BARRE — Teddy Waszazak is the only incumbent running for City Council this year and Brian Judd is the only thing standing between him and a second two-year term.
Voters in Ward 2 will determine whether all three council seats on the ballot next week will change hands or whether Waszazak has earned his return.
It’s a race that pits Judd, a Granite City native, against Waszazak, who won a contested race for his Ward 2 council seat in 2019.
That’s the same year Judd returned to Barre after spending 25 years in California.
To put that in perspective, Judd, 60, moved to California about a year before Waszazak, who turns 24 in two weeks, was born.
Ward 2 voters will decide whether they like the job Waszazak is doing, or whether Judd — a self-described “political neophyte” — will become one of their two council representatives.
Brian JuddAfter spending most of his adult life away from the community where he was born and raised, Judd, who graduated from Spaulding High School in 1978, said he isn’t surprised to be back in Barre.
“The plan was always to come back,” he said. “Barre was an idyllic place to grow up. I just love it.”
According to Judd, whose family owns Hooker and Whitcomb Funeral Home, politics was never part of the plan until relatively recently.
Though Judd has never run for public office before, he said he’d begun toying with the idea before returning to Barre two years ago.
“I knew when I moved back here this was something I was going to pursue,” he said, describing himself as “late to the dance in politics,” but eager to go to work for his prospective constituents.
“I want to make Barre the best version of Barre that Barre can be,” he said.
That, Judd insists, is why he entered the race.
“I’m running for the people in Ward 2,” he said. “I’m not really running against anyone. I’m running for.”
According to Judd, “law and order” and “peace and prosperity” are the dominant themes of his council campaign
“I believe in law and order and I believe in peace and prosperity,” he said. “I don’t think you can have peace and prosperity without law and order. If you do it’s going to be short-lived.”
Judd, who lives on North Street, said Barre has crime and drug problems that aren’t completely unrelated and need to be addressed, the tax rate is too high and he is concerned about a downtown with a couple of chronic vacancies he’d like to see filled.
Judd doesn’t pretend to have the answer to what have been persistent problems, but he said he wants to work with everyone from the governor on down in an effort to address them.
“No one will ever say: ‘Brian Judd didn’t try,’” he said.
That, said Judd, also goes for his campaign.
“I might not win, but no one is going to outwork me,” he said.
If Judd loses, he said he will likely volunteer to serve on a city committee and will remain interested in running for the council in the future.
“This is my hometown,” he said. “It’s important to me.”
Judd spent five years in the U.S. Navy after graduating from Spaulding High. After he was honorably discharged in 1983, he spent several years as an ocean lifeguard in Massachusetts and Florida before returning to Vermont for four years in 1990.
In 1994, Judd moved to California to pursue a career in acting. There he joined the Screen Actors Guild and did background work in commercials, soap operas, television shows and movies. He also worked as a painter and a carpenter and went back to school, receiving a couple of associates degrees.
Judd is currently looking for work, considering going back to school in the fall.
After returning to Barre, Judd joined the American Legion Post #10 and has since been elected to serve on its executive committee.
Teddy WaszazakTeddy Waszazak doesn’t have homegrown Barre roots, but he is in the process of planting them.
Since moving to Barre in 2017, Waszazak has gone from renter to homeowner, from single to engaged and from citizen to city councilor.
That is a busy four years, and Waszazak, who is now living with his fiance, Shirley Plucinski, on Merchant Street, would like to spend the next two years representing Ward 2 on the council.
Waszazak stopped short of saying he’s earned it, but he’s proud of his record and is hoping it will resonate with voters who will decide his race.
Waszazak said he wants to continue what he views as momentum from his first term. The city, he said, has made progress, citing a recent request for proposals to finally address a long-neglected public works garage as one tangible example.
“Continuing to work on bringing the city’s infrastructure into the 21st Century is something that’s really important to me,” he said.
Waszazak claims credit for helping bring more people into the City Hall decision-making process during a two-year term that was hampered by a pandemic. He urged the reactivation of the transportation advisory committee, supported the creation of a diversity and equity committee and led the charge for the police advisory committee, while eventually losing a “battle of semantics” over what it should be named.
Waszazak wanted the word “oversight” to remain in the committee’s name — a strong hint he’s not done talking about the best way to police a community that is four square miles and spends roughly 25% of its annual budget on law enforcement.
“I am a firm believer that we are never going to arrest our way out of poverty issues (and) we’re never going to arrest our way out of drug issues,” he said, adding: “I’m not anti-police I’m pro rethinking policing.”
Waszazak said he voted against accepting a grant to hire two new “beat cops,” but would have supported a proposal to invest in expanding the police department’s part-time mental health counselor and adding another community outreach officer.
Waszazak bristles at being branded a know-it-all who is “pushing personal agendas.” However, he does view policing as fertile ground for continued conversation.
He says that’s just good governance.
“I think that difficult conversations are good to have,” he said. “I think that healthy conflict leads to good decision-making.”
There are some big decisions in the offing and Waszazak said he very much wants to be part of them.
Perhaps the biggest — what to do with federal stimulus money Waszazak expects will eventually flow in some form to municipalities as a result of the COVID-19 crisis — is also the most uncertain.
When and how much money communities might expect are big question marks, but Waszazak is already thinking about the money as a huge opportunity for the city.
“Are we going to use that money to start rethinking and making some major investments to our infrastructure, or are we going to listen to some of the folks that want to artificially buy down the tax rate for a year or two?” he asked.
Selecting a replacement for retiring City Manager Steve Mackenzie is on Waszazak’s to-do list and he suggested it is entirely possible Police Chief Tim Bombardier retires in the next two years.
Add in police negotiations that are just getting underway and Waszazak very much wants to be a voice in looming decisions.
Waszazak, who was born and raised in a Massachusetts mill town very similar to Barre, is now job hunting while working for Dunkin’ Donuts and running for office.