BOE chair switches parties

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David Heller
David Heller

NAUGATUCK — Board of Education Chairman David Heller says politics should take a back seat to the business of educating children and that his main allegiance is to what he dubs the “Naugatuck Education party.”

Therefore, he is switching political parties from Republican to Democrat in an attempt to win a sixth consecutive term on the school board.

“I’m pleased to report that I obtained the endorsement from the Democratic Town Committee, and this morning I changed my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat,” he said Monday. “I’m very excited about being part of the (mayoral candidate N. Warren) ‘Pete’ Hess Democratic slate, and I look forward to two more years serving the children of Naugatuck.”

Heller, 56, who has served on the school board for 10 years and in a leadership role for six, was not endorsed by the Republican Town Committee during its caucus last week. The Democratic Town Committee left two vacancies for Board of Education candidates last week and voted to allow its executive board to fill those spots.

The committee’s executive board voted 4-3 to support putting Heller on the ticket. Louise Sheedy, Patrick Scully, Kevin McSherry and Chairman M. Leonard Caine III voted to support Heller’s nomination, which Hess also supported. Laurie Taf Jackson, Joan Taf and Robert Burns Sr. voted against putting Heller on the Democratic ticket.

Heller said he appreciates the support from Hess and the Democratic Town Committee and plans to work hard for the entire Democratic slate. He said the Board of Education generally does not involve politics.

“It involves doing what’s best for the students and community,” he said. “And it appears the Republican Town Committee is playing politics with education, and that’s very frustrating to me.”

Republican Town Committee Chairwoman Kim Kiernan said she could not speak to why some voted in support while others did not vote in support of Heller’s nomination.

“I can say that he is a strong volunteer in our community and we wish him the best,” she said.

Hess said he wanted Heller on his ticket because he believes Heller is a “good guy” from a “pro-Naugatuck family.”

“I believe he adds depth to the Democratic ticket,” Hess said. “I know there are some Democrats who object to a Republican being on a Democratic ticket and that there are many Republicans who wish that he was on their ticket. On balance, I believe that he will strengthen the Democratic ticket.”