By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — As November’s municipal election draws closer, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess chose one word to describe what his fellow Democrats are looking for in the borough — vibrancy.
“We want a vibrant town. We want a lot of action. We want people walking around, riding bikes, going to stores, going to restaurants, making Naugatuck a bustling community,” said Hess after accepting the Naugatuck Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement to run for a fourth straight term at a July 23 caucus.
Hess, 72, who is an attorney by trade, said the Naugatuck Event Center on Rubber Avenue downtown was the perfect location to hold the caucus. He said committee members can look out the windows to see the sites of proposed future developments and improvements, including the Waterbury Branch of the Metro North Railroad, Parcel B, and the former Uniroyal property that officials hope will become the “Port of Naugatuck.”
“We’re in the right place, at the time to move forward with our downtown project,” Hess said. “It will be coming to the burgesses, to NEDC, and to everyone to get some input, to tweak it and to get us to the point where we can really move forward with downtown.”
Hess pointed to other projects in the works, including a greenway along the Naugatuck River, a plan to use state funds to move the train station from Water Street to Parcel B downtown, and the planned acquisition of land from the Connecticut Water Company to build another ballfield.
“We’re going full speed ahead this summer and for the next two years. I love to work. To me, economic development is not work, it’s fun,” Hess said. “I love doing it. I love working with everyone here. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for having confidence in me.”
The Democrat’s under-ticket features familiar and new names.
For the Board of Mayor and Burgesses, the committee endorsed incumbents Laurie Taf-Jackson, who is deputy mayor, Rocky Vitale, W. Francis Dambowsky and Charles Marenghi. Newcomers Francis Santana and James Higgins received the endorsement to run, as well.
There are nine burgess seats on the board and one party can hold up to six of them.
For the Board of Education, the committee endorsed incumbents Ethel Grant, Jason Celozzi, James Scully and Karen Vassell Campbell, who was appointed to finish the term of former board member Glenn Connan. Newcomer Cara Monroe received support to run for the school board.
The school board has nine members, including the mayor. The most seats one party can hold is five, not counting the mayor.
The committee endorsed incumbent Tax Collector James Goggin and Town Clerk Michelle Dowling, who was also supported by Republicans, for re-election.
Democrats backed Burgess Carl Herb to challenge for treasurer. Herb decided not to run for a fourth term as burgess due to family obligations.
“God and family come before my civic duty,” Herb said. “My family needs me.”
The committee endorsed incumbent Chairman Wayne Malicki and Thomas Kiernan for Zoning Commission. Incumbent Raymond Kryskowski as well as Gary Hughes and Sagufta Kalid were endorsed for Planning Commission. Floyd Traver, Michael Kuczenski, Michael Allison and Sally Cyr received endorsements for bailiff.
Naugatuck Democratic Town Committee Chairman M. Leonard Caine III said he’s happy that the committee has a full, diverse slate.
“We were looking to achieve diversity, not just with respect to race but with respect to age. So you have the gender, you have a racial diversity,” Caine said. “That brings different perspectives, different ideas. Hopefully all that can work in synergistic fashion and people will come together for what is the betterment of the town.”