Woodbridge candidate Beth Heller sees challenges ahead as opportunities
WOODBRIDGE >> Democratic first selectman candidate Beth Heller, who also serves as deputy first selectman, sees challenges ahead — including from state funding cuts — but she considers them opportunities to build consensus and get things done.
Town voters go to the polls May 1 to cast their local ballots. Heller is running against town Republican Tony Anastasio, also a Board of Selectmen member and seasoned contributor to the town. There is no incumbent for the seat because First Selectwoman Ellen Scalettar chose not to run to spend more time with family.
“I love this town,” Heller said. “I raised my children here. It’s time to give back.”
Heller recently received a Facebook endorsement from U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, who urged residents to vote for Heller and “send a message to Donald Trump and the Republicans. Democrats are organizing.”
Heller, along with her husband of 40 years, Dr. Allen Heller, raised their three sons in town. Decades ago through parent-related involvement such as PTO, she got her start in serving residents through numerous boards and commissions.
Heller joined the Board of Selectmen in 2008, became deputy first selectman in 2009 and served in the top spot briefly after the unexpected passing in 2013 of First Selectman Ed Sheehy. She said she didn’t run in that special election because her mother needed assistance.
One of the most controversial issues in town the last two years has been what to do with the Country Club of Woodbridge building and property, purchased by the town several years ago after its owner had financial problems.
Heller said she personally favors using the property for recreation — but says the question should be put to residents in a referendum so they can decide. No matter what the outcome, she said there should be “strict limitations on development.” Heller also wants the pool at the old country club to remain open for residents.
“I think we can do a better a job in disseminating facts on the implications of investments that preserve and enhance quality of life in our town, and we can bring the debate rapidly to closure,” Heller said. “I am absolutely confident that a well-informed electorate will choose the option that is best for Woodbridge.”
Like her opponent, Heller said she’s dedicated to “preserving excellence” in the Amity District and the town’s Beecher Road School, and vows to provide “the necessary resources” to do that. Heller said a top school system attracts young families and that results in higher property values.
Heller said in light of probable state funding cuts to Woodbridge, she will look at new approaches to managing resources, such as: vendor consolidation; eliminating redundancies; shared services with neighboring towns and school districts to maximize economy of scale; expansion of green energy; enhancement of efficiency to lower utility costs; renewed focus on increasing the commercial tax base.
To increase the commercial tax base, Heller said she’ll look to partner with the business community and address their needs to promote success. Like her opponent, Heller would like to avoid political “polarization” because she believes town government should address the concerns and aspirations of all constituents. Ideas should be judged on their merit, independent of their (political) source.”
“I don’t like partisanship,” Heller said. “Town government is best when we work collaboratively.”
An animal lover, Heller is also an active member of the Amity Animal Rescue Fund and is chair of the Woodbridge Animal Shelter building renovation committee. She is a registered nurse but does not have an active career. In recent decades, she said, she has focused on her children and the community. She is also co-founder of the popular “Summer Concerts on the Green.”