The Milford Mirror had questionnaires sent to this year’s Board of Aldermen candidates asking them to discuss the key issues and their education and experience. Following are their responses. If we did not get a response, their information was pulled from the town committee’s promotional material.

DISTRICT 1

Nija Phelps

Democrat

There are many issues that are important to me and to my fellow Milford residents. I hope to have a chance to at least address if not find a solution to them all if elected to the Board of Aldermen.

While meeting voters through canvassing and other voter outreach methods I've learned that their are two key issues they are concerned about: development, specifically unnecessary and harmful over-development (both when it comes to housing and to ecology) versus what Aldermen Ellen Beatty calls smart development, which is more thoughtful and takes into account both short and long-term planning (especially in the more rural 1st district) and infrastructure, especially transit.

I find these two issues to be not only important, but vital to determining the successful future of Milford.

As crucial as these two issues are, my top three key issues are voting rights protections, access to quality, affordable education throughout life; and access to quality, affordable healthcare. I think these three, more so than all other issues, highlight how necessary true equality is for all people to have a good chance to flourish in life. We must strive together, using all the tools available to us — including legislation, to ensure that every person is given this chance; not just for their betterment, but also for the longevity and prosperity of our city. If a person is invested in by their city, they will invest back into their city, with a circle of needs being met.

Background: Most recently I was a Purdue University transportation center secretary for five years.

I wasn't sure what to study in college, and finally realized the right fit was communications, as I endeavor to communicate effectively in every interaction, and to help others do the same.

I'm a volunteer board member of the Indivisible group Fairfield Standing United, Women’s March-CT, NARAL Pro-Choice CT, and CT-NOW (National Organization of Women).

Ellen Russell Beatty

Democrat

District one needs smart development compatible with Milford’s culture, history and future goals for economic vibrancy. We need to encourage small businesses which will share the best of Milford with a new generation of residents. These plans aimed at business opportunities and community enhancement are feasible but must be done carefully. The first district is a beautiful area that requires protection of the environment and open space areas. This is an ongoing challenge requiring effective solutions and leadership that I bring to my aldermanic position. Residents of Milford are concerned about taxes. My  extensive budgetary experience enabled me to contribute meaningfully to the process of sound fiscal management of the current city administration. Education is a top priority for Milford residents and I share this concern. My career in public higher education is based on an unshakeable belief in the prudence and power of investment in education for children and families.

Background: I have earned Masters and Doctorate degrees in Education from Columbia University and a Master of Art degree from New York University. My administrative career focused on strategic planning, budgetary allocation and organizational development. Responsibility for developing, sustaining, and assessing innovative, high quality programs as Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs at Southern Ct. State University prepared me for municipal government and elected office. I serve on several  committees of the Board of Alderman; Public Health/ Safety Committee, Ordinance, Claims, Rules Committees. My aldermanic assignment includes liaison Democratic representative to the Council on Aging, Department of Health and the Health and Human Services Committee.

James Tranquili Jr.

Republican

As an alderman I will work hard to keep our taxes down in our city. By carefully watching the way we spend our tax dollars while also still continuing to give our schools the funds they need to run efficiently.
Background: Father of four, and husband to Melissa, owner of Milford Home Renovations, Former BOE member, Orange Avenue PTA member; member Saint Agnes Church; current foster for one more dog rescue; former sponsor, manager, commissioner Milford JML baseball.

Anthony Giannattasio

Republican

I will continue to fight for efficient and effective city services, along with responsible municipal budgets.
Background: Lifelong resident; current Board of Alderman, Minority Leader; member of Ordinance Committee; former Planning and Zoning member; former Zoning Board of Appeals member; owner, Milford Barrel; member Milford Columbus Committee; corporator, Milford Bank; incorporator, Milford Hospital.

DISTRICT 2

Janet Golden

Democrat

I was born and raised in Milford and am raising my family here. My sisters and their families live here. My parents are seniors living in Milford. A key issue for me is keeping taxes low while providing the same level of services. During my time on the Board of Aldermen we have lowered the mill rate the past two years while maintaining services.

