NAUGATUCK — Republicans nicked two seats from their Democratic rivals to gain a 5-4 majority on the Board of Burgesses.
However, Democratic Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, has the tie-breaking vote on the board, leaving the Democrats with the edge if votes ever break along partisan lines, a rare occurrence in the past few years.
Hess ran unopposed for re-election Tuesday.
Despite the upset, Hess said he hoped the board continues with its pro-Naugatuck, non-partisan agenda. Hess had endorsed the nine sitting burgesses, including three Republicans.
“For the past two years, there have been no politics in Naugatuck, no such thing as Democrats and Republicans and so long as the new burgesses carry on that same thought process and do not try to bring partisan politics into our agenda, everything will be fine,” Hess said.
Republicans Jack DeOliveira, a political newcomer, and Michael Bronko, a former mayor and burgess, edged out Democrats Patrick J. Scully Sr., a six-term burgess, and Kathleen L. Donovan, a one-term burgess and former Board of Education chairwoman. Republican Donald Wisniewski squeaked by to a win another term, beating Republican newcomer Tyler Fredericks by 29 votes, according to unofficial results.
Democrat Laurie Taf-Jackson was the top vote-getter with 1,812, beating out Republican Robert Neth by 15 votes for the position of deputy mayor.
Taf-Jackson said she worked hard for the last six years to earn the honor and looks forward to working with Hess in her next term.
Republicans Neth and Dorothy Hoff won seats on the board, along with Democrats Robert Burns, Carl Herb and Rocky Vitale.
Burns, who has served Naugatuck for 45 years, said the current board is the most unified he’s ever seen.
“In a local election, party politics shouldn’t be there,” Burns said. “I think every one of them’s there to do the best.”
Borough resident Roger Kuchera said he voted for Republicans across the board, with the exception of Democrat Ethel Grant for Board of Education.
He said the town relies too much on taxes that hurt senior citizens. The borough needs to tighten its belt and spend less, Kuchera said, like his mother did during the Great Depression when she ate onion sandwiches because it was the only vegetable her family could afford.
“It seems to me they squander the money,” Kuchera said.
Turnout was low, with 18.6 percent of registered voters, or 3,525 residents casting their ballots. However, it was slightly higher than the 17.9 percent turnout in the last election without a mayoral race, when former Mayor Robert Mezzo ran unopposed in 2011. In 2015, 37.4 percent of voters came out to vote Hess into office over Republican Tamath Rossi, the longtime deputy mayor.
All eight of the Board of Education candidates running were elected because there are eight seats on the board. Democrats Jason Celozzi, James Scully, Ethel Grant, along with Republicans Dorothy Neth-Kunin, Glenn Connan, Scott Slauson, Diana Malone and newcomer Jeffrey Litke make up the school board.
Incumbent Democratic Tax Collector Jim Goggin won in a close race against Republican challenger Ed Fennell.
Newcomers Gary Charette, a Democrat, and Maria Pinheiro, a Republican, won seats on the Planning Commission.
Democrat Thomas Kiernan and Republicans Eileen Bronko and Sally Brouillet won seats on the Zoning Commission. However, Brouillet and Democrat Wayne Malicki were within 20 votes, which triggers an automatic recount.
Town Clerk Michelle Dowling, who was cross endorsed, and Town Treasurer Judy Anderson, a Republican, were unchallenged and re-elected.
Luke Marshall contributed to this article.