Dems, GOP nominate full slate at caucuses
Break out the M&Ms because November’s municipal election promises to be a contest of Marconi versus Moccia.
That was the result of this week’s political caucuses.
The Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee officially nominated 20-year incumbent Rudy Marconi for the office of first selectman at its caucus Monday, July 22. Ridgefield Republicans followed suit Tuesday night, formerly announcing the nomination of Board of Finance member Dick Moccia for the town’s top elected position.
While both candidates highlighted town character as the central theme of their campaign, the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger painted different pictures of the town and its future in their acceptance speeches.
Moccia, who at one point quoted the lyrics of John Mellencamp’s “Small Town,” painted Ridgefield as a town choked by development and traffic.
“Our message is gonna be clear — we will fight to stop Ridgefield from being overbuilt, over-trafficked, and residents from being overwhelmed by intrusions of business into residential neighborhoods,” said Moccia, the former mayor of Norwalk. “Economic growth does not have to come at the expense of our quality of life ... Ridgefield will never become a city. It will remain a town, under Republican leadership.”
Marconi also raised the town character in his speech, but said he would keep doing the same work he’s done for the last 20 years.
“I love this town, and I know why every single one of you is here, because we have the common thread of preserving our community — of keeping it the great community it is, and watching it continue to move along through the next decade,” said Marconi.
“I promise I will be doing the same things I’ve been doing for the last 20 years, whether it’s open space, schools, CHIRP, ACT, the Playhouse, the symphony — what other town has a symphony that’s our size?”
Republican Town Committee Chair Hope Wise introduced Moccia as the Republican nominee for first selectman.
“I’d like to introduce you to our next first selectman,” she quickly added.
Aimee Berger-Girvalo, vice chair of the Democratic Town Committee, noted Marconi is the longest serving Democratic mayor or selectman in the state of Connecticut.
“And we’re going to keep it going,” she added.
For the Board of Selectmen, Democrats nominated incumbent Barbara Manners and Board of Finance member Sean Connelly.
If elected, Connelly would replace Selectman Steve Zemo, who said last week he plans to step down when his term ends later this year.
Connelly has lived in town for over a decade, and served on the Board of Finance for the past three years. He is a director at Willis Towers Watson, where he works in market research.
Manners has been on the Board of Selectmen “forever” Berger-Girvalo said, and also organizes the annual CHIRP concerts in Ballard Park.
Republicans nominated incumbents Maureen Kozlark and Bob Hebert, the two Republicans currently serving on the Board of Selectmen.
Republicans also endorsed police commissioner Joseph Savino for the remaining fourth seat — the most they could hold under the state’s minority representation rules.
Board of Education
For the Board of Education, Democrats nominated two candidates for four-year terms, incumbent Jonathan Steckler and newcomer Ken Sjoberg.
“Ken has a strong financial background, he has kids in the district, although one just graduated from RHS and he comes from a household full of kids and educators,” said Berger-Girvalo.
Steckler, the incumbent, is finishing a two-year term on the board this year, after he was elected in 2017’s blue wave.
Board member Fran Walton, who previously served as the school board chair, is not seeking reelection.
For the school board, Republicans endorsed Sean McEvoy of the town’s Office of Emergency Management, a parent who organized efforts to protest the district’s plan to move to later school start times — a decision that was ultimately overturned. If elected McEvoy will serve a four-year term on the board.
The GOP also nominated school teacher Rachel Ruggeri, Robert Ceccarini, and Elizabeth Floegel to the school board.
Floegel was one of the main organizers behind the Hands Off Our Schools rally, which protested plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to combine and regionalize school districts.
She said the protest “absolutely” inspired her to run for the Board of Education “to make sure our town is represented.”
Planning and Zoning
Democrats nominated three newcomers to join the Planning and Zoning Commission — Susan Consentino, Rob Hendrick and Ben Nneji
Consentino was previously endorsed by the Democrats to fill a vacant seat on the commission in December. The commission ultimately voted to elect Cathy Savoca to fill out the remainder of the term. Savoca will not be seeking reelection for the seat.
Hendrick has a background in corporate real estate and workplace operations.
Nneji, originally from Nigeria, obtained a doctorate in engineering from Columbia University and has lived in town for 20 years.