Two of my children, Rebecca and Sarah, graduated from the Milford school system and my son Noah is a freshman at JLHS. I believe in providing a good quality education for our children.  We have provided the students of Milford an exemplary education while keeping our taxes lowest in the region.

I understand the struggles that our seniors face. My parents are seniors and I feel strongly that our seniors be able to live out their golden years here comfortably.

Background: I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southern Connecticut State University with a Bachelor’s degree in corporate communications. I am a front end manager at Awaken the Power Therapy located in Milford.

I was elected to the Board of Education, serving 2003-2005. I was then elected to the Planning and Zoning Board, serving 2007-2011. Currently, I am in my third term on the Board of Aldermen, serving since 2011.

On the Board of Aldermen, I am a liaison to the Board of Education, chair of the Claims Committee, and vice chair of the Public Works Committee.

Nick Veccharelli

Democrat

I am a lifelong resident (64 years) of Milford. I believe I have distinguished myself for holding the line on spending. I have worked to preserve open space, stop over development (8-30g)  and expanding recreational facilities and activities for the young and elderly. I will continue to work to protect the quality of life for all Milford citizens. I will always work to help keep taxes down. These are some of my main duties as your alderman of the 2nd district.

Background: Retired Volunteer and Professional Firefighter Milford; Fire Department 27 years; Emergency Medical Technician, member MFD SCUBA Team; Certified Fire Service Instructor, retired rank of Captain MFD; Certified A+ Computer Technician, Computer Systems Consultant; Computer Network Administrator past 15 years; attended Jonathan Law High School and Housatonic Committee College

Tommy Rupich

Republican

As a candidate with deep Milford roots, it is an honor to dedicate my experience and talents as both a successful entrepreneur and artist. My sole duty will always be to protect and serve this beautiful city.

Background: Interlochen Arts Academy, President of Rupinc LLC (Advertising/Marketing), CLIO award for advertising, POLLIE award for best national political campaign. Paintings in numerous international collections and featured on CNN, host of “Why? Milford!” the podcast

Jeremy Grant

Republican

Milford is faced with multiple challenges and I plan to address each one with passion and experience. As your current Alderman serving my first term, I fought to provide additional resources to the community and helped preserve historical properties. I know infrastructure and road paving is important to our daily lives and have supported doubling the amount of roads we pave each year without raising taxes. Pedestrian safety is important throughout our city and is highlighted downtown. I advocated for additional highly visible crosswalks that allow our families to experience a safe, walkable area. Increasing the amount our city recycles will save our city money and reduce waste so I help educate our residents on the importance of recycling. Our city is facing overdevelopment in residential neighborhoods. I have and will continue speaking out and fighting against misplaced developments. The state has planned to exploit Silver Sands beach and charge our residents to park. I have and will continue speaking to state leaders about the negative effect this will have on Milford and parking for the people in the second district. Throughout my term, I have had the opportunity to listen to residents’ concerns and have been able to help with an individual and personalized solution.

Background: As a lifelong resident and a current elected Alderman since 2015, I have the experience needed to continue making improvements for our city. I serve as the Aldermanic liaison for the Milford Public Library and am a member of the Friends of the Milford Library. I bring 19 years of experience working with consumers as an Information Technology Manager in telecommunications. I have established excellent logistical skills as the current Race Director of the Milford Road Runners. Education: Southern Connecticut State University, BS in Computer Science, Environmental Studies, and Nutrition.

DISTRICT 3

Marty Hardiman

Democrat

I believe I have been a valuable voice for the residents not just for the 3rd District but for the residents of the City of Milford. Taxes have always been a big concern for me, always trying to keep them down and providing the best services for all, looking for ways to keep the City of Milford a safe place to live and play.

Background: I am retired now. I worked for the Milford Board of Education working with special needs students at Live Oaks School and West Shore Middle School. I am working now as a crossing guard for the Milford Police Department. I have served the City of Milford for nearly 30 years in both elected and appointed positions and hope to continue serving the City of Milford. I have always kept an open mind and I respond to all my calls to the house and try to get the answers back to everyone.

