Zeoli wins 7th term as Orange first selectman
Jim Zeoli Photo: Pam McLoughlin / Hearst Connecticut Media
Six-term Republican First Selectman Jim Zeoli beat political newcomer Democrat Margaret Novicki, by 1,069 votes in what Zeoli told supporters was a “very snug race,” and independent candidate Alex DeAngelo — who declared himself a longshot from the start — garnered 69 votes.
Voter turnout was light, an official said and the final unofficial numbers, including absentee ballots were Zeoli with 2,985 votes and Novicki with 1,916 votes.
Zeoli arrived at headquarters after the votes had been tallied red faced and feeling sick with a cold, telling them he had just been in a steam shower because he got a chill and cold from standing out in the rain all day.
“I kissed too many people,” he quipped.
“I did win,” he told supporters who packed the small headquarters. “She (Novicki) made it very snug this race so you can be sure they’re tact is, ‘We almost had it.’”
Novicki, who gave Zeoli his biggest election challenge in recent history and ran a strong social media and door knocking campaign, said running for the top seat was a “wonderful experience.”
“We fought a hard campaign, The voters made their decision and we respect that,” she said. “We’ll continue to advocate to make this town,” all that it can be.
DeAngelo, 24, who said throughout the campaign that he was going for the Millenial vote. showed up at Republican headquarters after the numbers were in and was praised by Zeoli fans for getting into the mix at such a young age. Zeoli said DeAngelo would be appointed to a board or commission. “Just let it roll off — you’ll get another round,” Zeoli told DeAngelo, who has said he may want a future in politics.
Zeoli thanked supporters, especially high school students from Notre Dame, Hopkins and Amity high schools for all the work they did making phone calls and doing a lot of other work. “They really, really helped.”
Other winners in the election were Republicans Judy Williams, John J. Carangelo, Ralph G. Okenquist and Democrats Paul Davis, Mitch Goldblatt and Jen Alfaro for Board of Selectmen.
Novicki is a retired United Nations official who as part of her career managed a $70 million budget. Like the other candidates in the race, she was reared in Orange and said she loves the town so much that she returned to retire here after living abroad.
While there are no single controversial issues in town right now, the candidates during the campaign expressed diverse ideas for addressing the ongoing issues of economic development, quality of life for senior citizens and even development of specific ailing parcels such as the former Stew Leonard’s property on Marsh Hill Road and the highly visible and mostly vacant Firelite Shopping Center at the corner of Racebrook and Old Tavern roads. Both parcels are privately owned.
Novicki emphasized that it was time for a change in leadership and more emphasis on economic development to stop the growing tax burden.
She said taxes went up 28 percent in 10 years. Novicki said she wanted to restore some of that small town feel she said has been lost in town.
Zeoli, who is a college-educated farmer and owner of Shamrock Farm, said he makes economic development a priority all the time.
Zeoli said that in addition to local resources to foster economic development the town works with CERC— Connecticut Economic Resource Center — and REX, Regional Economic Xcelleration.
DeAngelo, 24, who admitted a win for him was a “longshot,” said he joined the race to represent Millennials who are starting to think about creating their own families but find costs prohibitive in Orange.
Novicki earned a Bachelor Of Science degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 1977 and in 1979, a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International Affairs.
She said during the campaign she feels “it’s my calling to serve this town.”
Novicki’s job at the United Nations involved high level management and leadership skills, she said.
DeAngelo graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure with a concentration in sports.
DeAngelo said has said he’s proud that he didn’t take any donations during the campaign. He said times are tough for people and he knows he’s an “underdog.” He has a few signs around town, and has also heavily used social media — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, to get his message out.
Novicki said she learned when campaigning there is a huge need for “affordable” senior housing that will allow seniors to stay here and she also heard from many residents that they don’t feel heard by Town Hall when they have a problem.
Zeoli has said during the last 12 years, he’s “been available 24/7 365 days a year,” for Orange and he remains that dedicated