Candidate profiles: Naugatuck burgess (Democrats)

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The Citizen’s News asked candidates running for burgess in Naugatuck in the Nov. 2 municipal election four questions. The following are the responses from Democratic candidates

W. Francis Dambowsky

W. Francis Dambowsky

Age: 71

Party: Democrat

Education: Southbury High School; Byton Forum School; United States Armed Forces Institute; Branford Hall; Waterbury State Technical College; Charter Oak State Collage

Political Experience: Burgess; Naugatuck Board of Police Commissioners, chairman; Justice of the Peace; Bailiff

Occupation: Investigator, State of Connecticut; Director, Naugatuck Emergency Management and Homeland Security

Why are you running for burgess?

“Two years ago I saw that Naugatuck is finally on the path of regrowth and that I want to be an integral member of the positive forward thinking team that will work together and ensure that Naugatuck, once again become a thriving community. The past two years have brought challenges that we did not anticipate but, Naugatuck continued to move forward with its plans for smart economic growth. I wish to continue to work with, and support. Mayor Hess with his innovative ideas that are putting Naugatuck on track to a being premier and vibrant community.”

What specific steps can the borough take to increase economic development and reduce the tax burden on taxpayers? 

“Naugatuck must continue to take action and promote policies that create a business friendly atmosphere. We must aggressively promote the Port of Naugatuck project with local, regional, national, and international stakeholders. We must continue to promote this project and encourage our state and federal representatives to support legislation that will aid this plan. We adopted a tax incentive plan to attract business and encourage present businesses to grow. This ordinance allows officials to negotiate fixed assessments with eligible businesses. The board now has the authority to fix assessments for up to 10 years for commercial uses, including manufacturing facilities, transportation facilities, offices and retail establishments. We must have an open dialogue with business owners by creating a conduit for businesses to voice their concerns, we can better understand the issues that are affecting them and work together to seek solutions.”

What issue do you think does not get enough attention in Naugatuck? How would you address it?

“What I see that does not get enough attention is not an ‘issue’ per se but, not recognizing it is an issue. Our town is fortunate to have hundreds of volunteers who work diligently to enhance our community. There are so many residents who work behind the scenes and do so much, but go unnoticed. Veterans groups, garden club, fraternal clubs, youth organizations. The list goes on and on. We need to recognize those all who give so much and who strive to make Naugatuck a better place to live for all of us, and stop concentrating on the negative.”

What is your message to the voters?

“My message is to get involved. Volunteer. The borough is always looking for its residents to serve on boards, commissions and committees. You can also be part of the change. Let the mayor’s office know that you’re interested. Be informed. Don’t rely on other’s comments on social media as your informational source. Go to town meetings and learn the issues and witness the decision making process. Voice your opinion at the town meetings. We live in exciting times for the borough and there are so many great things on the horizon. Be part of the team that brings Naugatuck forward. Most important is to get the facts, make an informed decision, and VOTE! Together we can do it. We are Naugy Strong!”

James Higgins

James Higgins

Age: 33

Party: Democrat

Education: Master’s of Business Administration, Albertus Magnus College; Bachelor’s of Science, Cum Laude, of business and leadership, Albertus Magnus College

Political Experience: Board of Finance; Finance and Audit Review Commissioner, Waterbury

Occupation: President and CEO of Skyline Financial Federal Credit Union

Why are you running for burgess?

“I moved to Naugatuck four years ago from Waterbury. Borough development is progressing, and I want to be a part of it. I made an appointment to meet with Mayor Hess and was appointed to the finance board. I was able to be a part of the budgeting process and ensure the appropriation of our taxpayer funds are utilized well. As a multiple-property owner and a foster and adoptive parent of six children across five of our schools, it was time to take leadership and run for Burgess. I have a vested interest in our community, and I’ve got many years ahead of me to enjoy it. I want to look out for our residents and children, and the safety and soundness of our community.”

What specific steps can the borough take to increase economic development and reduce the tax burden on taxpayers?

“There’s two steps to this process: the first step is increase our grand list and attract new businesses while staying on top of expenses. Conducting vendor reviews, and negotiating better contracts are key. Simultaneously we must maintain our services and keep expenses flat. Crucial investment decisions are important. When deciding on lowering or begrudgingly raising taxes we must analyze how it affects our bond rating. If we decrease our bond rating, it results in private investors not coming to the borough. The second step is residents must play a crucial part. Throughout Facebook I see requests for Wendy’s. Small business drives tax revenue and local hires. More business means more places for us to eat, shop, and take our families to. When we have more foot and auto traffic, we have places like Wendy’s interested in coming to Naugatuck. It’s metric driven by corporations. Public comment is available at all borough meetings, and I plan on listening to our resident’s thoughts before making decisions. So, the grand list must grow, investments must remain solid with good returns, the contracts must be reviewed, the expenses need to be monitored and the residents ought to show up.”

What issue do you think does not get enough attention in Naugatuck? How would you address it?

