NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation has chosen a familiar face to the borough as its new CEO.
During a special meeting on Wednesday night the NEDC voted to hire Ronald Pugliese as its next chief executive officer. Pugliese replaces David Prendergast, who announced his plans for retirement in June.
Pugliese, 63, will officially start on Sept. 3 and is very familiar with the borough. Pugliese was born in Waterbury but lived in Naugatuck for over 30 years. He has lived in Southbury since 2007 and is a selectman there.
During his time in Naugatuck, Pugliese served the borough as a burgess from 1983 to 1989. He served on other boards and commissions in the borough, including the economic development commission that oversees the Naugatuck Industrial Park. He was also head of the Democratic Town Committee in the early 1990s.
He also served as campaign chair and chairperson for the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.
Pugliese said part of the reason he accepted the job was his close ties to Naugatuck. He hopes to be able to continue helping the borough as head of the NEDC.
“I saw an opportunity to help Naugatuck and do some good,” Pugliese said. “It’s a good fit for me and the town.”
NEDC Chairman Joseph Carlson said the NEDC received 19 applications for the position. The top three candidates, all of whom had backgrounds in economic development, were interviewed.
“I think we picked the right candidate,” Carlson said.
The two other finalists were Rose Ponte, economic development director in Torrington, and Joseph Seacrist, economic development coordinator in Watertown.
Pugliese will make about $72,000 per year, including retirement benefits and life insurance, the same amount Prendergast has been making, Carlson said.
Pugliese was such a strong candidate that Carlson said he was sent a letter offering him the position five days before the NEDC voted to officially offer him the position.
“The letter was contingent upon board approval,” Carlson said.
Carlson said the NEDC was looking for a leader who shared its vision for a vibrant, mixed-use downtown.
“They imparted to me with their vision, and I strongly agree with their vision,” Pugliese said.
Pugliese said that how and when the borough’s growth occurs will depend on many factors.
“It depends on the state of economy, the availability of land, which Naugatuck does have, and, most importantly, the type of proposals we get in,” Pugliese said.
Despite all the variables, Pugliese is going into this position hopeful about the borough’s future.
“There are many, many opportunities for Naugatuck. It’s a great location, it has a great history, the downtown is beautiful, and I think we can do things to make it more beautiful. I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” Pugliese said.
Along with his knowledge of the borough, Pugliese brings a diverse background of experience.
Pugliese worked for Household Financial Corporation, now HSBC Finance Corporation, and was president and CEO of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association. Pugliese said he lobbied in Hartford for the retail and economic sectors.
Pugliese said during his time lobbying in Hartford he made connections, which could help him in his position with the NEDC.
Carlson said those connections were part of what made Pugliese the best choice as candidate.
Pugliese served as the president of East Hartford’s Chamber of Commerce from 2010 to 2011. He left East Hartford to take a position as Waterbury’s director of economic development, which he held until this May.
“I have a wide range of experience that will do well for this position,” Pugliese said.
Mayor Robert Mezzo said Pugliese’s experience and ties to the community set him apart from the other candidates.
“His extensive experience combined with local roots separated Mr. Pugliese from the numerous candidates who applied for the position,” Mezzo said on his blog.
Pugliese said he is looking forward to returning to work in Naugatuck.
“I see so many opportunities and so many possibilities. I want to be part of that. I want to be helpful to the town that has been good to me over the years. I’m really excited about it,” Pugliese said.