Woodbridge first selectman won’t seek re-election
WOODBRIDGE >> First Selectman Ellen Scalettar has four beautiful reasons not to run for a third term: two young granddaughters in California and parents in their 90s who live in New York.
Scalettar, who said she has loved leading the town and is “grateful” to have had the opportunity, said the time required for a campaign would interfere with caring for her parents and visiting her granddaughters, Georgia, 3, and Nyah, 1 month.
“It was time for a rebalancing,” she said, “There aren’t enough hours in the day. ... A campaign takes a great deal of time and energy in addition to that of the demands of the job.”
Scalettar, a Democrat, said the decision was made easier when deputy first selectman and friend, Beth Heller, said she would run if Scalettar did not.
“I would be turning it over to capable hands,” Scalletar said of Heller. “She’s well-qualified to run the town.”
Woodbridge’s local election is May 1, rather than November, so the end of Scalettar’s term is fast approaching.
The Republican Party ticket is headed by Tony Anastasio.
Scalettar, a lawyer, was a seasoned state legislator by the time she took the reins of the town four years ago following a special election after the death of First Selectman Ed Sheehy. Two years ago, Scalettar won another two-year term.
Scalettar spent six years, 1993-1998, as a state representative for Woodbridge and parts of Orange and Derby. She made her mark in Hartford, including managing as a freshman legislator to have smoking banned in public buildings.
She also worked to protect women’s rights, gay rights and First Amendment rights, expand bias crime laws and create a new type of domestic violence protective order.
STATE, LOCAL linkS
Supporters say part of what Scalettar brought to the local top job was a knowledge of how to work at the state level to get advantages such as grants, and making use of valuable connections and friendships.
She and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, who became friends while serving in Hartford together, collaborated on regional issues in their local roles regularly, such as Route 15 and West River improvements.
The women met monthly for breakfast, and that kind of inter-community effort gives clout to the community’s needs, Scalettar said.
“Ellen brought keen insight and perspective to the first selectman’s office in Woodbridge — honed by decades of experience as a public servant,” Harp said. “That cumulative wisdom is to the benefit of the town and its residents.”
Heller said that as a member of the Board of Selectmen, she was “pleased to support many of Ellen’s initiatives,” including :
• Achieving a Triple A bond rating, the highest possible.
• Award-winning budget presentations.
• Implementation of an energy-efficient fuel cell/microgrid at Amity High School, which was paid for by a state grant;
• Demonstrating a strong commitment to excellence in education.
• Improvements to infrastructure, including to town roads and buildings.
“We implemented budgets that reflected the values and priorities of our town — excellent education and public safety, while maintaining a high quality of life,” Heller wrote in an email.
“Most of these initiatives enjoyed strong bipartisan support on the board.”
Scalettar said the town was “in great shape” when she took office and it remains in great shape, but even better.
Under Scalettar’s leadership there has been environmental cleanup, a focus on energy conservation as well as promoting, highlighting and attracting businesses, including a big chunk in the technology sector.
“The fiscal health of the town remains strong. We’ve been able to control spending while providing high level of service,” she said.
Her term was not without controversy on the town’s hot-button issue of what to do with the Country Club of Woodbridge property, owned by the town and currently sitting as open space at high expense to taxpayers.
TIME TO REGROUP
Scalettar, who will teach part-time at Yale Law School, said not running for a third term is “bittersweet” and that she doesn’t think of it as retirement, but rather a time to “regroup.”
She said she is lucky to have two parents in their 90s and wants to assist them as much as she can while also visiting the youngest family members on the West Coast.
Scalettar thanks “the great people who work for the town and volunteer for the town” for all they’ve taught her and done to move the town forward.
“Town government is more complex than people realize. It was a steep learning curve,” Scalettar said.
She said the structure of the town charter is such that the town depends on volunteers on boards and commissions and she promises to be back in that capacity to serve Woodbridge.
Two issues that surely will be ongoing, Scalettar said, are creating an updated plan for the town center and discussion about what to do with the country club property, which failed as a country club and golf course. The town center upgrades include deciding a plan for the old firehouse and how to upgrade Police Department headquarters, as well as the senior center.
Heller has 25 years of experience in a variety of town board positions, including eight years as chairwoman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, eight years on the Board of Selectmen, six as deputy first selectman.
“I believe that the town of Woodbridge can best achieve its potential with an approach that is open, inclusive and bipartisan,” Heller wrote, adding that she’s “a good listener with demonstrated ability at consensus building.”
Scalettar, who always spoke of the beauty of the town — its trees and rolling hills — said she has made sure in these modern-technology times that a real person still answers the telephone and greets people at Town Hall.
“It adds a personal touch and helps us maintain our small-town atmosphere,” she said.