NAUGATUCK — Standing before a crowd of family, friends and supporters Tuesday night, James O’Sullivan announced his candidacy for Naugatuck’s top political seat.
“I know that Jim O’Sullivan cares dearly about his family. He cares a lot about this community and he wants to make Naugatuck a better place. That’s why Jim O’Sullivan will be the next mayor of the town of Naugatuck,” said Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola as he introduced O’Sullivan at Sheila’s Cafe and Bakery and Church Street.
O’Sullivan, a 58-year-old Republican, lives on Walnut Street. He grew up in Queens, N.Y., and was a law enforcement officer on Long Island for about 20 years before moving to the borough.
O’Sullivan, a practicing attorney with an office on Church Street, said he moved to the borough 13 years ago, while studying law at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. O’Sullivan recalled he and his wife fell in love with Naugatuck for its great New England charm after driving down Maple Street.
“Today I hear people talking about leaving. I hear people upset over the rising taxes, over the rising mill rate,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m frustrated when this administration glosses over the impact of this new budget. … It’s not just about homes. It’s about our cars. It’s about our businesses. At a time when we need to be bringing businesses into this town, we’re going to drive them away.”
O’Sullivan said taxes have increased over recent years while the roads are deteriorating, businesses are struggling and people are losing their jobs. He said the borough needs to have a real discussion about spending and leaders who will think outside the box.
“We were promised focused leadership for real change,” he said. “I know there’s been change. I don’t have the slightest idea what they’ve been focusing on because it sure has not been change for the better.”
O’Sullivan also touched on last week’s budget referendum decrying officials who encouraged people not to vote so the municipal and school budgets would be adopted by default.
“Nov. 5 is going to be a referendum. Nov. 5 is going to be a referendum about the way they’ve done their job,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s going to be a referendum about the way they served the people of Naugatuck. The people of Naugatuck are going to speak loudly and they’re going to speak clearly that they have had enough.”
The Republican Town Committee will meet Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Santos’ Restaurant on Church Street to endorse candidates.
Five days before O’Sullivan’s announcement, Mayor Robert Mezzo announced he his intentions to seek a third term in office on his blog.
“Over the coming months, I will articulate my plans, proposals and vision for this great community as I have in all the elections in which I have participated. Undoubtedly, others will come forth as candidates for various offices offering their own ideas to make Naugatuck a better place to live, work, do business and raise a family. I welcome those with good intentions, regardless of their political party, who come forth to discuss issues and ideas in a respectful and productive manner,” wrote Mezzo, a 42-year-old Democrat.
Mezzo added if he goes on to win the election the next term could be his last. Mezzo pointed to his son Jack, born in December 2011, and family obligations.
“The blessing of a new family member has made my decision whether or not to run much more difficult this election season. While I have been and always will be honored to be the mayor of the only hometown I have ever known, my life will ultimately be defined by the husband and father that I am and the service that I provide to my community outside of elected office. … There is, however, still some work as mayor that I feel compelled to finish,” Mezzo wrote.
The Democratic Town Committee will meet Thursday night to endorse candidates at 7:15 p.m. at the American Legion Hall on Cedar Street.
Mezzo was unopposed when he ran for mayor in 2011. In 2009, Mezzo defeated incumbent Republican Mayor Mike Bronko after winning a primary over Democrat Kevin Knowles.
Mezzo was also an attorney practicing downtown before he ran for mayor. Mezzo said he met O’Sullivan in those years and had “nothing but positive experiences.”
After running unopposed two years ago, Mezzo said having a challenger feels “excellent.”
“Last time was a very strange feeling, not having an opponent, and I think the process is strengthened when you have an informed and respectful public debate about the issues,” Mezzo said.
The Republican American contributed to this article.