Zeoli sworn in for third term

ORANGE — What do First Selectman James Zeoli and New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter have in common?

At least a couple of things, state Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said in Friday’s keynote address at Zeoli’s third inauguration. She compared Zeoli to Jeter and called him the “captain” of Orange.

“The residents of Orange should take comfort that you are the captain of this town here,” Klarides said of Zeoli.

She also said Jeter and Zeoli both lead by example, and leave the talking to others.

Zeoli, and a host of other town officials, were sworn into office Friday afternoon before more than 150 people at High Plains Community Center.

After being sworn in, Zeoli, 50, thanked everyone for their support, and added, “It’s overwhelming.”

“I have as much jitters as I did back in 2005,” Zeoli said of when he was elected to his first term. “Orange is fortunate, not fortunate to have me, but fortunate to have so many good people … to join a team. No matter what team you are on, it’s good for the community.”

Zeoli praised the department heads and town employees, along with town youths for getting involved in the community. He said Orange faces tough days as the state is projecting a two-year, $8.5 billion deficit.

Zeoli said it’s possible the state may further cut aid to communities, putting more burden on residents.

Zeoli, who is a farmer, said he recently noticed that of the 11 first selectmen in the town’s history, six have been farmers. He said he’s proud of being a farmer, but believes over the past few years, he’s risen above the negative stigma that is sometimes associated with the word.

“I’ll never not be a farmer. … I am proud to be your first selectman,” Zeoli said.

Klarides said she has been proud to work with Zeoli, who has helped make “Orange the best place to live.”

“Jim Zeoli has made this town a family and treats everyone like that,” Klarides said. She added that Zeoli has increased the town’s economic development and secured open space.

Selectman Joseph Blake, a Democrat who holds the town record by serving 30 consecutive years and was re-elected to a 16th term, said every year he jokes with his wife that this will be his last term. Blake said he is honored to hold the record, and believes his longevity is attributed to “voting the way the people of Orange vote.”

“I don’t play party politics,” Blake said. “I’m not a rubber stamp.”

Blake said he enjoys working with Zeoli, whom he called a “wonderful individual.” He said they both aim to do “good for Orange.”

Town Clerk Patrick O’Sullivan, a Democrat who was re-elected to a seventh term, said an inauguration is special because it signifies that the campaign is over.

“It’s a time to look forward to doing what is best and right for the townspeople,” O’Sullivan said. “Being town clerk is something I really enjoy. All you do is take care of people and you put a smile on their face.”