By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
PROSPECT — Taryn Finley makes it clear that she is a regular person, who is running for mayor.
“I am running for mayor but I’m not a politician,” said Finley, a 36-year-old Independent write-in candidate.
Finley is one of two candidates challenging longtime Mayor Robert Chatfield, a Republican. The three-way race also includes Town Council member Kevin O’Leary, a Democrat.
Finley owns The Prospect Pages, a community monthly newspaper in town, and American Forged Pub in Naugatuck. She said she decided to run for mayor after talking with town employees while bartending at the pub.
“There’s a lot going wrong in our town and nobody cares to know about it or chooses to know about it,” Finley said. “Everybody likes to walk around like we’re Mayberry, with rose-colored glasses on, but it’s not the case.”
Finley said Prospect has stopped being the “people town” she grew up in and has become disconnected. She said she chose to run because she couldn’t just sit idly by, adding her and her husband have always taught her three children to do what’s right for people.
“I don’t like a bully. Our town government is nothing but a big bully. After 44 years, there comes a point where you stop serving the people and you start serving yourself,” said Finley, referring to how long Chatfield has been in office.
The town is dealing with the aftermath of the theft of about $294,000 from a town payroll account from December 2017 to November 2018. The thefts, which went unnoticed by officials during that time, became public in January 2020, when state police announced an arrest in the case.
An independent risk assessment of the town’s internal financial controls concluded the town’s practices were lacking, including having no formal documented policies, and the town is at risk for fraud in several areas.
The town is a business, Finley said, and needs to be run like one. As a business owner, she said, the thefts should not have gone unnoticed for over a year. She said the town needs to conduct a forensic audit and be transparent about it.
Finley said there also needs to be accountability in politics. She said the woman charged in connection with the theft is facing legal punishment, but no one in Town Hall is being held accountable.
“When do we say enough is enough and start demanding answers,” Finley said.
Crime, like car thefts, break-ins and burglaries, was a focal point this summer at two public forums, where residents expressed their concerns with a recent rise in incidents and questioned how the town planned to attack the issue.
The town participates in the resident state trooper program. Under the program, Connecticut State Police provide troopers to help oversee police operations as well as services, such as dispatch and booking. The town has about 20 of its own officers, who are retired from other departments and work part time.
Finley said police officers are hamstrung by state laws when it comes to juvenile offenders and pursuing cars involved in property crimes.
Locally, she said she would love to see the town switch to its own full-time police department and not rely on state police. She said she would only back this move if grants or other funds could be secured to defray the cost and not burden taxpayers.
Finley added the town needs to ramp up security and suggested surveillance cameras on the town’s border. She said the times and community have changed.
“Because times have changed, we need to get with the times,” she said.
If elected, Finley said she would do more to promote small businesses and more to bring the community together.
Finley pointed to Naugatuck, where officials conduct social media campaigns to highlight small businesses and regularly hold community events like restaurant nights. She said business at her pub doubled the week after the borough highlighted the bar as part of a social media campaign.
“We don’t do anything to promote our businesses,” she said. “Why would a business want to come here?”
Finley said people come out in droves for annual events, like the Prospect Pumpkin Festival. She said the town can do more than a handful of events a year to bring the community back together.
Finley said she hears people say that Prospect is not the best small town in the state anymore, and has noticed more divisiveness throughout the community. She said it may be true that Prospect isn’t the best small town anymore, but the town can regain that title.
“We need to change the way that we do politics. We need to work together. We are parents and we are neighbors. We don’t all have to agree to get along but we can be the best small town again. Just need to change the way we do politics,” she said.