By Doug Ireland
---- — WINDHAM — Selectmen have two new leaders, but both announced this will be their final year on the board.
Phil LoChiatto was elected chairman and Kathleen DiFruscia vice chairman by their colleagues Monday night. It was the board’s first meeting since the election March 12, when Al Letizio Jr. defeated Alan Carpenter.
Letizio was sworn into his new post. One of his first moves as selectman was to nominate LoChiatto as chairman. DiFruscia emerged as a candidate for chairman as well.
It took two votes, with LoChiatto chosen as chairman in a 4-1 decision. Ross McLeod voted for DiFruscia while she and the other selectmen cast their votes for LoChiatto.
But the biggest surprise during the selection was when LoChiatto and DiFruscia — both elected in 2011 — announced they would not seek re-election next year.
The two longtime public servants said in interviews yesterday that while they enjoyed serving their community, it would be time to step down in March 2014.
Both cited the need to spend more time with their families, but said they would continue to work hard as they complete their three-year terms.
LoChiatto, 48, said he was pleased to be chosen as the board’s new leader.
“I’m honored to be the chairman,” he said. “I take the responsibility seriously.”
The local business owner served on the Planning Board for nine years, including four as chairman.
“My goal is to really take the board forward and in a professional manner,” he said. “I think it’s no secret that the board has been divided over the past couple of years.”
LoChiatto said that was no reflection of the board’s leadership under former Chairman Bruce Breton, who did not seek re-election.
DiFruscia, a 66-year-old attorney, was disappointed at first not to be selected chairman but said she’s happy to serve as vice chairman.
“I think Phil will do a great job,” she said.
LoChiatto and DiFruscia said one of the new board’s top priorities is to take a thorough look at town operations and meet with department heads to see what can be improved.
“We need to look at how the town is working, how the town is doing, and make the best use of taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.
“I think one of the most important things is doing such things as strategic planning,” she said.
Windham needs to carefully plan for development as the community continues to grow, DiFruscia said.
The town also needs to take a close look at its infrastructure and invest in necessary upgrades, such as improving its records storage facility and computer network, she said.
“We really need to bring that up to the 21st century,” she said of the network. “I think that’s an important issue.”