May elections a thing of the past in borough

0
4

Democrat Pat Scully watches election results come in with his granddaughter Rylee Jordan on the evening of May 2, 2011. Scully was re-elected to his seat on the Board of Burgesses. May elections in the borough are a thing of the past as voters approved a charter revision that moves the municipal election to November. –FILE PHOTO
Democrat Pat Scully watches election results come in with his granddaughter Rylee Jordan on the evening of May 2, 2011. Scully was re-elected to his seat on the Board of Burgesses. May elections in the borough are a thing of the past as voters approved a charter revision that moves the municipal election to November. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Political signs appeared like spring blossoms in Bethany and Woodbridge, but the borough, for the first time in history, did not hold a municipal election Monday.

Since the borough charter was first established in 1895, the mayor and other municipal officials have been elected on the first Monday in May. Many other towns held spring elections then because it was more convenient to the farming calendar, officials have said.

Since then, most municipalities switched to holding elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, leaving the borough as the largest among a handful of towns in the state to still hold May elections.

Voters changed that at a referendum last fall, when 59 percent chose to join every other greater Waterbury town in the move to November elections. Local officials currently in office had their terms extended by six months as a result.

Candidates for mayor, burgess, school board, the planning and zoning commissions, tax collector and town clerk will now be nominated in July, with a possible primary in September and a general election Nov. 5.

The change gives Republicans six more months to find a candidate for mayor. Two years ago, Mayor Robert Mezzo, a Democrat, ran unopposed. As of last week, no Republicans had expressed interest in running, Republican Town Committee Chairwoman Dorothy Hoff said.

“Hopefully we’ll get a candidate who’s charged up,” Hoff said.

Now town committee members and candidates, who in past years might have been campaigning since January, have found themselves with a lot more time on their hands.

“Candidates don’t have to campaign in four feet of snow,” said M. Leonard Caine III, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee. “You really want to walk around in that and try knocking on doors?”

Kim Kiernan, secretary of the Republican Town Committee and a finance board member, said before she got active in borough politics, she figured the elections were in November.

“I’m sure that I missed a couple of May elections,” Kiernan said.

Candidates might have to work harder to get their messages out in the summer because they will be running campaigns at the same time as their counterparts in surrounding towns, said Stephanie Gunnoud Savoy, treasurer of the Republican Town Committee.

“In May, we had the niche,” Savoy said. “We were the only game around, so we had all the attention.”

Hoff and Caine both served on the charter revision commission that recommended the change, and said they supported it in part to separate local elections from the budget process, which runs from February to late May.

Mezzo said this year’s budget, which is proving particularly difficult due to the economic downturn and property revaluation, has kept him from thinking about the election he might have faced Monday.

“At this time of year, you’re so consumed with attempting to craft the budget that it’s often difficult to craft a campaign at the same time,” Mezzo said.

When Mezzo was first elected in 2009, he and some new burgesses were asked weeks later to adopt a budget they had no say in. A new mayor elected in November would take office months into the fiscal year, but would soon begin to work on the next year’s budget, Mezzo said.

“I think it has much less of an effect than having one set of people deliberate on a budget and another set of people vote on it,” Mezzo said.