Frank Smith

Democrat

One of the key issues confronting Milford and the areas of West Shore and Devon is the continued and unabated residential development which overwhelms our infrastructure and public services as well as our school district and threatens the very character and historic appeal of our great city. I will work with my colleagues and our state delegation to challenge the 8-30g statute that undermines our planning and zoning authority to resist the imposition of these dense and onerous developments. I will also continue to work with our mayor in implementing new efficiencies in city services and attracting new businesses to Milford which contribute to our exceptional fiscal health and allow reductions in local taxes in spite of possible shortfalls in state funding.

Background: A lifelong resident of the 3rd District representing Devon and the West Shore as alderman since 2011 after serving in the same capacity from 1998 to 2001. I was the Democratic candidate for Mayor in 2001, have been a member of the Milford Council on Aging, the Inland Wetlands Agency and currently aldermanic liaison to Milford Public Works, the Milford Public Library and the Fine Arts Council. I am completing my third term as Chairman of the Ordinance Committee of the Board of Aldermen and have been a member of Devon Revitalization, Walnut Beach and Laurel Beach Associations and active in several local cultural and environmental organizations.

Michael S. Casey

Republican

Most people know that there is a budget crisis in Hartford that is directly affecting the City of Milford. It is the most pressing issue we face right now. For the past five years Milford has received over $11 million each year from the State of Connecticut in education cost sharing (“ECS”) grants. This year, Governor Malloy’s proposed budget has cut that amount to zero.  When the Democrats on the Board of Aldermen passed the budget in May they assumed the City of Milford would receive at least $8 million in ECS funding. While the bipartisan bill that recently passed in Hartford would restore ECS funding to Milford, the governor vetoed the bill.  Milford is now faced with an $8 million shortfall. Meanwhile, our mayor and the Democrats on the Board of Alderman tout how they cut taxes. Yet, they are relying on money the city does not have and may never receive. We need real solutions. I am honest with the people of Milford. I have a track record of voting against gimmicks like the budget that was proposed this year. We cannot fix a problem by pretending it does not exist. This is a real problem that deserves real attention. I do not play political games with the people of Milford.

Background: I have served on the Board of Alderman since 2013. From 2011 to 2013 I served on the Milford Planning and Zoning Board. I am a member of the Kiwanis Club of Milford. I am on the Board of Directors for Boys and Girls Club of Milford. I am an attorney with a Juris Doctor and Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Connecticut.

Connie Gaynor

Republican

The key concern for Milford is the long term fiscal health of our city. The uncertainty of the state budget has a major impact on Milford. We need to have sound financial planning and not be playing politics with our tax money. Smoke and mirror budgeting tactics to make ends meet today will multiply issues down the road. Have we not learned from Hartford? I want to be able to stay in the city where I raised my family and to see my granddaughter raised here. I see through the “low tax” fantasy the majority is peddling because of the need for political points.  The Board of Aldermen should be the check and balance arm of municipal government and, if elected, I will end the rubber stamp the democrats on the board give to the mayor.   

Our city faces shoreline erosion concerns for our nearly 14 miles of coastal communities and this situation will need to be addressed going forward to protect our neighbors and the natural resources of the city. Initial conversations have been had, and developing a plan that partners with agencies to determine the immediate and long term goals should be established.

In talking to people in our district, I often hear the question “Why doesn’t Milford have a noise ordinance?” All our neighbors should be able to enjoy their homes and yards, but parameters that are enforceable need to be established with the intention to accomplish this.

Background: I hold a BS degree in Marketing and a Professional Certification in Human Resource Management from Fairfield University. I have experience in a manufacturing environment at a factory based in Milford where I was the HR Manager. There, I was directly involved in operational efficiencies and team building. Currently, I am the HR Coordinator for a department at the Yale University School of Medicine.  

