TOLLAND, CT — Pat Wilson Pheanious, a Ashford resident is running for House of Representatives District 53.
Party affiliation: Democratic Party
Family: I live in Ashford with my husband Robert Pheanious. My son, Cheo Hodari Coker, lives in Seattle with his wife, Tumaini, and my three grandchildren, 15-year-old twins Jomo and Jahi, and 8-year-old Kaia.
Occupation: I am the incumbent State Representative for the 53rd District, first elected in 2018. I bring to this position 40 years of public service bolstered by secondary occupations: having been an attorney and social worker (39 years), graduate school professor (20 years), and an Executive Human Services Manager (25 years).
Previous elected experience: Elected: State Representative, Connecticut General Assembly, 2019 - present; Appointed: Human Services Manager, Denver County, CO, 2008-2011; Commissioner, Dept. of Social Services, CT, 1999-2007; Mediation and Monitoring Panelist, Juan F v O'Neil Consent Decree, Fed District Court, N.H., CT, 1991
Family members in government: I am the first person in my family to seek political office. There is a strong military influence in my family. My father, Lt. Col Bertram Wilson was a career Air Force officer. He served as Tuskegee Airman in WWII, and again in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Campaign website: https://reppat2020.com
The single most pressing issue facing our state is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it: How we construct and manage the next budget can determine whether we recover or fail. The biennial budget directs the state’s spending for the next two critical years. We are in an unprecedented, uncertain, and highly stressful time. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed hidden weaknesses and inequities in our systems. We will begin the budget season with a large deficit. The decisions made during the next year will determine access to and quality of services available to every person in Connecticut.
I intend to:
Sponsor legislation that helps people survive this crisis by adapting existing systems to accommodate current needs (unemployment, presumptive workman’s compensation for essential workers, and healthcare coverage).
Seek stable state funding so our towns can properly plan and manage their resources to function effectively.
Support investment in prevention: supplying masks, PPE, and testing and contact tracing equipment; supporting health and mental health services, small businesses.
Recognize the economic impact of the arts, and ensure that we are sustaining this industry and appreciating the critical role it plays in our recovery.
Advocate for funding for non-profits so that our state agencies can provide for an increasing number of people in need and encourage agencies to value creative problem solving and calculated risk-taking.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post? My opponent and I differ in the breadth and depth of our respective work experience. I have a 40-year record of service in executive management capacities at the state and local level. I am professionally credentialed in law and social work and have served as a tenured associate professor at St. Joseph College. I have established working relationships with leaders at the municipal, state, and federal level. I have served for a full term in the position for which I seek re-election and have been an effective advocate for the District in that role.
We differ with respect to the clarity of our ideology and the articulation of specific policy positions and priorities. In my first term, I demonstrated a record of supporting constituents to the best of my ability without regard to their political affiliation. I know that I am a Democrat and my campaign materials make that clear – my website also offers specific information about my policy priorities. I believe in the democratic process, the rule of law, and accountability for words and actions.
I differ from my opponent in our approach to service and communication. I value the role and understand the sacrifice of public service. I recognize the importance of civility and respect in politics, and I know that the power of my office belongs to the people I represent. I avoid engaging supporters and detractors in the unproductive banter across social media that corrupts public discourse. I understand how communications in a public forum, even those I might consider “personal,” can be associated with my official role.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job? I have passed legislation that has been signed into law to include telehealth services in Medicaid, with this inclusion being expanded this past year to cover all health insurers through the COVID-19 pandemic.
I negotiated state funding for the construction of the new Birch Grove Primary School, saving Tolland taxpayers in excess of $50 million. Tolland was initially only expected to receive a 52 percent reimbursement rate from the State for the school’s construction – but I led negotiations that resulted in an 89 percent reimbursement rate, as well as full reimbursement for the cost of the portables currently in use and soil removal.
I was able to secure $200,000 and two years of funding for an after-school program in Willington, library resources in Ashford, and a multicultural social/emotional initiative at Tolland High School.
I serve as Vice Chair of the Human Services Committee, and am co-chair of the Bipartisan Crumbling Foundations Caucus. I also serve as co-chair of the Connecticut Complete Count Committee – I am proud to say that Tolland, Ashford, and Willington have had some of the highest self-response rates for the 2020 Census across the State.
Do you believe Connecticut needs reform when it comes to electric utility oversight? What steps, if any should be taken? Connecticut needs to reform electric utility oversight, and steps to correct the imbalance between shareholder interest and customer service have already begun. I testified regarding the impact of recent storm failures and this summer’s Eversource rate increase on the District and supported legislation that will enhance customer protections. The new law ties rates and executive pay to performance metrics; and puts Eversource on the hook for lost food and medicine as a result of extended power outages. The law sets minimum staffing levels for linemen under penalty of fines. While there is still more that needs to be done, this law is a good start. Eversource is a private monopoly in control of a public resource, which is wrong, and I will continue to fight for consumers so that our needs cannot be held hostage by a private company with profit motivation.
What steps should state government take to bolster economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic for local businesses? The economy of our State can’t rebound without a healthy workforce. Economic recovery begins with prevention, public health principles, and science-based decision making that ensure we weather this pandemic. Many more lives may be lost if we do not proceed with deliberation.
Subsidies for small business can balance economic recovery as we fight the pandemic. Most businesses have had to limit service due to COVID restrictions and sacrifice a percentage of their capacity to create income. If small businesses received more assistance to pay expenses and employee wages so that they could recoup their losses, we could keep people employed and stabilize the economy while we meet safety requirements (appropriate distancing, use of masks, PPE, and the physical restructure of workspace).
List other issues that define your campaign platform: I will fight to secure more funding for homeowners with crumbling foundations. I have also co-sponsored legislation that would require homeowner’s insurance to cover the peril of collapse, which I plan on re-introducing and pushing for if re-elected.
I will continue to work to expand healthcare access through telemedicine and more equitable funding of health and mental health resources in Northeastern Connecticut. I support making permanent the protections for telehealth coverage that are in place for the duration of the pandemic.
I support strong protections for our environment, family farms, and open spaces. I know that climate change is a major threat to our future and support a transition to renewable energy sources so that we can build a green economy.
I respect the sacrifice of military service and will fight to repay debt we owe to veterans and their families who protect American freedoms.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions? I am a wife, mother, and grandmother who has lived, been educated, and built my career in Connecticut. I grew up in Ashford and on UConn’s campus where my mother worked as faculty secretary for the Humanities Department and my father, after 25 years of military service, directed the Division of Personnel at UConn for ten years. I attended public school in Ashford, graduated from E.O. Smith High School, and UConn as an undergraduate and then at the graduate level in the Schools of Law and Social Work. I am a property owner, licensed gun owner, and have been a resident of the District since 1955. I believe in thorough preparation and hard work.
My positions are influenced by my core principles: prevention, inclusion, equal protection, recognition of the role of women in community building, and conservation. I support creative models of public/private cooperation, and want to make sure that our government works for all of us.
Before I vote in the legislature, I listen to constituents, research issues, explore options and test my understanding by talking to people who think differently than I do. When I make decisions, I rely on practical experience from a varied career infused with the strong values I was raised with. I value constructive criticism, include others in decision making, don’t blame people for my mistakes. and try to learn from them. I strive to bring honor and integrity to everything I do, and am proud to represent my hometown and the rest of the 53rd District in Connecticut’s General Assembly.
Pat Wilson Pheanious. (Nikki Alekson)