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Tonina Says Struggles 'Will Help Me Connect With the People'

Republican candidate Theresa Tonina does have a history of small claims and recently settled debt - but she was the first to admit it and said her past struggles will help her understand the challenges residents face in a tough economy.

Theresa Tonina. (Credit: Submitted)
Theresa Tonina. (Credit: Submitted)
The last 15 years haven't been extremely kind to Theresa Tonina, a Republican candidate for Berlin Town Council that has seen debt rise and challenges persist, but confronted with the questions, she did not deny there have been financial issues.

The struggles are behind her, however, and she says she's ready to move forward with a perspective and eye on those going through the same challenges in Berlin.

Tonina has taken criticism in recent weeks for her past record, one which includes 10 instances of small claims cases or legal filings related to debt or motor vehicle related matters between 1996 and 2012. Each of these, she said Monday, have been settled.

"My reason for running is that I have been there. The reality is we are continuing to struggle through a tough economy and I believe that I can be a voice, not only for the community but for those who are going through tough times as well."

It's been a difficult struggle for Tonina, who has dealt with a combination of family health issues and business challenges that led to many of the cases. She has had liens on both her home and business, Rich's Citgo on Main Street, and lengthy back taxes to pay.

As of April 2013, however, state and town records showed she completed a financial agreement and had paid back those back-owed taxes at an 18 percent interest - a total of more than $150,000 in all.

Five additional cases were heard in motor vehicle court and were settled the day the cases were completed, she said. Records show the cases have been closed out.

But with the struggles behind, the former vice chair of the Berlin Democratic Town Committee said she is moving forward and looking to give back to a community that has helped show her daughter new life after paralysis and one that continues to struggle itself with more than 24 foreclosures and 200 homes for sale based on recent data.

"The council, the members sitting, largely haven't listened to the voters in Berlin. I had too many people coming in, telling me they need tax relief. They need a break and a voice. That's why I decided to run," Tonina said.

That hasn't been enough to ward off concerns expressed by some in time, including Berlin Patch reader Lifelong Berlinite, who questioned why she was added to the ballot and given the chance to make financial decisions for the community.

It wasn't a question that members of the Berlin Republican Town Committee took lightly before nominating Tonina as a resident, Republican Bob Peters and Committee Chairwoman Anne Reilly each said. Riley said Tonina has always been focused on the people and brings a different perspective, one from a person who would be a member of a seven person team and help provide a different perspective.

"She could have filed for bankruptcy and she could have taken numerous other actions. She didn't," Reilly said. "Tonina took responsibility and she paid everything back in full and with interest."

Peters and Reilly also questioned the concerns, saying they know there is a history but pointing to the fact that several candidates, including a current Democrat, have also experienced problems including a lien as a result of an unpaid water bill.

Instead of focusing on these issues, however, the three said Tonina is taking the right approach in looking ahead and moving forward with her new mission: serving the people of Berlin.

"There are records of my cases and I have the complete records and have offered to discuss with anyone one-on-one the concerns they have. They only need to reach out," Tonina said. "I'm not going to have my family brought into this, but I am willing to sit with anyone who wants to talk about the public record."

"We all have problems, we all have debts. I am here to represent those who are struggling to make ends meet and let them know we know what they are going through."

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Christine October 30, 2013 at 07:29 AM
Terry, thank you for your transparency. So many of us are struggling through hard financial times. Those who aren't feeling the effects of this prolonged recession must be quite affluent, lacking an understanding of the value of a dollar. Unfortunately, I believe those are some of the same people sitting on our council, spending our hard earned money like water-- clueless as to how hard this taxation hits a majority of folks. I only wish more Democrats would wake up and understand how the liberal mentality is destroying us! Thank you for waking up and joining the Republicans-- Thank you for your willingness to stand up for common sense change-- Thank you for your dedication to this community-- Thank you for your honesty and transparency-- Thank you for your generosity-- Thank you for your commitment to representing the people of Berlin! These are all qualities I want to see in a person running for political office! Hands down, you have my VOTE!
Citizen Ruth October 30, 2013 at 11:00 AM
To Christine: in Berlin there is a Democratic clique, the core of which consists of municipal employees and teachers, protecting their jobs, salaries, benefits. It's the old one-hand-washing-the-other city politics. If the Town protects their jobs, salaries, benefits, contracts, etc., they will vote for those candidates. So of course they do not want to cut spending. They are well organized and support their candidates on the council.
Christine October 30, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Crooks-andLiars, you have a very good point. It turns our hard earned tax dollars into a racket. Unfortunately, many of our registered voters are complacent. How many times do you hear someone say, "Oh, my one vote won't make a difference." I hear it all the time. Hopefully this time around, we will break through the wall (of corruption)!
Suzanne Helm October 30, 2013 at 01:20 PM
I am no stranger to hardships....5 members in this family and one income...which went down to 0 when my husband lost a job a while ago and then luckily found something else quickly. In the short time we were floundering I had to take part in services like Husky and further cutting back expenses that were already in check. I read a very hurtful op ed piece in the Citizen about welfare and food stamps and the authors disgust with having to wake up everyday at 5am to pay for my family to skate on his hard work. No one knows there are always 3 sides to every story, mine, yours, and the truth. Everyone goes into every experience with preconceived ideas and expectations. A truly wise person can close their eyes to all of that and open their minds and take things on a case by case basis. I don't think the people in power have seen big struggles. Maybe it's time they start getting out in the public shaking hands, hearing stories and kissing babies again before I feel like anyone is on my side. One medical expense in an uninsured household can break you and send you into bankruptcy. I just learned it takes 20 cents a day to help provide WIC or SNAP benefits to a family that needs food assistance. I just wish more of the politicians were as candid as this so we can make our OWN educated decision.
Citizen Ruth October 30, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Hi Lifelong Berlinite. I was not criticizing the organization of the municipal employees and educators. It is an effective as well as a legitimate strategy in a democratic process even though its results may be inequitable to others. If the majority of Berlinites wish to remain uninformed, and fail to vote their wallets and pockets, then they deserve to pay higher taxes. The municipal employees and educators are smart to organize. The majority in Town will continue to pay higher taxes for more teachers, police officers, public building renovations, etc., even though this spending may be unnecessary, unwarranted, imprudent, and inequitable.

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