BRISTOL – City residents got a chance to meet the candidates for public office Monday night at an NAACP hosted event at the Board of Education offices.
Republican mayoral candidate Dante Tagariello introduced himself as a lifelong Bristol resident, who attended South Side Elementary School, Memorial Boulevard Middle School, and Bristol Central High school.
“After I graduated Central I went to Bentley University where I got two degrees, one in accounting and one in international politics,” he said.
“When I was 19 I had the fabulous offer to be hired by the fifth largest public accounting firm in the world, where I still work now,” he continued. “As part of my job I have a bunch of clients who are across a number of industrial sectors, which include manufacturing, financial services, and health care.”
Tagariello said his job provides “the unique opportunity to work with clients who have billion dollar budgets and prepare their complex tax returns, and I have the ability to advise them on a bunch of transactions that they carry out day to day, not just with the federal government and their clients, but state and local governments too.”
Incumbent Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, the Democratic candidate who is finishing her first term, said she too is a lifelong city resident who attended local schools and got a degree at Providence College.
At the University of Connecticut she got a degree in public administration degree. “I was on city manager track with the City of Hartford until Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry in 1992 fired the city manager and – poof! - there went all of our job offers for the new crop of city managers coming in,” she said.
“I then came back to town and worked in various groups of nonprofits, starting with the Chambers of Commerce, the Bristol Boys & Girls Club, and the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, all of which set me up for various policy issues that I’ve been dealing with for the past two years,” Zoppo-Sassu continued.
“So it has been a pleasure to be your mayor and I look forward to continuing that with your support,” she added.
City Council District 1:
Republican Jeff Caggiano is a lifelong city resident who raised his family here and has worked in the health care industry in sales and marketing person for 30 years now. He has also coached, volunteered at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, served on the Zoning Board two years, on the Board of Education for the last four years, and as chairman of the Republican Town Committee for two and a half years.
“One of the best jobs that I’ve had, that I think makes me qualified for this position, is what was called a change agent with one of the pharmaceutical companies,” he said. That was a position that worked hard for professional development and leadership and change and innovative disruption.”
Republican Kathy Faber owns Kathy Faber Designs in Bristol.
She thanked everyone who showed up at the forum. “We’re all very good people, and regardless of who gets elected we’re all going to work together,” she said.
“The core of my education was at CCSU for business marketing and I think I can be extremely valuable for the city of Bristol, helping with our downtown development, which has already started,” she said, adding that she is a big donor to the Make-A-Wish Foundation – “which is for children and families. That’s what Bristol is all about at the end of the day, children and families.”
Democratic incumbent Greg Hahn said he has been proud to be on a team that has “emphasized quality of life issues here in Bristol that have never been addressed before,” by creating such organizations as the Farmers Market, the Mayor’s Opioid Task Force, and the Arts and Culture Commission, as well as making progress on Centre Square.
“We have a finished building; we have another project that is signed, sealed and delivered on Parcel 10; we have a Letter of Intent on Parcel 1,” he said. “There are things are going on here, so to say that things are not moving is false.”
Democratic incumbent Scott Rosado is another Bristol native, who raised his family here.
“I’ve seen what Bristol has to offer through every demographic that we can imagine, from low income housing to middle class housing to where I am today – running a successful business in home care servicing the elderly. We have four offices throughout the state of Connecticut, with 500 employees.”
He said he and his son, another local business owner, are reinvesting in the city. “I want to create community spirit, and I also want to give you guys a voice that needs to be heard today.”
City Council, District 2:
Republican Hannah Lemek is a lifelong city resident, who graduated Bristol Central High School in 2014 and got a degree in public policy and advocacy from the University of St. Joseph.
“I am now a lobbyist at the state capitol,” she said. “We work with very large corporations that have very different interests and we bring them together and to find a common solution. I hope that’s something I can do for you as a city councilor.”
“I’m running because I believe that Bristol citizens deserve a little bit more for what they’re paying for,” she continued. “I’ve had nothing to do in the downtown all my life and I’d really like to see a change in that.”
Republican Gary Lukasiewicz described himself as a father of two and a 59 year resident of Bristol.
“I was approached by the youth of Bristol to run for office because they don’t like what’s going on in town,” he said. “I’m against the property tax increases. I’m a small business owner, I’m being pinched out of there. I help the elderly and the poor in my business. I help people that have medical conflicts -- diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis. I just figured I’d have to give it a try because we need help. That’s why I’m running -- to help my town because I love it and I don’t want to leave.”
Democratic incumbent Peter Kelley said he feels privileged to serve under Zoppo-Sassu, “who I believe is the best suited individual to hold the position of mayor.”
He said he and his fellow council Dave Preleski “view this responsibility truly as the fact that we’re public servants. I believe we are responsive to the citizens of Bristol.”
“I’m quite proud of the fact that we’ve restored the lost luster that was tarnished under the previous administration,” he said. “I’m at the Farmers Market often, which is a great business incubator, and so many people come up to us and say I am so proud once again to say I am from Bristol.”
Democratic incumbent Dave Preleski described himself as a lifelong Bristol resident who has raised his family here and works here as an attorney. In his current council term, he has chaired the ordinance, real estate committee, and code enforcement committees, been vice chair of the retirement committee, liaison to the fire board and served on the Memorial Boulevard School building committee.
“I really enjoy public service,” he said. “I really enjoy working for the people of the second district. My background is in finance, economics, and law, and I think those three disciplines are very helpful for what the city of Bristol needs to move forward.”
City Council District 3:
Republican Camerin Crowal said “essentially I’m running because with Dave Mills stepping down [from the council] our area in Forestville will not have a voice.”
He said he graduated in 2009 from Bristol Central High School and works in marketing. “My life mission is really just to support my fellow neighbors,” he said. “It was instilled in me to help everyone with a hand up. I feel like Bristol people -- we’re all one. It’s our job take care of each other and to continually create value for all of us.”
Republican Cheryl Thibeault said she serves on the Board of Finance, and was its first woman chair, and has also served on the retirement board, the Memorial Boulevard School Committee, the Greene-Hills School Committee, and more.
She works as comptroller at a non-profit headquartered in Bloomfield with locations in 11 states.
“Our primary focus is working with individuals who have been court referred,” she said. “Our adults are coming out of prison or jail and we’re helping them re-acclimate to society by finding them work, connecting them with social networks, helping them to save money, so that they will not re-offend. We also have a youth division that works with court referred youth.”
Democrat Brittany Barney said Zoppo-Sassu “has really shown me that you can be whatever you want to be, whenever you want to be it.”
She said she and her husband Dave bought a house on Federal Hill six years ago and she believes the development projects now happening in downtown have really helped increase the value of their home.
“I’ve seen a huge spike in the valuation of my home, and I know that’s tied to the positive things that are coming out of Bristol,” she said. “I want to make sure those continue because my investment is important and so is yours.”
Democratic incumbent Mary Fortier is a lifelong and third generation Bristol resident, and has served on the council for almost six years now.
“I served on a variety of committees,” she said. “Several that I’m very passionate about are particularly committees that work to help folks that have some disadvantage. We have the disability committee, I’m on the board of HRA, which is the organization that took over from BCO here in Bristol and helps our most needy residents.”
“Those committees are very important to me because I think all of us need to have a great Bristol, a Bristol of opportunity,” she added.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.