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First Selectman Candidates Commence Campaigning

Published: June 01, 2017 at 12:00 am

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NOTE (Thursday, June 1, 2017; 11:50 am): This story has been updated to reflect the proper title held by Maureen Crick Owen.

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Some say that the local political season in Newtown officially starts after the candidates make their appearances in the annual Labor Day Parade. But this year, with the announced departure of First Selectman Pat Llodra come December, three sets of running mates seized the opportunity to announce their political intentions right after Memorial Day, along with a fourth aspiring candidate.

In two brief and separate press avails Tuesday, May 30, former Democratic councilman and current Police Commissioner Dan Rosenthal, and Republican Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob formalized their intentions to seek the first selectman's seat this November.

Selectman and former council Chairman Will Rodgers previously announced he would be seeking the local GOP's endorsement for first selectman, and current Board of Education member Andrew Clure told The Newtown Bee May 31 that he is also seeking the GOP's nomination to run for the town's top elected seat.

Ms Jacob has chosen council colleague and former Vice Chair Neil Chaudhary as her running mate. Mr Rosenthal said he would be running with Borough Zoning Commission Clerk Maureen Crick Owen, who was out of town on May 30. A letter to the editor this week from Mr Rodgers has chosen yet another former council chairman, and current Republican Town Committee (RTC) leader, Jeff Capeci to be his running mate.

Mr Clure said he will share information about a potential running mate "when the time is right."

Mr Rodgers's letter does concede that the RTC reserves the right to endorse a different candidate to run for the Board of Selectmen, although that has not happened in recent memory.

None of the contenders for the open first selectman's post have been formally endorsed by their town committees, which typically render those recommendations ahead of party caucuses in July. Ms Jacob said she has already filed the necessary paperwork both locally and with the state to commence her campaign, however.

Ms Jacob's plans to run for the seat with or without a local party endorsement. A run without an RTC nod would force a Republican primary in August if Mr Rodgers receives the official nomination and moves forward with his intentions as expected.

Mr Clure said he wanted to respect the RTC's candidates committee process, and said he will consider future plans based on the town committee's endorsement decision when it comes.

While Mr Rosenthal chose to announce via a brief Facebook live webcast, he provided more detailed written remarks about his candidacy.

"Newtown for me has always been the place where I am most comfortable," Mr Rosenthal stated. "Newtown has always been the place I wanted to come home to and never wanted to leave."
Mr Rosenthal observed that "despite 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," he writes. "As a result, residential taxpayers shoulder more than 90 percent of the property tax burden."

Among Mr Rosenthal's aspirations are to create a long-term planning process, enhance communications strategies, and increase voter turnout, especially for local budget referendums.

Touting a "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 four years," Mr Rosenthal said he is "filled with a sense of hope and excitement for leading Newtown."

In a press advance of their announcement, Ms Jacob stated that she and Mr Chaudhary "will recognize the successes of our predecessors by building on all the things that are right with Newtown and facing new challenges head on."

"We are a community where our citizens take personal responsibility for their actions and expect those who lead to do the same," the candidates stated. "We need to carefully balance our wants and needs, especially in light of the crisis situation of our state, to ensure there is something for everyone to value while maintaining our fiscal health. We will continue to support appropriate growth in our commercial base in order to strengthen our community and soften the tax burden."

Drawing from a combined 13 years of experience on the council, Ms Jacob and Mr Chaudhary state they "have a firm and solid understanding of town policies and the roles of each board and their interrelations, which is critical for effective government."

Positioning themselves as fiscal conservatives who recognize the need to curb spending and increase revenue through sources other than increased taxation, Ms Jacob and Mr Chaudhary pledge to "be a voice for all constituencies," and to be "balanced, thoughtful leaders who have repeatedly been called upon to make difficult decisions."

Among the issues surfacing early on in the Jacob/Chaudhary platform are: appropriate funding of parks, open space, the community, and senior centers; initiating a communication strategy utilizing all avenues of media to raise awareness in the spirit of transparency; focusing on development that sustains community character while encouraging commercial growth; working with the planning departments on diversifying housing availability in a measured and appropriate way; and continuing work with the Board of Education in a mutually beneficial manner to maximize shared resources.

Mr Clure told The Bee as a 15-year resident, he is "all for Newtown."

"I want to help Newtown grow so it can be everything it can be," Mr Clure said.

Having served on project committees involving the new community center since shortly after the General Electric gift to build it was announced, Mr Clure said he also values the importance of good communication.

"Communication is key," he said, "and getting the word out to constituents about things that impact them is important."

Mr Clure said he decided to step up and become more involved, including pursuing and winning a school board seat, after the last town wide revaluation seemed to shift unnecessary or inappropriate tax burdens onto specific groups in town. As a school board member, he has worked to develop the best education system possible for Newtown's children while "spending wisely."

"I want to see people to come and stay in Newtown," he said.

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