Naugatuck Democrats are gearing up for their March 7 primary for burgess. With seven candidates vying for six spots on the ballot for the May elections, Naugatuck Democrats will have to choose who they don’t want rather than who they do.
Although a large turnout isn’t anticipated for the primary, candidates have been putting their best foot forward to secure one of the six Democratic burgess spots on the May ballot.
Leonard Caine, chair of the Democratic Town Committee said he doesn’t expect much of a turnout for the one-contest primary.
About 1,800 people came out to vote at the last primary two years ago, he said. But that election included a mayoral race and primary contests for both Democrats and Republicans.
Mayoral races get more attention, publicity, and advertising, Caine said.
Caine said he didn’t expect more than 1,000 voters and others are predicting much less.
Burgess Tony Campbell forced the primary by collecting signatures after he wasn’t selected to run for re-election by the Democratic Town Committee.
Caine said everyone has the right to wage a primary.
“It’s part of the election process,” he said.
Caine said all seven candidates are fine Democrats.
“They have hall contributed to their community in some way or another,” Caine said.
Caine felt the primary may call more attention to the Democratic candidates since they have been communicating with voters more than the Republicans.
“It may well prove to be something that assists the Democrats in the May election,” he said.
Campbell is running for his fifth term in office. In previous terms, he helped with the Naugatuck River cleanup and negotiating contracts.
“I don’t really keep track of the stuff that I’ve done. I just try to do a job when anybody asks me to do it,” he said.
He said, if re-elected, he would keep Naugatuck going forward and support Mayor Bob Mezzo’s initiatives.
“I think Bob Mezzo has some good ideas. … I think he’s taking Naugatuck in the right direction and I want to help out,” Campbell said.
He said he wants to have a say in the decision-making process of the town.
“I just thought I could bring some positive input into helping Naugatuck,” he said.
In addition to Campbell, the candidates include four current burgesses, a member of the Board of Education, and the vice-chair of the Democratic Town Committee.
All the candidates said they were running to serve Naugatuck and help the community.
Robert Burns has been a burgess in Naugatuck for 37 years, one of the longest-serving burgesses in Connecticut.
“I think I’ve done a good job. I look out for the people of Naugatuck and try to help the citizens any way which I can,” he said.
Burns said he’s proud of everything he’s done in his nearly four decades in office.
“I’ve been there so long that I know it like the back of my hand,” he said.
Burns said if re-elected, he will continue to help the people of Naugatuck.
“It’s very tedious job. You’ve got to keep your mind on what you’re doing,” he said.
On the other end of the connectivity scale, Mike Ciacciarella is just finishing up his first term in office and hopes to be re-elected for a second term. Ciacciarella said his ten years on the Zoning Commission, for eight of which he was chair, and his past few years as burgess give him the experience he needs to lead the borough.
“I can relate to people and help them with my experience and with my background,” Ciacciarella said.
Ciacciarella, a self-described fiscal conservative, said his goal for the coming term is to keep taxes at bay.
“I feel I represent people’s interests, especially with the economy the way it is,” Ciacciarella said. “I can relate to the issues and problems that we’re facing in town at a local level.”
As liaison to the water pollution board, Ciacciarella said he spent a lot of time talking to residents about odor issues. As an electrical engineer who works in wastewater treatment industry, Ciacciarella said he is uniquely qualified for this task.
“Communication is really the cornerstone of my past campaign,” Ciacciarella said. “I’m always accessible every day for people to call me. It’s about constituent service and communication with residents. I try to make it as easy as possible for people to get a hold of me.”
Henry Kuczenski, also running for his second term as burgess, said he’s also out to save Naugatuck residents money.
He put a few signs up and made a few phone calls for his campaign, but he’s not knocking on doors to get people to vote for him, he said.
Kuczenski said he doesn’t collect donations for his campaign.
“I prefer that they keep their money and use it for what they need it for and just vote for me,” he said.
Kuczenski is on the Tax Relief for the Elderly Committee and liaison for the Senior Center.
“I try to do the best job I can for Naugatuck and for the people of Naugatuck,” he said.
He’s also on the Housing Authority with Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi.
Kuczenski worked for the town as a police officer since 1964. He’s now retired to another form of public service.
Kuczenski said his priority for the coming term is to get Renaissance Place off the ground. Especially with Peter Paul gone, the town needs the extra tax revenue the revitalization project would bring, he said.
He will also continue trying to strike Naugatuck’s pay-for-play sports policy from the books.
“I just can’t see youth paying to play sports,” Kuczenski said.
As far as expected voter turnout, Kuczenski doesn’t have his hopes up too high.
“I’d be glad to see 500 out there. … A lot of people don’t even know there’s a primary going on,” he said.
Newcomer candidate for burgess Rocky Vitale agreed.
“It’s always tough to get people out in a primary, especially when it’s just one party. So I expect that turnout will be low,” he said.
Vitale is jumping ship after 15 years on the Board of Education. He said he hopes his friends and those he assisted while on the school board will come out to vote for him.
“I think I’ve accomplished as much as I can on the school board and it seems at this point with a new superintendent coming in soon, it’s time for some fresh ideas,” Vitale said.
Vitale said his experience on the school and finance boards, as well as his work in the insurance industry will serve him well when dealing with budgets and expenses as a burgess.
“I think it’s important that we concentrate on economic development in the town as a whole,” he said.
Like many other candidates, Vitale said good communication is the key to effective leadership.
“You can’t make decisions sitting behind a desk at a meeting. You have to get out and see what’s going on, and listen to opinions and ideas,” he said. “I believe I’ve been doing that as long as I’ve been on the school board.”
Laurie Taf Jackson and Patrick Sully will fill out the primary ballot.
Jackson hopes to follow her mother, former Mayor Joan Taf, to the Board.
Taf Jackson is vice-chair of the Democratic Town Committee and Housing Authority, as well as treasurer of the Polish-American Ladies Auxiliary. She is a graduate of Naugatuck High School and Briarwood College. She has worked with students and teachers at Cross St. Intermediate School for eight years.
“I’ve always enjoyed being involved with politics,” Taf Jackson said.
She helped with all her mother’s campaigns, and often attended borough board meetings.
“I just thought now was a good opportunity to give back to the community,” Taf Jackson said.
As a former president of a parent-teacher organization, Taf Jackson is concerned about education.
She also wants to help seniors and the economic development of the town.
Taf Jackson is not taking a laissez-faire approach to her campaign. She’s sending out mailers and putting up signs. She made car magnets with her picture in a $20 bill, with the slogan “With Jackson, you’ll get your money’s worth.”
“I’m working very hard. … I really want to be one of the burgesses in the town, and give back to community,” Jackson said.
Burgess Patrick Scully, member of elderly tax reduction commission and Chairman of Jesse Camille’s remodeling committee, is running for his fourth term in office.
He said he hopes to hold the line on taxes while improving services to the town.
“I’m an advocate for better services for lower costs, if I can get away with it,” Scully said.
Scully said one of his major goals is to consolidate the Public Works Department’s trash, recycling, and highway maintenance buildings in one location. This would save taxpayers money and clear the space on Rubber Ave. for commercial ventures, he said.
He also hopes to encourage more development in the industrial park, where he has worked for the Cadi Company for the past 15 years.
Scully said he will push for something worth-while, hopefully manufacturing, on the plot of land vacated by Peter Paul. A manufacturing company would bring more permanent, skilled jobs to the area than a retail location, Scully said.
Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 7. Call (203) 720-7047 for more information on polling locations.