I am a Trustee for the Boys and Girls Club and Board of Director of the Milford Public Library.  Prior, I served on the St. Gabriel HSA Board, Social Action Committee and Milford Junior Women’s Board.

DISTRICT 4

Tony Sutton

Democrat

Maintaining Milford’s sound financial health will be the most important task facing the Board of Aldermen over the next two years. Through innovation, cooperation, and hard work, Mayor Blake and the Democratic-led Board of Aldermen have passed two consecutive budgets that have reduced the city’s mill rate and lowered taxes. Doing so, along with the increase in new businesses coming to the city, has resulted in Milford receiving an AAA bond rating. This is the highest possible rating and indicates excellent financial strength. To maintain this success, we must (1) continue to budget responsibly and efficiently when it comes to funding our schools and city services, and (2) continue to identify and pursue initiatives that will save the city money and/or increase revenue. Excellent recent examples of such initiatives include the change to the city’s recycling contract so that the city receives payment for our recyclables, the city securing the right to bill insurance companies for ambulance services, and the automation of our garbage collection. More can, and should, be done in this regard, and I will work diligently with the mayor and my fellow board members to find ways to do so.

Background: I am a lawyer in private practice specializing in civil litigation matters. I graduated from New York University in 1993 and from Quinnipiac College School of Law in 1998. From 2014 to 2017, I served on Milford’s Planning & Zoning Board. In September of this year, I was appointed to fill the Fourth District’s vacancy on Milford’s Board of Aldermen.  My wife, Stacy, and I have lived in Milford for over 15 years and our two daughters attend Milford schools.

Philip J.Vetro

Democrat

I think some key issues are capital improvements: I think that the residents of Milford should want their schools in tip-top shape. They should all be up to date on the safety equipment, their heating and air/conditioning, (when applicable) are to be most efficient, and doors and windows are in good working order, and the last thing, the school classrooms should all be environmentally safe, and secure.

Another key issue should be our roads and sidewalks. As time and money allows, all roads, and sidewalks, and curbs in the city should all be well maintained, and replaced if necessary, to keep Milford a safe place to live, work and play.

Another key issue is always our taxes we all pay. We must strive, and work very hard to keep the many services we have, and keep the expense to keep them that way at a reasonable tax rate. Our "Grand List" helps keep the residents’ tax rate down. So, bring in the popular stores and businesses to Milford, and keep the economy strong and attractive.

Background: I am a self-employed contractor, and with just a high school education. My experience, working with customers, has given me more education than anyone could get in a school of higher learning. Dealing with the many problems a home or business owner has to cope with on a regular basis makes my work very valuable. I can figure out how to build, repair and maintain almost anything, and I share that knowledge with my fellow neighbors, and friends, on a regular basis.

John Drapp III

Republican

The main issue for me in this election is the inaccessibility of the Board of Aldermen. Much too often, there are important matters that are added at the last minute to the board’s agenda. This concerns me because it does not allow enough time for Milford’s citizens to discuss these important issues with their elected representatives before the board takes them up. Instead, citizens are limited to addressing the board for no more than three minutes before the aldermen discuss the business before them. This practice also deprives the aldermen of time to study the issue or proposal to be considered and engage in a full deliberative process.  

The budget passed last spring is an example of this problem. The Democrats hastily passed this year’s budget without any support or discussion with the Republican members of the board.  Five months later, there is no state budget and Milford has not received a penny of the $8.3 million in education money that the Democrats’ budget assumed. This situation was foreseeable. But the Democrats on the board thought it was more important to lower taxes as an election year stunt than to plan for the worst case scenario. If elected, I will always be accessible to Milford’s citizens because an alderman must know what that community has to say. Milford’s citizens, in return, can also expect the facts from me — good or bad — as Milford deserves nothing less.  

Background: I hold a Juris Doctor and Master of Health Administration (now known as Master of Business Administration in Health Care Management) from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor of Science from Southern Connecticut State University. I am a practicing attorney and for nearly 13 years, I have been the managing partner of Drapp & Jaumann, LLC, a Bridgeport-based law firm. I have also been a real estate broker for nearly 15 years, and have been a real estate teacher at Housatonic Community College.  

