It is with great excitement that I announce my candidacy to become Newtown’s next First Selectman.
I feel blessed to have been born and raised in Newtown, and my family has been here since 1953. I attended Newtown Public Schools from Hawley through Newtown High. After my wife, Meri, and I graduated from Fairfield University and were married, we chose Newtown as the place to begin our family. I am fortunate that our children, Hana, Emi, and Ben are getting the same wonderful experience growing up in Newtown as I did.
Newtown for me has always been the place where I am most comfortable. It’s the place where, as a child, my grandfather, Jack, let me sit on his lap and steer the car down Deep Brook Road more often than he probably told my parents. It’s the place where I watched the Labor Day Parade from my family’s front lawn, and never missed one until I left for college. It’s the place where, in the 1970’s, my mother could be my soccer coach, as uncommon as it was at the time. Newtown has always been the place I wanted to come home to and never wanted to leave.
Newtown has always benefitted from a wonderful spirit of volunteerism and a business community that supports the programs and activities we value most. We have an education system that outperforms most in the state. We rank very high in public safety thanks to the efforts of the Newtown Police Department. How many communities can boast of five fire departments and an ambulance service all staffed by dedicated resident volunteers?
Despite all of Newtown’s strengths, we don’t seem to market our community well to families and businesses. Over the years, we’ve missed out on economic development opportunities. As a result, residential taxpayers shoulder more than 90% of the property tax burden. With our state government mired in red ink, we can only expect that burden to grow unless we do something now. We need to work 24/7 to broaden our tax base and use that growth to reduce residential taxes.
The key to developing a marketing plan is conducting a long-awaited, and much-needed, long-term planning process. We need to engage all facets of our community and include individuals, school age families, seniors and the business community, to develop a strategic plan so that logic begins to dictate the decisions we make. People are anxious over the level of taxes in town because they don’t know what’s coming next, as we lack the clarity of a plan. If we are going to ask a new business to move to Newtown and commit capital and resources, we must be able to give them an idea of where we are headed.
In addition, our local government needs to create a communications strategy that seeks to engage our community and increase participation. A 20% voter turnout for a budget referendum is not the participation level we should aim for. We rely on old methods to reach people. Posting required legal notices in the newspaper and agendas to the Town website are not generating the participation level we need to make sure that we are getting the best ideas and reaching the right conclusions.
I’ve made my life in Newtown, and for half of my life, I’ve been an arm’s length away from the job of First Selectman. I understand what the job requires. Now more than ever, we need to market the many wonderful attributes our community offers to families and businesses alike. Responsible economic development is of vital importance to our future and to our ability to reduce taxes, while also supporting quality education and town services. I know from my career in financial services (where working as a team, my colleagues and I grew a business from $80 million in assets under management to nearly $2 billion in less than 4 years), that growth doesn’t happen by waiting for the phone to ring. Yes, things in Connecticut are tough, but we can’t pick our town up and move it; so now is the time to get out there and tell our story. I am filled with a sense of hope and excitement for leading Newtown, by adapting to changing times while preserving the character of the community we all love.
Thank you and I look forward to working with you.
Download the campaign flyer