Connecticut Post (Sunday)
Parker wants to unify Easton if elected first selectman
EASTON — Jeff Parker said he was called to serve in 2011 after the passing of his late wife, Joan. Inspired to do something more, Parker ran for the Board of Education and in just two short years, became the board’s chairman.
Parker, 71, held on to that position for seven years, but now he has his eyes set on something even bigger. The longtime Easton resident is running for First Selectman as the Republican candidate with the goals to bring the community back together and to protect Easton’s land and water.
“I was inspired to run for the Board of Education in 2011,” Parker said. “My wife, who had been a special ed teacher, special ed director and the principal of Helen Keller Middle School, passed away in 2010 and was the driving force for me to run for the Board of Education.” “I felt like there was more that I could do for the town, which is very much a part of my heart,” he added. “So when the opportunity to run for first selectman came up, I raised my hand.”
Parker’s connection to Easton can be traced back to 1869, where his great grandparents on his mother’s side owned a dairy farm. Parker, who is now retired, said he remembers visiting them during his childhood in the 1950s, spending summers at the farm that was once located on Harvest Moon Road and Far Horizon Drive right off of Sport Hill Road.
That land has since been sold and turned into a housing development.
Parker’s long family lineage in Easton has given him the ability to see the changes of the town. Parker said one of the biggest changes that he currently sees is that there is an “awful lot” of division.
“The town is more divided now than I’ve ever seen in my 27 years of living here and my lifetime connection with the town,” Parker said. “I think it’s important that we come back together.”
Parker is currently at the center of an investigation at the school board that was started after he forwarded emails from parents to a local activist connected with the Save Our Schools group, which has been outspoken in combating measures being taken by the district to promote equity and inclusion in school. Parker has since apologized.
“Easton has always been a very caring and kind community where neighbors and people had a shared vision of what they wanted our town to be,” he added. “It’s been polarizing over the last two years and I think that’s a very very high priority.”
He said right now, people aren’t listening to each other, but that can change. He plans to bring the religious and community leaders together to have a discussion about the problems that unite the people rather than the problems that divide the community.
“I think you do that by sitting face to face where it’s not on film or debated on social media and people can talk to one another,” Parker said. “I think everyone would have a shared vision of who we want to be as a town. A place where people care for each other.”
Next on Parker’s goal list is to protect Easton’s zoning. Parker said when someone thinks about Easton, they think of two things; land and water. He said the zoning laws that were put into place decades ago were done to protect those two things.
“If not handled correctly, it could change the face of Easton forever,” Parker said.
Parker said the third thing which is heavy on his heart is a portion of land in Easton called South Park.
In 2008, Easton spent $6.1 million to purchase 29.5 acres of land bounded by South Park Avenue and the Mill River, according to a news release by the Easton South Park Advisory Committee
Parker said the current administration is interested in selling a portion of it, about 60 percent for $470,000.
“It’s pennies on the dollar,” Parker said. “From a financial stand point it doesn’t make much sense and even more importantly than that is, I think before you start to sell off pieces of something, you should have a master plan for what the full 29 plus acres will be.
“I’m pushing hard that there will be a referendum that will be coming up soon and that the citizens can be the legislative branch of our government,” he added. “I’m proposing people go to that and that we spend the time necessary to come up with a proper plan for the entire acreage and then be able to move forward.”
The election will be held on Nov. 2. Absentee ballots are currently available.