We reached out to both the Haddam Republican Town Committee and the Haddam Democrat Town Committee and asked candidates to respond to a set of questions; if a candidate did not respond, their name is listed, so that you know who is running for each office.
Updates from all candidates are welcome and will be published as Letters to the Editor. The questions posed to the candidates were:
- Tell us a little about yourself.
- Why are you running for the position?
- What do you see as the important issues facing Haddam and how would you address them in your role?
- What are the key things you love about this town and its people?
- Additional thoughts to leave voters with?
Kate Wessling (D): My husband, Scott MacDonald, and I, and our son have been residents of Haddam for 33 years. As a Family Physician, Kate worked for 10 years in the Higganum Family Medical Group then moved on to the Community Health Center. I practiced in CHC offices that served this district and others for many years.
Recently retired, I have become more active in local politics and service, joining the Haddam Democratic Town Committee, working at the polls during COVID and canvassing for federal, state, and local elections. In January of this year, I became the Democratic Registrar of Voters when my predecessor stepped down. It has been a real pleasure to work collaboratively with the Republican Registrar and Deputy, Ray Skarsten and Diana Cottrell as well as the new Democratic Deputy, Gretchen Teran.
My experiences have created a growing interest in learning more about town history and function, about the concerns and interests of our growing population. With that in mind, I have been studying zoning regulations and reviewing minutes of ZBA meetings as well as speaking with board members to understand how the board functions.
I value the quality of the school system, the many quiet stories of kindness of neighbors, the informality of the life-style.
I look forward to another chance for working cooperatively and learning from other town residents.
Robin Munster (R): I have lived in Haddam for 21 years with my husband Eric and two children Victoria and Wyatt. I was the Treasurer for the Town of Haddam for 8 years (2011-2019) and currently I work as the Office Manager for MHK in Guilford.
As of right now, I am the longest seated member on the Zoning Board of Appeals. The board benefits from a mix of new members and members who have been seated for several terms which provide experience and bring in new perspectives. I believe my time given on the board and also having been seated as chairman has brought balance, leadership and experience. I wish to continue this for another term.
ZBA is about working with the zoning regulations and the applicant, finding that balance and understanding the hardship of the applicant. We do not have many meetings so when we do, we make it a point to be prepared, listen to all parties, and ensure everyone leaves understanding the information given and the decisions voted upon.
Haddam is 46 square miles of land with an amazing small town feel. Whether you are going to the Transfer Station or any small business in town, you will always run into someone you know. We are often slow in moving forward but it is because of not losing sight of what we have. I do see good things happening in the future with our town and I am excited to be here when they come to fruition.
I have always been involved with the communities I have lived in as this is where you make the biggest impact. You see Haddam everyday whether it is running an errand, traveling to your job or an event in town and you may not really think about your influence. With so much happening on the state and national level, don’t forget where you live and how simple it is to make an impact in your home town.
Betsy Clifford (D): I have lived in Haddam for more than 46 years. I spent my working career primarily in banking, retiring as a commercial real estate underwriter in 2020. I have a BS in English from CCSU as well as a paralegal certificate from U of Hartford. I feel this background is good preparation for a role on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
I am running for office because I believe in fulfilling one’s civic duty and working to make one’s hometown a better place to live. I joke that in retirement my husband and I moved three miles south – to another part of Higganum. I have previously served for many years on the library board and in other roles in town. I believe the Zoning Board of Appeals is an important and necessary asset to any town, as governed by state statutes.
I believe the most important issue facing Haddam is, and has been for many years, its direction of growth. There have been some exciting things happening in town recently, including the preservation of Haddam Elementary School and Higganum Cove as well as progress on Brownfield properties. I also perceive an increase in farming and an increased sense of land stewardship. Haddam’s current greatest asset is its rural nature and its woodlands, which must be tempered with the need for development. My intent in serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals would be to hear each appeal on its merit.
As a resident of Haddam for more than 46 years, and having raised two children here, I value this community, its people, and its resources.
It is important to exercise your right to vote on the local as well as the state and national level. I hope that you will do so in November.
Neal Sakash (D) for ZBA Alternate: I and my young family moved to Haddam a year and a half ago after falling in love with one of the town’s historic worker homes. I was further attracted to Haddam because of the great school system, natural beauty, and proximity to his employer, Whelen Engineering, where I works as a software developer.
I am running for ZBA because I would like to preserve the character of Haddam’s rural villages while also allowing the town to grow and attract new residents of all backgrounds and means.
