WATERBURY — A prominent area businessman and well-known Naugatuck public figure was found dead in a commuter parking lot here Wednesday.
Police found Joseph “Jay” Carlson, 53, unconscious in his car on South Main Street off Route 8 Exit 29 about 9:15 a.m., according to a state police news release.
The state police Western District Major Crimes unit is investigating it as an untimely death. The Office of the State Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause.
The medical examiner is assisting with the investigation. Detectives determined there was no criminal aspect to the death, police said.
Carlson, who lived on Park Avenue in Naugatuck, was married and had children. He was the longtime chairman of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation until he resigned in late June following a disagreement with other Naugatuck officials over development of a medical center on Parcel C, the vacant lot at the corner of Maple and Water streets.
Carlson was the owner of G&R Manufacturing in the Naugatuck Industrial Park. He was also the president of the former Waterbury Club before it closed about five years ago and active in several other community and philanthropic endeavors.
Area officials mourned his loss Wednesday and remembered him as someone who cared deeply about Naugatuck.
“I am absolutely devastated by the news today. Jay and I always worked very well together and have known each other for many years,” NEDC President and CEO Ronald Pugliese said.
Pugliese and Carlson have worked side by side the past three years after Pugliese was hired in 2013 to lead the NEDC. Pugliese said they had their disagreements over the years, which he added is natural in any relationship, but got along very well.
“He was a very, very close personal friend of mine,” he said.
Dave Rotatori, the executive vice president at Ion Bank and an NEDC board member, said Carlson’s death is a huge loss for Naugatuck.
“His contributions to the town, his family and friends on a business and personal level are inspiring,” Rotatori said. “Jay Carlson was, is a true Naugatuckian.”
Chester Cornacchia, another NEDC board member, said Carlson had a deep and personal commitment to his community.
“I had the privilege of working with him for more than 14 years on the NEDC board where he volunteered his talents and an enormous amount of personal sacrifice toward making Naugatuck a better place,” Cornacchia said. “His loss is profound to our community. My prayers to his family.”
Carlson was past chairman of the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce, where he served on the board of directors. He was past president of the United Way of Naugatuck & Beacon Falls; former chairman for economic development at the Waterbury Regional Chamber; and past president and director at the Smaller Manufacturer’s Association.
He was also on the board of directors of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and the Saint Mary’s Hospital Foundation.
In 2000, he was awarded the Harold Webster Smith “Small Manufacturer of the Year,” and the 2002 Malcolm Baldrige “Leadership of the Year” honor by the Waterbury Regional Chamber.
Former Naugatuck Mayor Ronald San Angelo, who worked closely with Carlson for many years, said Carlson was extremely dedicated to helping the business community in Naugatuck.
“He really wanted to help manufacturers and the business community work together to help one another,” San Angelo said. “He had strong opinions and if he disagreed with you, he would not be shy about telling you that. He was strong in what he believed in. … It’s a big loss for the town.”
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.