PROSPECT — After 36 years in office, Republican Mayor Robert Chatfield is looking to secure his 19th term on Election Day.
Chatfield, 70, was first elected as mayor in 1977. Chatfield said he is running on his vast experience. He said his experience allows him to plan for the town’s future in the variety of different departments that his office oversees and solve most problems residents might have.
“Some people I know what their problem is before they even come through the door,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield is being challenged this year by two political newcomers, Democrat Louis Booth and petitioning candidate Louis Mirabelle.
Chatfield said his experience has helped him deal with severe weather problems the past few years the town had never had to deal with before. Having led the town through those storms, he added, he’s in a position to be able to plan for the town’s future needs with public works.
Chatfield said he also has the necessary experience to craft the best budget he can for the residents.
“I’ll continue watching every penny and nickel of the taxpayer as I’ve always done,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield said the majority of the taxes, 75 percent, the residents pay are to Region 16, which oversees schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls, and is out of his control.
He added the town must deal with rising costs that are also outside the town’s control, such as maintaining more roads as the town grows and keeping up with town fields as more residents use them.
In addition, Chatfield said, there are state mandates that drive the operating costs of the town up.
“Town expenses go up, whether people want to realize it or not,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield said he works to keep the cost of running the town down whenever he can.
“How do I pinch pennies? I have a 30-year-old town truck that was out plowing snow during that blizzard. That’s some good maintenance, taking care of that truck,” Chatfield said.
Another part of ensuring the financial future of the town is through economic development.
“I think we’ve only got one or two empty storefronts in town, which isn’t bad for these economic times,” Chatfield said.
If re-elected, Chatfield said, he will continue to work with businesses to bring them into town.
“When people are looking to move to Prospect they come here first and ask questions, find out what’s available,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield said he will also continue to seek economic development opportunities such as grants.
“I took on economic development myself by getting grants and bringing the waterline in when many people opposed that. Now we have water through the entire industrial park, all up around the center, all the way down Routes 68 and 69 towards Naugatuck and Waterbury. The new school is going to be able to have sprinklers in it. There’s new commercial buildings that have opened up down on Waterbury Road because of water,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield said he’s interest in politics was sparked at a young age.
“I worked a lot of little part time jobs in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The first one was Prospect Hardware. The first selectman at the time, George Cipriano, ran Prospect Hardware and I think that’s where I got the bug, so to speak,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield spent four years in the Air Force, retiring in October 1965. Other than those years, he has lived his whole life in Prospect.
Shortly after leaving the Air Force, Chatfield joined the Prospect Fire Department and was the chief from 2000 until 2008. He currently holds the rank of day commander.
If re-elected, Chatfield said his plans include finishing the second phase of the reconstruction of Scott Road, doing what he can to continue the work on the new elementary school and working to improve the parks.
One of the lessons Chatfield said he’s learned over the years as mayor is that not everything can be fixed immediately, if at all.
“Sometimes you can’t always solve a problem. For example property line disputes or trees on property are civil matters and people will come here thinking I can waive a magic wand, and that doesn’t happen. And some things take money, some things I can fix right away, some things I can fix with a phone call, and sometimes people have to wait years and years to have their road rebuilt,” Chatfield said.
Regardless of the difficulty of the problems Chatfield said if re-elected he will be in the office each morning to face them.
“Availability is a big part of this job. Being here early in the morning is a big part. I’m here at 5 a.m. If the town’s waking up, I’m awake already. It’s a fulltime job,” Chatfield said. “I’ll continue working for the people of all ages and being fair to the people.”