Mezzo to run unopposed, for now

Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo, a Democrat, was nominated to run for a second term in office last Saturday. Republicans did not nominate anyone to run against him. But, that could change.

NAUGATUCK — Come May, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses may include three members with experience as the town’s chief executive.

The Republican Town Committee nominated two former mayors to run for burgess. But, no Republican was nominated to run for the borough’s top spot, leaving current Mayor Robert Mezzo to run unopposed for now.

Ronald San Angelo and Michael Bronko nominated each other as burgesses, putting aside differences that surfaced during a contentious primary election two years ago.

Both said they chose not to run for mayor again because of the instability of the job.

In Naugatuck, the office of mayor is a full-time job, meaning whoever is elected must give up their current employment for a position that will expire in two years if they are not reelected.

Bronko, who was mayor from 2007 to 2009, said he considered running for mayor again, but with his construction business just getting off its feet again, it just wasn’t worth it.

“I loved being mayor, but disrupting my construction business was really detrimental to me and my family,” Bronko said.
San Angelo, who was mayor for four years before Bronko, said he never stopped serving the town after leaving office.
“It’s just not right in my life to [run for mayor],” San Angelo said.

He currently works as executive assistant with the state department of information technology but doesn’t know if he’ll be reappointed by the new governor.

“These are difficult times and we need the best qualified people to run for office,” San Angelo said.

If anyone comes forward to run for mayor, the Republicans can still nominate them before the election, San Angelo said. The Republican Town Committee appointed a vacancy committee to try to fill that position as well as the tax collector position, which was also left empty.

“We’re hopeful that someone will step forward as mayor,” said Republican Chair Dorothy Hoff.

If Mezzo is reelected as mayor, San Angelo said he and Bronko would work with Mezzo to make Naugatuck a better place. He said he doesn’t have anything against Mezzo, but debate between the mayor and burgesses is healthy.

Both San Angelo and Bronko said their combined experience will benefit Naugatuck, even though they have disagreed on certain issues in the past.

“At such a vital time, for our country, state and for Naugatuck, our Republican Town Committee has just endorsed a slate which offers the experience of two former mayors – coming together for the good of Naugatuck,” Hoff said.

For his part, Mezzo said he was honored and humbled to be nominated for mayor by the Democratic Party.

Mezzo said his administration has changed the way the borough does business by linking the municipal financial office to that of the Board of Education, reorganizing the public works department and reducing insurance and pension costs.

“I love Naugatuck. I have a lot of lofty goals that we’ve begun to work on over the past two years, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think we have a good team in place to move Naugatuck forward,” Mezzo said.

He said he has worked well with members from both parties.

No other Democratic candidates have challenged Mezzo for the position.

“I think that’s a tribute to the perception by most Democrats that the mayor is doing a good job,” Kevin McSherry, chairman of the Democratic nominating committee, said.

Each party nominated six candidates for the nine-member Board of Burgesses.

Republicans nominated incumbents Burgess Robert Neth and Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi as burgesses as well as newcomers Matthew Katra, who served on the Zoning and Finance Commissions, and Catherine Ernsky, whom Rossi called “a phenomenal fresh face.”

Ernsky has worked on Capitol Hill on behalf of non-profits, including Amnesty International, Agents for Change, and Save the Children. She has been involved in national politics and felt she could provide leadership to Naugatuck.

Katra, who works as an IT architect for IBM in Southbury, said his experience on the Finance Committee would help Naugatuck through difficult times.

On the Democratic side, newcomers include Laurie Jackson and Rocky Vitale, who currently serves on the Board of Education. The town committee re-nominated Burgesses Robert Burns, Patrick Scully, Mike Ciacciarella and Henry Kuczenski Sr.