ORANGE - Standing before a group of friends and supporters next to the Town of Orange sign, Ralph G. Okenquist, a 25-year resident, officially announced his intentions to run for first selectman Monday.

The Republican candidate touted his business experience, 19 years in finance and 15 in program management and marketing, saying he was "confident and fully qualified" to serve as the town's leader.

Okenquist claims to one-up his opponent, current First Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt by questioning his level of leadership.

"Our town is constantly reacting to problems, conflicts and controversies rather than being in a constant state of proactive leadership," Okenquist said. Adding that there seems to be a steady flow of legal battles costing taxpayers.

Okenquist chastised Goldblatt for his handling of last week's Board of Selectmen meeting.

"Where is the leadership when our elected officials are told by our first selectman and town attorney that they must get permission of the town attorney before they can speak to their fellow residents about the issues facing our town?" Okenquist asked.

The candidate promised to respect the trust placed in him by voters and not make closed-door decisions.

"The residents will be provided with honest and open disclosure of information in an Okenquist administration," he said.

Okenquist spent the majority of his career at AlliedSignal in Stratford. For 34 years he worked in various managerial capacities. When the Stratford plant closed, he spent two years at Chandler Evans where he was a Senior Program Administrator.

Okenquist has also played an active role in civic events.

He spent nine years on the Park and Recreation Commission, chairing for five years.

He was a manager/coach for Orange Little League for nine years, Orange Babe Ruth Manager for six years, Orange Senior Babe Ruth Manager and Orange Soccer Association Coach.

He participated in the development of the Fred Wolfe Park Committee and is a member of the American Legion Orange Post 127.

He is a graduate of the University of New Haven where he received his MBA and Fairfield University. He and his wife Mary have three children, Emily Okenquist Clark, Michael Okenquist and David Okenquist.