Zeoli looks ahead to seventh term
“I’ve had 12 years of on the job training,” First Selectman James Zeoli said as he prepared to begin his seventh term. “There’s no better education than that.”
Zeoli, a Republican, defeated rival Democrat Margaret Novicki by 1,071 votes in what he deemed to be “a very snug race.” Independent candidate and newcomer Alex DeAngelo garnered 69 votes. Voter turnout was light. Zeoli won 2,990 votes; Novicki won 1,919.
When asked of the campaign’s highs and lows Zeoli said, “After 12 years, it gets little challenging, touching base with a lot of people you don’t always cross paths with during the normal day to day operations of the town. It’s always nice seeing people and having people call and say they want your sign in their yard, it is a good feeling. The low side of it is sometimes reading what your opponents have to say - stuff they believe is correct but if you know the facts it is a different story.”
“The job is very demanding, there are a lot of people with problems, some you can help with and some you can’t. It’s challenging when someone is unhappy with a tax bill or a permit or a fee that are statutorily driven and the First Selectman’s office can’t even help with some of those, unfortunately. All in all, I enjoy working with people and trying to help resolve issues, family issues, private issues, big issues.”
Zeoli has been an active member of the Orange Board of Selectmen since 1999. He served as a volunteer firefighter for 23 years and is a former Assistant Treasurer of the Volunteer Fire Association and a past co-chairman of the Orange Agricultural Fair, where he was a member for 43 years.
“I was disappointed at the first debate when I got blindsided with a bunch of issues involving our community service department that I was under the impression had been addressed. There are some function, maintenance and operational things that need to be addressed,” Zeoli said.
Future key issues, Zeoli said, include “a bunch of town projects at the community center and community pool, that are big projects - we are just finishing one up at the library; these are all things that need to be done and spaced over time for financial impact on the taxpayers. We also have a couple big projects moving forward with a bridge on Derby-Milford Road, the south wing at High Plains Community Center and the locker rooms and the HVAC and all at the community pool. Those are all big projects - one’s $2.5 million, the other ones probably close to $2.5 million and, the $1 million, so those are projects we are working on.”
“We have things going on with Economic Development — that never ends,” added Zeoli. “There’s a hotel that was approved prior to the election but now in our zoning office they just received an application from one of the world’s finest classic and collectible car restoration firms which is moving to Orange, an assisted living and dementia care facility just submitted their paper work this week to build in Orange, there’s also another big project that is just starting to roll along that I’m excited about - also in the care venue - that’s a little bit different. U-Haul will be expanding their operation on the Post Road, they’re buying the property next to them which has been an eyesore for years across from Hitchcock Plaza. U-Haul will refurbish and redevelop that property into a facility for their regional hub - that’s very important, its takes a blighted ugly property right on our Post Road and cleans it up. So these are some of the things I’m working on right now. There’s an 85,000 square foot building on Bull Hill Lane that is applying for a family recreation type of facility, there’s a lot going on! They are all things that have been percolating along, and I couldn’t quite talk about before the election, until things are in place.”
Zeoli, who was educated in the Orange School System, graduated from UCONN’s School of Agriculture, following his graduation from Fairfield Prep, and worked as a school bus contractor for 24 years.
He is currently chairman of Connecticut’s Farmland Preservation Advisory Board to which he was appointed in 2007. Over the past decade, with Zeoli’s support, the number of farms in Connecticut has grown from 252 farms and over 32,000 acres of farmland to 328 farms and over 44,000 acres of farmland. Zeoli owns and operates Shamrock Farm on Lambert Road, served as a member and chairman of the District Animal Control for 2 1/2 years and as a board member of the Orange Economic Development Corporation.
When asked of his proudest accomplishments within the town Zeoli replied, “Getting a lot of infrastructure repair done would be one. The Town has over 110 miles of roads, and every year we take on a new bunch of roads that need to be done. Some of these roads haven’t been touched in 40 to 60 years and are in poor condition. It’s an ongoing constant project and people really appreciate that. We have buildings that are getting repaired and maintained that need some work, including the historic Stone-Otis House, the Academy building and the historic Bryan-Andrew House on Old Tavern Road.”