Both Parties Present New Selectmen Candidates
With two new candidates running for first selectman in Woodbridge, and a fresh set of selectmen candidates, local government is sure to see some changes this year. The municipal election is on Monday, May 1.
Both party caucuses, held in January, produced new first selectman candidates – on the Republican side it is Selectman Tony Anastasio Jr. for the top spot, the Democrats picked Selectman Beth Heller as their top candidate. Both candidates are current members of the Board of Selectmen, giving them maximum insight into the issues facing the town, and both have held numerous volunteer positions throughout the years.
For the voters it means that if they don’t know them already, they can watch them in action participating in local government through the Government Access Channel or on YouTube, wgatv79. Information is also available online, at https://www.facebook.com/Tonya2017/ or at tonyforwoodbridge.com and for the Democrats, https://www.facebook.com/WoodbridgeCTDems/.
First Selectman Ellen Scalettar, who has been leading the town for four years, decided to bow out of the running, citing family responsibilities. “I have the very good fortune of having parents in their nineties, as well as beautiful young grandchildren, all of whom live out of state. Given the time I will be spending with all of them in the coming year, I have made the difficult decision not to seek re-election,” she wrote when asked for comment. She encouraged and nominated Beth Heller to run for first selectman, saying “Beth is our deputy first selectman with the experience and deep ties to the Town that Woodbridge needs.”
Beth Heller has served on the Board of Selectmen since 2008. Shortly thereafter, in 2009, she was voted in as deputy first selectman and stepped in as interim after the sudden passing of the late Ed Sheehy in April 2013, a few weeks before the election. Since then she has been reconfirmed as deputy first selectmen and has represented the town on several occasions when the first selectman was away.
She runs on a platform of stability and continuity, following in the footsteps of Scalettar. She points to the triple A credit rating that Woodbridge enjoys, as well as a commitment to the schools and to maintaining infrastructure as the successes she would build upon. “We implemented budgets that reflect the values and priorities of our town — excellent education and public safety, while maintaining a high quality of life,” she wrote in an email. “Also, most importantly, as a candidate for First Selectman I will pursue consensus, and to do that I will listen to EVERY voice”.
Before serving as a selectman, she chaired the Board of Fire Commissioners and served on the Library Commission. Beth is also an active member of the Amity Animal Rescue Fund (AARF). Both the fire department and the Animal Control facility are always close to her heart. She is a co-founder of the very popular summer concerts on the green and was active in the local PTOs while her three sons were growing up and attending Beecher Road School and the Amity school system.
“I have always believed that town government at its best is more collaborative than partisan,” she said.
Tony Anastasio grew up in Woodbridge and graduated from Amity. He successfully ran for the Board of Selectmen in 2013. “Now is the time to move Woodbridge in a new direction,” he wrote on his website.
The town is facing many issues that are in need of attention, he said when asked about the new direction. First and foremost, the fate of the Country Club has not been definitively settled. He said he suggested back when he first joined the board to hire a land-use consultant and the efforts in that regard have not satisfied him. At this point the Board of Selectmen has voted to suspend the golf operation and keep the 150 acres as open space, but “everybody has a different idea what that means,” he said, saying there was a lack of good, long-term planning.
The Country Club property, the police station, the old firehouse, “all of these things are not political issues,” he said. “But we can’t keep putting them off.” He said he wants to include more people in the process of developing a long-term plan, to be up-front and transparent.
His goal is to strengthen the commercial base in Woodbridge by actively marketing the town to potential businesses. Some of the commercial space is grossly underutilized, with a lot of vacancies, he noted. He would consider hiring an economic development specialist, even part-time, who could help build the Grand List.
Anastasio is a financial adviser, who worked for many years for John Hancock Financial Services. He said he would take on the role of first selectman full-time. As a member of the Board of Selectmen, he has served as liaison to the Conservation Commission, the Commission on the Use of Publicly Owned Property (CUPOP), Economic Development, Library, Recreation, and Town Plan and Zoning commissions. He is also serving his fourth year on the three-member town Personnel Committee. In addition, Anastasio is very active in the Woodbridge Rotary where he is on the board and is currently the president elect.
Board of Selectmen
Both parties are presenting a new slate of candidates for the Board of Selectmen as well. In Woodbridge, the first selectman runs separate from the rest of the board. The winner gets to preside over the board; the candidate who loses the election cannot resume his or her spot on the Board of Selectmen. The current board is evenly split between three Democrats and three Republicans, but with two of the current board members no longer running (Susan Jacobs, D, and Maria Kayne, U), with the first selectman retiring and two board members running for first Selectman, the board stands to see more change-over than in most election years.
Anastasio reportedly hand-picked his running mates, presenting new-comers David Lober and Spencer Rubin, as well as incumbent Selectman Joe Dey, all of whom were confirmed at the Republican caucus. Not in the running this time around are Selectman Maria Kayne nor two-time first selectman candidate Cathy Wick, both unaffiliated, who previously ran on the Republican ticket.
Dey, a lawyer who runs an insurance brokerage firm together with his wife Deirdre, was first elected to the Board of Selectmen in 2013. He is seeking his third term. Lober is a retired anesthesiologist. He became involved with the issue of the Woodbridge Country Club, writing many letters taking a critical stance on the current administration. Spencer Rubin is representing a younger generation of municipal leaders. The 2009 Amity graduate is currently serving as an alternate for the Zoning Board of Appeals. He grew up caddying at the Woodbridge Country Club when he was a teenager and became the Amity golf captain. Currently he serves as press contact at the state Capitol for Rep. Themis Klarides, R-114, and several others.
The Democrats also present newcomers to run for the Board of Selectmen, with Mica Cardozo, Teri Schatz and Joe Crisco. Cardozo currently serves on the Board of Fire Commissioners, and has been active on the Economic Development Commission. Schatz became known as one of the two mothers who organized to bring a handicap-accessible playground to Woodbridge; she currently serves on CUPOP (Commission on the Use of Publicly Owned Property). Crisco has served for many years as the state senator from the 17th district, but lost the election in the fall of 2016. He brings experience and connections in state government to the table.
Selectman Susan Jacobs, who is not seeking re-election, said she currently has a lot of demands professionally, which would make it difficult to combine with a political campaign. She has served on the board since 2011. Even so, she hopes to be able to contribute on some board or commission in the future.
Amity Regional Board of Education: Pat Cardozo and Robyn Berke
Woodbridge Board of Education: Nancy Yao Maasbach, Maegan Genovese and John Vultee
Zoning Board of Appeals: Henry Nusbaum, Jeffrey Atwood and Aldon Hynes (alternate)
Board of Assessment Appeals: Ann Rubin
Amity Regional Board of Education: Robert Rosasco and Hal Smullen
Woodbridge Board of Education: Steve Fleischman, Paul Testa and Jeff Hughes
Zoning Board of Appeals: Chris Dickerson and Robert Wiznia (alternate)