Dan German

Republican

I care about the future of Milford. I see businesses closing, people losing their jobs and people being forced to move away because they can’t afford to live here any longer.

With a strong business and financial background, I will help move the city in the right direction.

My goal is to reduce taxes. I am looking to improve city programs, make them more accountable, worthwhile and efficient.

Secondly, I am concerned with cost of healthcare. We need to improve our health care while reducing our healthcare costs. I have spearheaded a Healthcare Committee with the goal of improving the health and wellness of our city employees. This is a must to combat our skyrocketing healthcare costs while improving the quality of everyone’s lives.

And lastly, help small business get established and grow. It is the duty of the government to make that possible and not make it more difficult. Successful businesses will contribute back to the city and their community. We need to be a much more business friendly town.

Background: I currently sit on the Board of Alderman, in my 4th term. I am actively involved in many city departments and programs, non-profits and civic organizations. My experience comes from owning and operating a small business here in Milford for over 25 years. I now run a financial advisory practice at Charter Oak Financial and Mass Mutual. I also coach high school wrestling. I have a Masters in Business (MBA) from Sacred Heart University and BS in Business Administration from Northern Arizona University and I am a graduate of Milford High School.

DISTRICT 5

Karen Fortunati

Democrat

The most common concern of the voters I’ve met has been development. My focus will be on ensuring thoughtful planning that protects the character and essence of our city and its neighborhoods. I will support Mayor Blake’s continuing efforts to improve Milford’s infrastructure; a strong infrastructure attracts new businesses and keeps businesses here. Education is another priority and I will work diligently to support the Board of Education and preserve our school funding. Milford has been proactive with many environmental regulations and I will strive to continue such efforts with a special focus on protecting our coastline and Gulf Pond. Another environmental concern that strikes a chord with me has been the displacement of wildlife by development.

In harsh contrast to our state, Milford is in excellent financial condition due to Mayor Ben Blake’s smart budgeting and cost controls. New businesses are flocking here and the city was awarded the highest bond rating, AAA. This allows the city to negotiate better credit terms and thereby save money. I will continue to support such efforts to keep Milford as one of the most efficiently managed and prosperous cities in Connecticut.

Background: I’m a former prosecutor who specialized in narcotics crimes and juvenile offenders; in private practice I focused on insurance defense and representing children and adults in DCF matters. Currently, I am a nationally recognized and award-winning young adult author for my novel, The Weight of Zero. The story tackles serious mental health issues faced by teens and their families and was inspired by the work of my husband, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Yale. I have an Accounting degree (University of Scranton 1986), law degree (Georgetown University Law Center 1989) and a master’s degree in American Studies (Trinity College 2017.)

Bryan Anderson

Democrat

The major challenges facing Milford during the next two years will be keeping municipal expenditures low and adhering to prudent fiscal measures, while absorbing the impact of the state's fiscal crisis locally. At the same time, we must be mindful not to undo the significant progress made by Milford Public Schools in recent years. We can take pride in their accomplishments and those of our students.

Under present circumstances, we can no longer rely upon state funds to assist our local budget at the same levels we had received. Most cities and towns, including Milford, are faced with severe reductions in state aid — Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) funds, PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes), road funds, among others — which will require local leaders to reorganize government services, question every dollar spent, and eliminate certain line items.

Even before this fiscal crisis, Milford has planned for the future by reducing our energy consumption, creating an energy micro grid, by welcoming new businesses to grow Milford's Grand List, and other local measures. I encourage Milford residents to actively question local government priorities and become engaged in the budget process.

Background: I am a teacher in the Bronx with 15  years experience, and certified in two disciplines — General Education and Social Studies. I was fortunate to have been selected as a NYC Teaching Fellow, which permitted me to enroll in the Fordham University Graduate School of Education and become an AmeriCorps teacher-leader. I have obtained the equivalent of a Sixth-Year Degree from Southern Connecticut State University. I am a three-term alderman in Milford, and formerly served in elected office in Hamden and New Haven.