The town has many exciting projects on the horizon for both Higganum and Tylerville. Completion of these projects will no doubt bring new residents to town and the need for affordable and multifamily housing will likewise increase. I believe the ZBA plays an important role in facilitating these needs and would be honored to participate as a committee member.
I’m very fond of Haddam’s numerous hiking trails, scores of historic houses, as well as proximity to Middletown, and look forward to my son attending HK’s highly rated schools.
Jessica Labbe (R) for ZBA Alternate: Jessica Labbe was born and raised in Haddam, Connecticut. Her family has been in town for many generations, and she believes it is a great place to live. She graduated from Haddam Killingworth in 2013, and bought her first home in Higganum in 2018. She enjoys being a part of the community and spending her time volunteering as a Zoning Board of Appeals Alternate. She was elected to the position in 2017 and has greatly appreciated her time serving her fellow townspeople.
Susann Costa (D) for ZBA Alternate: Hello everyone! My name is Susann Costa and I am running as a Democratic Candidate for Zoning Board of Appeals/ Alternate position. I am a retired registered nurse and also owned a family run shoreline business for 33 years with my husband, David. I have two grown children and two grandchildren.
I have lived in Haddam for 17 years and during those years have served our community by choosing Haddam Historical Society as my focus. I was on the Board of Directors for 4 terms and served as President for three years. I now serve as chair of three committees at HHS….Scholarship, Social and Nominations. I also was selected to represent Haddam on The CT Regional Mental Health Board in Middletown several years ago.
I care about Haddam. This is why I am running for this position. I will be able to represent Haddam in a fair, clear and decisive manner no matter what appeal is presented.
It is important that we maintain our historic town with good decisions regarding its future. I believe that when Zoning decisions need attention, the task before the Zoning Board is very important and not to be taken lightly. All sides need to be looked at and the ZBA must be careful to maintain and insure future positive growth in Haddam in every one of these decisions. They affect ALL of us.
I live here in Haddam because it is a beautiful town with beautiful, friendly people. The beauty of this town is visible every time I drive down the road. We are so fortunate to have natural resources, beautiful architecture, a stunning river and waterways along with forests ,trails, parks and woodlands to enjoy each and every day.
I am honored to be running for ZBA as an Alternate and hope I can count on your vote. Thank you.
Margo Chase-Wells (R) for ZBA Alternate to fill vacancy for 2 years: I am running for Zoning Board of Appeals because I want to serve my community.
My family moved to Haddam in 1984 and I embraced this warm and welcoming town. I immediately got immersed in the coaching sports scene, serving on the Little League Board, on the Youth Soccer Board and founding T-ball in Haddam. I taught aqua aerobics at HK Recreation and got heavily involved in my church. I joined the Haddam Hiking Club and I support local businesses and the Farmers’ Market.
I served faithfully as a commissioner on Planning & Zoning Board for 8 years and most recently 4 years on the Zoning Board of Appeals. On these two boards I enjoy interacting with the citizens of Haddam and helping them out as a board member in their individual circumstances.
Currently I am a retired teacher with a Masters’ Degree from SCSU. I believe my qualifications make me an excellent candidate for ZBA
Jane Baird (D) for ZBA Alternate to fill vacancy for 2 years: I have lived in Haddam since 2002. My husband, Peter, and I have two sons who have both attended HK schools. For nearly 20 years, I have worked at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, most recently as Senior Director for External Affairs where I lead advocacy efforts in support of public policies that influence children’s health and wellbeing. I currently serve as Chair on the Board of Directors of two nonprofit organizations, Haddam-Killingworth Youth and Family Services (HKYFS), which is committed to supporting HK youth and families and promoting a healthy community, and the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA), which aims to improve the quality of life in the south end of Hartford.
Through my work I am very familiar with the inner workings of government at the federal, state and local levels, but I have never served in an elected capacity previously. My professional experience has taught me that public officials are most successful when they engage their constituents with openness, honesty and respect. With that in mind, I hope to play a collaborative and helpful role on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Haddam is a community filled with caring people and abundant natural beauty. Like many communities around the state and nation, some of our people and businesses have struggled during the pandemic and it is the role of municipal government to support our town on a successful path forward. I would like to bring my understanding local level service delivery and community development to my role on the Zoning Board of Appeals. My experience at SINA has also taught me the extent to which housing, zoning and land use policies can impact the health and vibrancy of a place.
My interest in serving comes from my years as a mom watching my sons’ excellent experiences growing up in this supportive community. Although I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC, I love Haddam’s small town vibe and abundant outdoor recreation resources as a frequent hiker and bicyclist.
Haddam has many unique assets and I hope my service can contribute to our future success.