As a sports writer who has refined my craft by occasionally venturing out of my league, I had the recent opportunity to do an Election Night story in Southington. Delving into news not only tightens my writing style and sharpens my acumen as a reporter, but it enables me to rub elbows with folks I've met before through 18 years with the New Britain Herald and Bristol Press, in addition to some new ones.
I was assigned to cover a rather mundane school board race in which nine candidates out of the 12 nominated are elected. I positioned myself at Democratic headquarters at Machiavelli's Restaurant on Center Street and watched the returns come in as Pat Saucier, father of former All-Herald athlete Erin, entered them.
The room had been filled with the revelry that great food and camaraderie that political parties can muster, but it soon went silent. The first numbers posted gave veteran observers an immediate sense that this night would belong to the GOP.
Caught up in the Democratic defeat was school board candidate Robert Galati. I have known Bob through covering his sons, excellent athletes at Southington High, and his frequent attendance at New Britain High athletic events as a proud and supportive former teacher there.
As I prepared for my coverage Tuesday, I read The Herald’s superb Q & A forum that our news department ran for the candidates and voters. I scanned Galati's credentials and what he said. I would like to share some of that with you.
Galati is a retired math teacher, although he still teaches at Tunxis Community College. He has a BS degree in mathematics and a Masters in guidance from CCSU. When he was asked to compose his thoughts about the budget crisis tightening its grip on local issues, he expressed the following:
“Lean budgets usually mean a reduction of co-curricular programs, once called extra-curricular programs. Co-curricular programs are vital to providing all students varied opportunities to expand their experiences and knowledge in a non-academic setting. In addition, co-curricular activities allow students the chance to work with life issues. Students who participate in these types of activities have opportunities to build self-esteem, develop leadership skills, and appreciate the dynamics of being a team member.”
Elegantly put, I’d say.
If you read between the lines, he’s referring to varsity sports among the many other outstanding programs offered by our schools, most in desperate need of funding. We all feel the specter of pay-for-play lurking in the shadows, a program that is doomed to failure for among other reasons, parents paying to play expect their athletic little darlings to play. The dilemma is thus placed on the coaches, who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to craft success at very little compensation.
Well, Bob and his wife sat on the floor at Machiavelli’s as the streaming rays of light from Saucier’s projector splashed the results on the wall. Galati's mouth was agape as he watched numbers from the last of Southington’s 12 districts produce final totals.
All six Republicans were elected. Galati was fourth among the Democrats, one vote behind the third and last elected candidate. After absentee ballots were counted, he trailed by three.
Galati, a soft-spoken man, is not a lifelong politician. I’m sure he learned something about the process, and that he’ll spend plenty of time contemplating how he could have coaxed a few more votes. I’m not from Southington but if I were, I’d want a man like him protecting the interests of our youth during very trying financial times.
It makes me wonder how many voters actually read the issues. The Herald made them available both in the paper and on the website. However, races like this become popularity contests, and I’m as guilty for voting for folks in Farmington I know rather than those I do not.
In the case of Farmington, I did not see as comprehensive a package on candidates as I did in the Herald. The Herald no longer actively covers that town. But in Southington, people could have found the platforms if they were so inclined.
This isn’t to say that the people elected to the Southington board are any less competent. I had the pleasure of interviewing school board chairman Brian Goralski, who accumulated the most votes in the race. Goralski is dynamic, knowledgeable, and a passionate family man who no doubt will continue guiding this board to great things. I have no doubt that the other members also have good intentions.
Perhaps it all works out in the end, but from a personal standpoint, I’ve gotten to know a few more terrific people and I think I’ve become a better sports writer.