“Celebrating the successes of what Naugatuck has accomplished is not getting enough attention. There will always be a ‘new’ issue. My involvement with the borough as a volunteer has opened my eyes to a tremendous number of efforts by every employee or volunteer. The schoolteachers and officials, PTO tribes, public works employees are all doing the best they can. Our borough coming off the distressed municipality list is impressive. We need to keep doing what we’re doing. As the issues present themselves, we’re acting instinctively and making educated decisions as the borough should. We are #NaugyStrong.”

What is your message to the voters?

“My message is: GET INVOLVED. Attend the borough meetings, volunteer, and show up. When we work together, our community becomes stronger. Be #NaugyStrong and please, vote for James Higgins on Nov. 2.”

Charles Marenghi

Charles Marenghi

Age: 53

Party: Democrat

Education: Naugatuck High School; Bachelor of Science Degree (math, science, and geography) elementary education, Central Connecticut State University; Master of Science Degree in educational leadership, CCSU

Political Experience: Burgess; Naugatuck selectman; School Space Needs Committees; NHS Renovate to New Building Committee; Economic Development Commission; Arts Commission, chairman; Howard Whittemore Memorial Library Board of Trustees, chairman

Occupation: Educator, Cross Street Intermediate School

Why are you running for burgess?

“Naugatuck is the community that I grew up in. It is the town that my wife and I chose to purchase our home in. Naugatuck is the borough that we are raising our four children in. It is the home in which my wife and I will retire in. To say the least, we are committed to Naugatuck for the long term past, present, and future. I am running for re-election so that I may once again have the privilege of serving the community I love. Moreover, I am running to continue the work I started in 2019.”

What specific steps can the borough take to increase economic development and reduce the tax burden on taxpayers?

“Two years ago I said that the most important issue facing Naugatuck could be summed up in two words, ‘economic development.’ Since then we have made incredible progress. As a burgess I worked with Mayor Hess to craft responsible budgets that allowed the town’s bond rating to improve thus paving the way to lower interest payments. I also supported a policy that gave the town more flexibility in offering incentives for private investment in Naugatuck. In addition, I voted for restructuring of our agreement with the water and sewage treatment plant that keeps Naugatuck a ‘sewer tax free’ community. I believe that the best way to increase economic development and ultimately reduce taxes would be to stay the course we have charted these past two years. If re-elected I will continue to help craft responsible budgets, support policies that entice new private investment, and continue to improve our infrastructure.

What issue do you think does not get enough attention in Naugatuck? How would you address it?

“One issue that needs to be on our radar as we move towards future policy and budgeting will be dealing with the increasing costs of trash collection. The state’s failing to maintain the trash to energy facility in Hartford and its planned 2022 shutdown is going to have a massive and expensive ripple effect. This will force us to make some hard decisions. As a burgess, I will have to closely examine the options and their fiscal and quality of life impact upon citizens. Hard discussions about how we pay for trash removal will need to be had. Moreover, as a local leader I would listen to the input of taxpayers and make sure that any decisions made are in the best interests of all citizens.”

What is your message to the voters?

“As an elected leader in the borough that I grew up in, purchased a home in, and currently raising my family in I hold a position of trust. When elected to any office, a sacred trust is placed upon that individual. I am asking the voters of Naugatuck to once again place that trust in me to continue the progress we have made in the last two years.”

Francis Santana

Francis Santana

Age: 47

Party: Democrat

Education: B.A. in sociology and criminology; M.S. in human resource management

Political Experience: None

Occupation: Secretary to the Superintendent of Schools – Naugatuck Public Schools

Why are you running for burgess?

“I want to be part of the decision making process that impacts our residents and businesses. I support Mayor Hess’ vision of making Naugatuck a vibrant place. Naugatuck’s demographics are changing and we are becoming more diverse. As a woman of color, I would offer cultural diversity and representation in our legislative body. I want to be a burgess who listens and helps problem solve. I am a social worker by trade and a lifelong learner. The process of running for burgess is teaching me new skill sets and helping me grow. I am a parent of two sons. I hope to be an inspiration to them to follow their dreams and to anyone in our community who wants to use their voice and exercise their civic duty to serve.”

What specific steps can the borough take to increase economic development and reduce the tax burden on taxpayers?

“Mayor Hess is working on multiple projects that will increase economic development. I am in full support of those projects. The Port of Naugatuck will entice more people to move to Naugatuck or visit for leisure. New businesses will want to establish themselves here, which will reduce the tax burden. A commuter rail line that will travel from Naugatuck into New York City will facilitate connecting our community members to the Big Apple. The rail will also help reduce roadway congestion. The development of Parcel B will attract young working families and add to the vibrancy of downtown. The revitalization of Rubber Avenue will also attract businesses. More businesses equals more revenue and more job opportunities.”

What issue do you think does not get enough attention in Naugatuck? How would you address it?

“We have a large population of immigrants. I often ask myself, as a daughter of immigrants, is how are we being inclusive? Cultural inclusivity is something I would like us as a community to focus more on. We should ensure that residents have access to information and feel free to practice their culture. Information on our platforms should be translated into different languages, particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and we should have the option of offering translators and/or interpreters for those who need it when seeking services. I have spoken to many residents of color and immigrant residents who are not participating in activities because they do not feel like they are welcomed or they feel events are not targeted to them. I would recommend us hosting more events that are appealing to people of color by bringing in activities, music and food that are more diverse.”

