By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
The new Berlin Town Council is in.
Incumbents Dean Burrell and Jay Knerr and newcomer Steve Green took their oaths of office at the beginning of the mayor and Town Council meeting on Tuesday, which should solidify the dais on the second floor of the Town Hall for the next two years.
Burrell was the only one of the three who faced competition but edged challenger Tony Weeg by just two votes. Both Knerr and Green ran unopposed.
Green, the new guy on the block, said he’s excited to be representing the people of Berlin’s District 1 finally. He received the endorsement of former Councilmember Troy Purnell, whose seat he assumed. Purnell had long said that he wouldn’t seek reelection if Green decided he want to run.
“I am looking forward to carrying out my campaign promise of being informed, accessible and committed,” Green said in an email. “This is how I live my life and I think I can bring these traits to public office. I possess an intimate familiarity with the town’s past challenges and successes and present achievements and rise in popularity and prominence. I look forward to being involved in policy-making and shaping the future direction of the town I love.”
Some of the issues he’s looking forward to as he starts his freshman term are whether to sell a large portion of Heron Park, conducting an employee pay study and bringing the state’s Law Enforcement Officer Pension System (LEOPS) to the Berlin Police Department.
Knerr had positive words for his new colleague.
“I think (Green) is a great asset to the council,” he said last week. “I think he will do a fantastic job and bring a nice perspective to the meetings.”
Knerr, while not a newcomer, is heading into his first four-year term after being elected to his seat two years ago to replace Thom Gulyas, who relocated out of town.
“As far as what we need to work on, we definitely need to work on stormwater management,” Knerr said. “There are several people who consistently have flooding. It’s a major problem in Berlin. Time, money and resources need to be utilized to start seriously working on it and getting the issue corrected.”
Knerr also referenced moving the new community center project on Flower Street along and upgrading other infrastructure such as water mains.
“I’m looking forward to a good year in Berlin,” he said.
Burrell is entering his 28th year on the dais and said he’s looking forward to improving traffic concerns around Flower Street and Atlantic General Hospital — plus other projects.
“I’m looking forward to progress on both the skate park and the community center,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with the council and fire department concerning equitable funding for fire and EMS.
“I’m just going to do my best to represent the folks of District 4 and the town in general.”
Though he lost by fewer votes than there are people per Berlin household, Weeg was upbeat and optimistic when asked about his plans for the present and future.
“My only plans moving forward are to break ground on a skate park sometime soon. Besides that, I’m fully focused on my family, the non-profit (We Heart Berlin) and that’s about it,” Weeg said. “I will absolutely be entertaining all future elections in the town of Berlin. I’ll see what happens here in the next two years. There’ll be a mayoral election (and I think) a shakeup on council. I’m going to wait and see. If something opens up then, I think I’ll find myself in (an elected position.)”
Weeg added that after seeing less than 75 voters turnout of District 4’s 700-plus eligible voters, he’d like to see the town address a “sleepy electorate.”
“That has to change,” he said. “We must figure out how to invigorate our people during election season. I’d like to see us advertise elections like we do Oktoberfest.”