Berube looks to unseat incumbent Blake in Milford

MILFORD — In a government dominated by Democrats, Peter Berube said he hopes to bring balance and transparency to the city’s highest office.

Berube, who has never served in public office, said he brings management experience from his time in the military, work in the restaurant business and service on the Boys and Girls Club executive board in his battle against longtime incumbent Democrat Mayor Ben Blake this November.

“I just don’t think it should be a one-party rule,” Berube said about city government. “It doesn't matter Democrat or Republican ... it should be a down the middle, at least balanced with the Board of Ed, aldermen and planning and zoning.”

Berube, a member of the Milford Republican Town Committee, said the search for mayoral candidates to challenge Blake proved difficult —with some simply not wanting to run, others interested but unable to fully commit to the rigors of the position.

“I told the committee that I would like to throw my hat in the ring to run for mayor,” he said. “They said it was a great idea.”

Berube said while he has not handled city affairs, his experience in restaurant management has offered the background on budgets and employee management — both key assets in his run against Blake, known for his run of annual tax decreases for city residents.

“It’s easy to run a restaurant that is doing the volume in sales, but you still have to create a budget and every year you’re creating a budget to do better,” Berube said. “You still have to do better than the competition and the environment like more people moving in and more housing moving in.

“It’s the same format as far as your profit, loss, budget systems, what categories you can use and how we can save money. It’s a larger scale in the city, but I have that experience,” Berube added.

Berube said, if elected, he will bring transparency to city government —something that he said is lacking under Blake’s leadership. Berube says his goal is to let voters know where their tax dollars are being spent and if business growth is truly as robust as Blake contends.

The Republican candidate also said he plans to open the city books and find savings by making sure all city positions are filled, eliminating overtime pay which can be a drain on budgets.

“Blake did a hiring freeze on a lot of departments, the last five-plus years, and in public works, they are down 32 plus positions for the city,” he said. “We budget for that, it gets approved for those positions, and we don’t hire for those positions.

“Meanwhile, when I go knocking on doors and talk to different people on public works,” Berube added, “I ask how public works is treating them, they tell me they are tired because they just worked 60 hours. What’s the total of overtime compared to a normal salary or an hourly rate would have been for those employees. So I think we could save money there if we just fill the positions needed.”

Berube said he will focus on providing the city police and fire departments with needed support.

“I talked to different police officers around and asking them how is the city of Milford,” he said. “What they are telling me is in schools they are teaching firefighters are good and policemen are bad. Just because of everything that has happened in the United States and George Floyd and everything else that is going on. These are first responders — firemen, police, the ambulance people are the first ones to hit a scene — they are going into danger.”

For Berube, it is also important to help provide parents a voice in their children’s education.

“It’s just interesting when everything is going on, and the board of education is bringing stuff in and putting stuff in education that parents don’t agree with,” Berube said. “A lot of it we are talking about the social-emotional learning, which some parts people would say it has parts of critical race theory. All I’m talking about is parents need to have a voice.”

The Milford superintendent has denied claims of critical race theory being taught in schools. CRT is a controversial academic framework through which to view systems of racism and oppression in America. Even though it is generally considered a college-level theory, not taught as part of K-12 curriculum, the term is used by some conservatives to refer to certain school programs that encourage inclusion, diversity and equity.

While Blake touts the increase in business and development in Milford, which has led to the jump in the tax base and lower taxes, Berube says overdevelopment can also be a problem.

“This overdevelopment going on in Milford and all these apartment buildings popping up on these small areas,” he said. “If I was mayor, I would work with the economic developer, to see if there was a way we can get a tax incentive for the landlords to rent out to local businesses to gain another tax base and get them in these empty buildings and stores.”

Berube said if elected, he will work together with both sides of the aisle.

“You have to be able to work together. When I talk about being bipartisan, you have to be bipartisan, you have to have it split,” he said. “You have to be able to have those conversations, you have to have Democrats keep you in check when you’re working and not just have people go with whatever you say.”