What is your message to the voters?

“I am approachable and I am willing to do the work it takes to continue making Naugatuck even greater and stronger. I encourage voters to vote a person and not a party. I care about our children, our young people, our seniors, our vets and our community as a whole. Running for burgess is a new process for me but I am enthusiastic about learning. I want to help make decisions for our town and move us forward.”

Rocco Vitale

Rocco Vitale

Age: 66

Party: Democrat

Education: Waterbury State Tech, fire science technologies; Post College, business management; Sacred Heart University, computer science; Insurance Institute of America, associate in claims.

Political Experience: Board of Finance; Naugatuck Board of Education (16 years); Burgess (8 years); Naugatuck Litter Task Force, chairman; Noise Ordinance Commission, chairman

Occupation: Retired outside claim representative, The Hartford

Why are you running for burgess?

“I enjoy and get great satisfaction by being involved and hoping I can make decisions that benefit everyone. I believe, as a burgess, you have to make informed decisions in the best interest of Naugatuck. You must be involved, see what is going on, and seek out information. Priorities are set by the citizens, balanced with any knowledge a burgess may have that isn’t available to the public. As burgess, I actively seek out people’s opinions and ideas and integrate these into my thought process. I have served the borough in volunteer positions for over 25 years. This is my home. I raised three children here. They had success in school and now have moved on to success in the working world. That is what this borough is all about: helping everyone achieve success as much as possible.”

What specific steps can the borough take to increase economic development and reduce the tax burden on taxpayers?

“The first order of business is planned, controlled growth. Any municipality must be welcoming to new businesses, support existing ones and encourage a mix of both large corporations and mom-and-pop stores. This is the only way to alleviate the tax burden. Exciting things are being done! Businesses are expanding, Rubber Avenue will be refurbished. North Main Street replacement is completed. Cross Street reconstruction has already drawn the attention of large businesses. The Rubber Avenue corridor has plans for improvement. Planned development of the Port of Naugatuck will be a game-changer for tax relief. These are noticed by businesses as an integral part of the community fabric that will supply them with employees. Economic development starts with a welcoming attitude. More funds are being spent this year for road reconstruction than ever before. Our partnership with Waterbury in developing a section in the industrial park is huge.”

What issue do you think does not get enough attention in Naugatuck? How would you address it?

It used to be the EMS service improvements. I sit on the new board of directors and am happy to say we are on the way to a first-class service. We also are steadfastly addressing littering and dumping. In conjunction with the police department, we’re taking steps to identify and prosecute those who dump.”

What is your message to the voters?

“I want to hear from the voters. I ignore the Democrat vs. Republican. We’re all in this together. Good discussion leads to answers. I’m just a normal guy that wants to do what’s best for the borough. I will continue that pursuit. I heard the concerns about litter and noise issues. I proudly chaired those committees and new ordinances were or will be adopted shortly. I am committed to the vital services needed in the borough. I sit on the historical society board of directors. I hope residents will be inspired by history and understand how the stories of Naugatuck inform the present and affect the future. I will continue my commitment and I’m honored to have a voice that can be heard in important decisions.”

Shagufta Zahid

Shagufta Zahid

Age: 56

Party: Democrat

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science, University of Punjab, Pakistan

Political Experience: Conservation Commission; Naugatuck Culture Council; Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce, vice president; Islamabad Traffic Police Citizen Committee

Occupation: Real estate broker, owner of S Factor Realty Group

Why are you running for burgess?

“I am all about community service! I always been engaged, concerned about community needs. For example, during COVID-19 following protocols, masks and social distancing, I arranged ‘moon walks’ twice and, in 2019 a Halloween event at Gunntown Passive Park and Nature Preserve for children of all ages with accompanying parents and adults. My five years on the Conservation Commission, and being a real estate profession, I got to see some of the problems Naugatuck faces. I want to continue to listen to citizens, not only before but after the election. I believe the Board of Mayor and Burgesses will be a perfect form for expanded diversity representation and effective community service for me.”

What specific steps can the borough take to increase economic development and reduce the tax burden on taxpayers?

“Fully support and work for the transportation hub/Port of Naugatuck proposal of Mayor Hess. We must incorporate as much renewable energy as possible in this and all projects going forward. I will support/explore possibilities residential/commercial developments in the town, keeping clean healthy environment in mind to increase grand list for a lower tax rate. We badly need passive open space on the east side of town. These permeable, green areas stabilize home values, so in that way helping the tax base also.”

What issue do you think does not get enough attention in Naugatuck? How would you address it?

“We have a beautiful, diverse community. We must bring this diversity forward to strengthen are unity with new and creative ideas. For example, how can we have development and at the same time preserve our streams as green, wildlife corridors to our river? We need all people’s input so our democracy can flourish and have lasting solutions.”

What is your message to the voters?

Change isn’t just coming, it is here. COVID, climate: We must approach emerging problems with foresight. I propose a town climate and refugee committee. This will need the cooperation of local and regional housing advocates, educators, politicians, and the application of science-based solutions. I invite all people of Naugatuck to join in this effort.”