Sue Cienki considers running for office her civic duty. Cienki, in her early 50s, is seeking a term on the Town Council, having had served on the School Committee from 2004-08, the final two years at chair.
“My philosophy is a strong democracy depends on engaged citizens that are willing to step forward,” she said in an interview Monday. “It’s important for people to want to jump in and I’m really encouraged that there are the number of candidates that there are. It bodes well for our town.”
Cienki, a lawyer who works in New York, has five children.
She’s the only woman in the race and, if elected, the first woman to serve on the Town Council since 2004 (when Marilyn Kiesel and Sharyn Iannuccilli stepped down). But Cienki does not think gender in an important issue.
“I think the most important attribute is having people who are engaged, well informed and passionate,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your gender is.”
Cienki said she’s running to “maintain the fiscal health of the town,” especially in light of what she said is the looming deficit on the state level.
“I think that everybody in local government has to be aware of what’s happening on the state level,” she said. “People have to be aware that it is anticipated that in fiscal year 2015 there will be a $172.9 million budget deficit. When the state runs a deficit, it trickles down to local municipalities. We have to make up whatever lost revenue was anticipated. That’s a big elephant in the room that nobody’s talking about.”
For Cienki, that means being alert and staying in close contact with our state representatives.
She adds, “I think we’ve been so well managed. Even in a climate of uncertainly, there’s still a sense of opportunity, but we have to be aware of the fiscal health of the state.”
Cienki said she’s proud of the work she did on the School Committee, particularly forging a better working relationship with the Town Council and getting the bond passed to build the new Cole Middle School and undertake substantial renovations at the high school and Meadowbrook.
While she learned a lot during her time on the School Committee, Cienki said the Town Council is different. She was adamant that any decision to add all-day kindergarten would be entirely up to the School Committee. By state law, a town or city council controls a municipality’s overall budget, but allows the School Committee to decide how to spend its portion of that budget.
“We want to have good schools but we don’t have control over their budget,” she said. “Whatever the School Committee decides to do with their pocket of money is their prerogative and I’m pretty adamant about that. Because if the Town Council usurps the School Committee, what’s the point of having a School Committee?”
When asked what she wants for the town, Cienki said, “I think the most important thing is to maintain the fiscal health of the town. We have a good quality of life. The town’s been really well run. We want to be able to maintain that.”
To watch Cienki and the other seven other Town Council candidates, here’s a link to videos from the EG News Candidates Forum Oct. 16 at New England Tech.