Dominic Cotton

Democratic

The keys issues are:

Budget — As an Alderman I will be responsible for reviewing all areas of city services. I will provide a critical and experienced eye to ensure there is a cost benefit analysis to every line item and city purchase. I will be for a responsible budgeting process that finds innovative ways to provide city services, continues to invest in infrastructure projects that enhance business development, and improves the lives of citizen.

Education — I will support our education budgets to ensure we continue funding them at current levels unless there is a significant decline in enrollment. I have a seven-year-old son enrolled in Orange Avenue School, the recent recipient of the national PTA school of excellence. My wife is a PTA president, and as an alderman I will continue her example of community involvement and listening to constituent concerns with regards to our public school system.

8-30g Affordable Housing Development — I have spent the past year testifying, lobbying our State legislature for changes to our affordable housing regulations. I believe it is incumbent upon our city to develop a comprehensive plan to address the issue of development usurping our Planning and Zoning regulations and building in residential neighborhoods. As an Alderman

I will present some innovative ideas that will help us to reach a moratorium and will establish a proactive plan to ensure that Milford continues to create workforce housing that will ensure families the opportunity to live in our small city with a big heart.

Background: I have a masters degree in healthcare management and 25 years of management experience. I have  managed multimillion dollar budgets for a large non-profit agency, and currently own a community based brain injury rehabilitation agency. I have  been a fierce advocate at the state legislature for services for the brain injury, rare disease and justice populations. I have provided expert testimony, education, and hands on involvement that have led to multiple legislative initiatives.

I currently co-host of an educational and political TV  show, Street Talk. I have interviewed representatives from all levels of state and local government from both sides of the aisle.

Bill Bevan

Republican

I believe taxes, schools and city services are key issues. We all want safe roads, regular trash pickup, good beaches and recreational facilities, etc. We want our children to have the best education possible. We depend on the police and fire departments for our safety. We deserve the best our taxes can provide but, as you know, all this costs money. It’s my desire and job as your alderman to see that your tax dollars are used to provide the best education, the most protection and the best city services so our city runs smoothly and at their peak performance levels within budgetary guidelines. I’ve voted this way in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Background: Retired Purchasing Manager; current Board of Alderman 5th District; former Board of Alderman 4th District 2009-2011; former Chairman of the Public Safety and Welfare Committee; former Vice-Chairman Claims Committee; former Vice-Chairman Milford Republican Town Committee; former member of Board of Assessment Review; liaison to Park Beach and Rec Commission, Commission on Council on Aging and the Fine Arts Council; Justice of the Peace; graduate of the Citizens Police Academy; US Navy Veteran; lifelong Milford resident. Community involvement includes board member of Running Water for Uganda; assisting the following charities - Milford Prevention Council, Boys & Girls Club, Beth-El Center, HomeFront and area food bank.

Raymond Vitali

Republican

I hope to accomplish the following: Tax reform, control housing development and long-range plans to provide opportunities for all people to experience a quality of life that is affordable and sustainable. Provide opportunity for all city departments/agencies to submit budgets that are justified, simplified and above all transparent. Allow for the provision that our education system provides our students with the knowledge and experiences that will allow them to compete globally. As a member of the Board of Alderman I know that strong leadership leads to good government. I will insist on transparency, a common sense approach and a dialogue that will allow for hands-on participation (conversation) by the people and for the people of Milford.

Background: Retired educator from the Milford Public Schools, as a teacher and principal.  

Graduate of Southern Connecticut State University with a BS and advanced degrees from Fairfield University, a Masters of Science and 6th year of advanced study. Drug Education certification, Yale University. Past Chair of the Board of Bridges, served on the Library Commission, presently serving on the Permanent School Building Committee, United Way campaign co-chair, Oyster Festival Committee, co-creator of Folks on Spokes, created the 9/11 Memorial Garden at Live Oaks School, United Way Board of Directors, Past Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Milford, Chair of Milford Prevention Council