“All three of these are first-time candidates,” said Berger-Girvalo. “They are focused on moving Planning and Zoning into a much more transparent, responsive, and accountable direction.”
The town has seen several large-scale fights over development proposals, including a plan that would have seen a private skating club built near a residential neighborhood on Peaceable Street. Critics have charged that the commission could do more to protect residential homeowners from what they claim is overdevelopment.
On the Republican side, voters endorsed long-serving Commissioner John Katz for another four-year term. Katz has served on the commission since the 1970s.
Also nominated were Carl Kristoffersen, who served on the town’s Community Emergency Response Team, and Dean Coahagan.
Inland Wetlands Board
The parties also had to nominate candidates for the newly separate Inland Wetlands Board, which voters decided to break away from the Planning and Zoning Commission last November.
Democrats nominated Tracey Miller, a landscape architect, and Susan Baker, currently a member of the Conservation Commission, to run for four-year terms on the board. Kory Salomone, a lawyer with a practice in New York, and David Tatge, who served as treasurer at the Woodcock Nature Center, were both nominated for two-year terms.
Republicans tapped Patricia Sesto, who has been involved with the development of the Norwalk River Valley Trail, and Conservation Commission member Alan Pilch to serve four-year terms on the new board.
Tim Bishop, another member of the Conservation Commission, was also given the Republican nomination for a two-year seat on the board.
Board of Finance
Democrats nominated longtime Board of Finance member and current Chairman Dave Ulmer for another four-year term.
Ulmer is currently in his 16th year serving on the board, which oversees the town budget and fiscal direction.
Ulmer was “elected in an era when this town was much more Republican, and you got on by being the minority representation that kept the board from being five-to-zero Republican,” said Joe Shapiro, the Democrats’ corresponding secretary.
Democrats also nominated Karen Ogden for a four-year term. Ogden previously served as the interim director at the Woodcock Nature Center, and has a background in finance.
The board’s current Vice Chair Jessica Mancini will not be seeking reelection.
Republicans nominated former school board member David Cordisco, Matthew Madearis, and Greg Kabasakalian for four-year terms on the Board of Finance.
For the Police Commission, which oversees the town’s police force, Democrats nominated two incumbents for reelection — current Chairman George Kain and Commissioner Nick Perna. They also nominated Arnold DiLaura.
Perna, who holds a doctorate in economics from MIT, was appointed to the commission in February after the seat was left vacant.
Republican voters nominated Tom Reynolds, who was appointed to fill Charlie Knoche’s seat on July 15, for reelection. The RTC also nominated Terry Kirkpatrick, an author, to fill a two-year vacancy on the commission.
For the Board of Assessment Appeals, Democrats nominated Stan Galanski for a four-year term. Republicans nominated Robert Lavelle for a four-year term, and Andrew Ziemba to fill a two-year vacancy.
For the Zoning Board of Appeals, Democrats nominated Robert Byrnes for an alternate seat serving out the remainder of a one-year term that was previously left vacant, and then run for the same seat for a second five-year term. Aaron Lockwood, a New York school teacher, was nominated by Democrats to run for a second five-year term as an alternate.
Democrats also nominated Sky Cole, a contractor and 40-year resident of the town, to serve on the ZBA. Joseph Pastore was nominated by Democrats to fill a two-year vacancy.
Republicans tapped John McNicholas, who previously ran for the ZBA in 2017, and Bob Cousins, who ran for the Planning and Zoning Commission as a write-in candidate in 2017. Both would be elected for five year terms.
Republicans also endorsed Marc Fluette for a one-year term, followed by a five-year term, and George Regnery for a two-year term.
For town treasurer, Democrats nominated incumbent Molly McGeehin to hold her seat, while Republicans endorsed Colette Kabasakalian to challenge her.
Karen Breckenridge was the Democratic nominee for town clerk. Republicans endorsed Wendy Lionetti, who was appointed to the job after Barbara Serfillippi retired.
For tax collector, Republicans nominated incumbent Jane Berendsen-Hill, while Democrats nominated Nathan Shapiro — Joseph Shapiro’s son — to challenge her.
“I will say that I’ve known Nathan all of his life, and I nominate him,” said the elder Shapiro, to applause from the audience.