation of who we are and what we want to be, and link up and work towards the same goal,” he said, adding that the city, as a whole, needs to “be on the same page.”
Wilson said it is important for the whole city government to work together to solve problems, and “collaborate, compromise and find solutions.”
Wilson and his wife have lived in Bristol for 33 years, and two of his three children live in Bristol and five of his grandchildren attend Bristol schools. He has served in the United States Army from 1976 to 1978, and is a past member of the Bristol Jaycees, the Bristol Rotarians, for which he served as a president, and has served on the Mayor’s Task Force on Budget and Efficiency, and more.
Wilson said he is experienced in governing, leading, and speaking with stakeholders, and is one of the first leaders to have worked on the Board of Education side, and transfer to the general city side.
“I have a unique experience to bring to the citizens of Bristol,” he said.
There will be a mayoral debate, hosted by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, on Monday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at Saint Paul Catholic High School auditorium, 1001 Stafford Ave., Bristol.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.