EXETER – A host of incumbents, newcomers and former members have declared their candidacies for the Exeter Town Council, with Democratic, Republican and Independent contenders vying for the five available seats. All ten candidates for town council will face off in the General Election on Nov. 3.
All of the candidates running for the town council were asked why they decided to declare their candidacies and, if elected, what their priorities would be going forward.
The responses from the candidates below–from new challengers and former members of the town council–appear in alphabetical order. (The five incumbents running for reelection were profiled in last week’s Standard Times.)
Newcomer Olivia DeFrancesco, a Democrat, said that she was inspired to run for the town council after “several conversations with council president Calvin Ellis about how the council really does effect change for the betterment of Exeter.”
DeFrancesco said that “growth and progress” had to be encouraged in Exeter, albeit in a way that doesn’t alter the town’s character.
“I believe one of the most pressing issues for Exeter is allowing for growth and progress in a responsible manner that will allow Exeter’s unique character to be maintained,” she said.
And if she is elected, DeFrancesco said she would collaborate with town employees and board members.
“If I am elected to the council I will address this issue by working in collaboration with our town planner, zoning board and planning board,” she said.
Another newcomer, Michael Lefebvre, a Republican, said he was running to represent “fiscal conservatives views.”
“I was inspired by what appears to be a lack of representation of fiscal conservative views on the town council,” Lefebvre said.
The current town council is made up of three Democrats, one Republican and one Independent, Lefebvre said, adding that the council recently formed a taskforce to look into the feasibility of recreating an Exeter Police Department–a proposal that he said would result in a “huge tax increase.”
“The majority of the councilmen are more liberal in their views, and there has even been one proposal (Exeter Police Task Force) to add a police department in Exeter too,” he said. “Something the majority of us disagree with because of the lack of need and because of the huge tax increase it will bring.”
“I believe we need to bring and keep our finances under control and work towards even more financial efficiencies,” he added.
(The taskforce was recently suspended due to the COVID-19-related constraints.)
If elected, Lefebvre said he would “represent the conservatives in Exeter,” something he said was sorely needed.
“My votes and decisions will be in-line with the many Exeter taxpayers that would appreciate additional representation,” he said.
Former member of the town council, Frank Maher, a Republican, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Raymond Morrissey, an Independent, previously sat on the council for multiple terms, until narrowly losing his seat in 2018.
Now, Morrissey is running once again to reclaim his spot on the council.
“After a two-year hiatus and being a member on the town council (2010-2018), I am ready to return to the town council to work together to serve the people of Exeter,” Morrissey said.
He said that his biggest concern regarding Exeter was the state of its revenue.
“My biggest concern is how to bring revenue to the town via a tax base that will help offset any necessary increases to the town budget,” he said.
Morrissey is also a current member of the Exeter Community Developmental Task Force, which has the sole mission of bringing “revenue to the town.”
“I believe by working together, we can move mountains or any other obstacle in our way,” he said.
Another newcomer, Andrew Patty, an Independent, said that he was inspired to run for the town council because he is someone who “believes in the necessity of civic virtue and supporting the common good.”
“My motivation to run for town council comes from my love of Exeter as a rural and agricultural community,” he said, “in addition to a sense of obligation to a town that has given me so much.”
Patty said there were many important issues facing Exeter, including maintaining the town’s character.
“The most pressing is maintaining Exeter as one of the few towns in Rhode Island that continues to personify the rugged individualism that has made the United States the greatest country in the world,” he said, adding that “keeping an eye on fiscal responsibility, while at the same time preserving our high standards for education,” was essential.
Additionally, he said, the protection of individual liberties was also paramount.
“If elected to the Exeter Town Council my priorities will be to act as a steward of the town for generations to come by respecting the taxpayer, and attempting to avoid the missteps made by other towns whose residents end up bearing the burden of excessive taxes,” he said.
The General Election will take place on Nov. 3.