NAUGATUCK — It is no small task for Burgess Robert Neth Sr. to juggle co-owning a business, running a youth baseball league, coaching a baseball team, being an elected official, and his personal life.
“I’m always going to work. I’m not the kind guy that sits around,” Neth said.
Voters elected Neth, a 61-year-old Republican, to his 12th straight term in November, making him the longest sitting burgess on the Board of Mayor and Burgesses. Neth received the second most votes among burgess candidates to earn the second deputy mayor role. He takes the title of longest sitting burgess from Democrat Robert Burns, who served on the board from 1973 until this year when he didn’t run for re-election.
“I guess it’s an honor, quite honestly, that I’ve survived. I’ve actually worked much harder this year, going door to door. To me, if you work hard, you should be entitled to something, a vote,” Neth said. “I think this year is the hardest I’ve worked in a long time, I want to say probably since around early 2000s.”
Neth was born in Bristol. He grew up in Thomaston, where he lived for most of his life until he moved to Naugatuck in 1982, and graduated from Thomaston High School in 1976. He attended Waterbury State Technical School for two years after high school.
Neth and his wife, Joan D. Neth, have been married for 39 years and raised their three children, Robert Jr., Rebecca and Kimberly, in Naugatuck.
“I’ve lived a pretty good life. I’m pretty fortunate. I’ve a great family, my wife, my kids, my in-laws,” Neth said. “It’s gratifying to come here (Naugatuck Town Hall) once, two, three times a month and be part of the good people that participate.”
Neth’s political career began with the encouragement of a couple of former local politicians — Ron San Angelo, a former mayor and burgess, and the late Kevin DelGobbo, a former state representative.
“Those guys actually, I think, got me started because they were highly involved in the political scene. I would say those guys are the ones that jumpstarted me to focus and get interested in it,” Neth said.
Neth was appointed to the Board of Finance in 1989 and served four terms on the board, including three as chairman.
“I’ve always loved math; that was like my top thing. The finance board is a very interesting area to start,” Neth said. “You get to know how every department runs, how it functions, the money involved with each department. So that was intriguing to me.”
In 1997, Neth ran for burgess and was elected to the ninth and last seat on the board. Over the years, he’s served on 31 subcommittees, as well.
“If you work hard, good things will come,” Neth said. “That’s why subcommittees are a gratification for me because I think I’m doing something good for the taxpayers of the borough.”
Neth is just as active in his personal life. He is part owner and vice president of Connecticut Signcraft Inc., a Naugatuck company that designs and manufactures signs. Neth’s brother-in-law, David Dunn, is the majority owner and president of the company.
Neth also runs the Housatonic Valley Senior Babe Ruth baseball league, a summer league for players ages 15 to 19. He’s run the league for 23 years and also coaches the Naugatuck team.
“If I don’t do it, there will be nobody to do it,” Neth said. “That means that there are 20 kids that are not going to have that ability to play in the summer. I do it because of that.”
Neth makes it work when it comes to juggling all of his responsibilities.
As for his political ones, he said he’s humbled to have the opportunity to serve the borough.
“I’m not in it for any glory. That’s not me. I’m not the guy that’s going out to every function and get my picture taken,” Neth said. “I’m happy to do what I’m doing. I believe that everything I do is a benefit to the borough of Naugatuck.”
Neth feels the key to bettering the borough is unity, and his experience over the past 30 years has helped shape a nonpartisan political outlook.
“My view is, we’re not Republicans and Democrats to me. I’m not a big party guy, that’s just my opinion,” Neth said. “There are people that are crazy about party, but in a town like this Democrats and Republicans don’t work.”
During his time as chairman of the finance board, Neth said he didn’t know who was a Republican or Democrat.
“When you have very good people that all have different perspectives and opinions, you have a very good board,” Neth said. “When you turn a board into politics, that’s when it starts to get a little negative.”
Neth said it’s tough to know what his political future will hold, but he sees the positions he’s held as stepping stones.
“Of course now the next level of burgesses is mayor,” he said. “That’s something that I would consider in the future because I think it’s a unique position. I think it’s a challenging position and I think that if you do your steps the right way you can transition to it in a positive way.”