NAUGATUCK — Republican mayoral candidate Seth Bronko wants to make sure the borough is on the path to success.
“I’ve grown up in town. I love this town. The path I see the town on currently, I know we can do better. I truly believe that our best days are ahead as a town,” Bronko said.
Bronko, 26, received the Republican Town Committee’s endorsement to run for mayor. He will have to earn the spot on the ticket in a primary with fellow Republicans Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi and Burgess Alex Olbrys. The primary is Sept. 16.
The winner of the Republican primary will run against Democrat N. Warren “Pete” Hess, a Naugatuck attorney, for the mayor’s seat in November.
Bronko said he decided to run for mayor because he hopes to make the borough a better place for residents and business owners.
“I want to do whatever I can to make a positive difference,” Bronko said.
Bronko holds a bachelor’s degree in business management with a concentration in entrepreneurship from University of Connecticut, and owns Bronko Construction with his father, former Mayor and current Burgess Michael Bronko.
Bronko said his background will help him understand the needs of Naugatuck as mayor.
“I understand what it takes to run an organization. I’ve been politically involved for most of my life, so I’ve seen how the government operates and how things work. I understand what it takes to run an organization,” Bronko said.
When it comes to crafting a budget, Bronko said the mayor’s office needs to be as efficient as possible.
“I would sit down with every department head and do a top-down evaluation to see if we can find where any inefficiencies might be,” Bronko said. “I’d look to make things efficient and cut out any fat that their might be.”
Bronko said this would include finding areas where the budget can be cut, areas where the borough can combine services and areas it can regionalize its services with other municipalities.
As far as the mill rate, Bronko said there is not a simple and easy fix to lower taxes.
“Yes, there are some things we can do for one-time revenues, but there is no quick fix to address the mill rate in a lasting way. What we need to do is build a better business climate. The whole goal is to bring businesses in. We know we need to stir up our economic development in town,” Bronko said.
Bronko called increasing economic development the “overlying goal” of economic restoration. He said the biggest complaint he has heard from business owners throughout the borough is a lack of support.
“Where that has to start is making sure the business community we do have is happy and wanting to be successful and thrive in Naugatuck,” Bronko said.
Bronko said, if elected, he will create the Naugatuck Small Business Connection, which will be a coalition of himself and local business leaders.
“It will give them a chance to have their voices heard, express their concerns, to have direct contact with me to make sure we are all on the same page. Along with that we will work on doing things like hosting business fairs on the Green just as a way to have our businesses showcase themselves to have the residents in town see everything we have to offer and really give the businesses a chance to spotlight themselves,” Bronko said.
Redevelopment of the borough’s downtown has been in flux since the contract ran out on the Renaissance Project in 2012. Officials are currently working with developers to revive downtown, including Parcel C, the vacant lot at the corner of Maple and Water streets. However, a shovel has yet to break ground.
Bronko’s vision for downtown includes mixed-use commercial development and residential properties.
“I would absolutely love to restore the vitality of downtown,” Bronko said. “We’re right off the highway on Route 8, right in between New Haven and Hartford, right near 84 and right on the railroad. I think we are in a prime location in that downtown area to develop it and restore that downtown feeling where you have shops on the ground floor and residence on the upper floors. Just create that sense of a busy, comfortable downtown feeling.”
Bronko said he is concerned about the state of education in the borough.
“I think the scores and the rankings speak for themselves. We have not been doing too well in those regards,” Bronko said.
However, Bronko thinks the district has already begun making steps in the right direction under the leadership of Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke.
“She has made the whole process more transparent and more open. She has opened up the whole budget, line by line, to the public to see for the first time. She’s set very direct standards and metrics and goals to meet moving forward. I think we are already seeing progress in that direction,” Bronko said.
Bronko also has plans to take a hands-on approach to education in the borough. He hopes to start the Mayors Mentorship Program to give students the opportunity to network and connect with borough leaders.
“I came through the whole public school system through graduation and I would love to be able to, in the mayor’s position, recognize some of our students for their work, for their diligence, their goals to really excel in education, and I want to reach out and provide another step, another boost to their overall experience,” Bronko said.
Bronko said another important issue to him is the future of main roads in the borough, particularly Rubber Avenue.
The recycling center and public works department are currently located on Rubber Avenue. Bronko said he would recommend relocating them in order to open up space along the road for businesses.
“I think those are areas that are important centers for potential business,” Bronko said.
As Republicans prepare to head to the polls, Bronko wants them to know he believes in a bright future for the borough.
“My message is that I truly believe that Naugatuck’s best days are ahead. We can revitalize that sense of community in town and reinvigorate that hometown pride as we start to come together and bring in businesses,” Bronko said. “I think we are going to see a new period of Naugatuck that we can truly be proud of.”
For more information on Bronko’s campaign, visit www.sethfornaugatuck.com.