By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
PROSPECT — Two challengers have eyes for Prospect’s top political seat.
Town Council member Kevin O’Leary, a 31-year-old Democrat, and Taryn Finley, a 35-year-old Independent, have both announced runs for mayor in the November election.
O’Leary is seeking the nomination from the Prospect Democratic Town Committee to run for mayor.
“I believe the time is right for a change in leadership at town hall. The continued litigation and legal issues present in town highlight the need for strong leadership and knowledgeable, vigilant oversight,” O’Leary said in a news release.
O’Leary said in an email the issues he’s referring to include the theft of nearly $300,000 from a town payroll account, and concerns raised earlier this year by Democrats regarding whether the appointment of a deputy treasurer and the issuance of municipal checks violated the Town Charter.
Finley, who is running as an Independent candidate, said in an email she is a “normal person” and not a politician. Her bid for mayor grew out of a casual conversion.
“I had been mulling it over for quite some time, but I couldn’t ignore the issues piling up and knew I had to run,” said Finley, who owns American Forged Pub in Naugatuck and The Prospect Pages.
“I’m just a normal person that loves Prospect and I know the difference between right and wrong and I’m not afraid to fight for the ‘right,’” she added. “I have an uncanny ability to be unbiased and do what is right for the majority, not just a select group. Being unbiased and fair seems to be a lost art in politics.”
O’Leary is an attorney and partner with the firm Dolan Divorce Lawyers in New Haven. In February, the council appointed him to serve the remainder of former council member Paul Murray’s term through November. O’Leary, a member of the Prospect Democratic Town Committee, served on the Inland Wetlands Commission before his appointment to the council.
O’Leary and Finley are looking to unseat longtime Mayor Robert Chatfield, a 77-year-old Republican who has held the mayor’s seat since he was first elected in 1977.
Chatfield announced in January that he will seek a 23rd consecutive term, saying at the time, “I’m a high-energy person and I’m not finished.” He has the support of the Prospect Republican Town Committee for another run.
O’Leary said the town’s operations need to be reformed and modernized so services are administered in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.
“After 44 years of the same leadership, the town deserves an administration that will embrace new ideas, increase transparency within all town departments and engage in meaningful dialogue with the community,” O’Leary said.
Finley said she has the utmost respect for Chatfield and that’s he’s done a great job in office. But, she said, while the times and town are changing, the way it is being led is not evolving.
“I believe that the residents’ voices need to be heard so that a sound, educated, unbiased decision can be reached,” she said. “It’s foolish to think that everyone will be happy 100% of the time but self-serving and one-sided politics is wrong, a mayor works for the residents, not the other way around.”
Democratic Town Committee Chairman John Schwarzkopf said the committee is excited to have a candidate in O’Leary seeking the Democratic nomination to run for mayor. He said O’Leary has gained experience on the council and has a lot of insight with his background as an attorney.
Schwarzkopf added a three-way mayoral race would set up a great opportunity for Democrats across the ticket.
Party nominations for the municipal election are set for July 20 to July 27. Schwarzkopf said Democrats are seeking candidates to fill every position on the ballot. He said O’Leary will be a “strong candidate” if he receives the committee’s endorsement.