For a mild-mannered chairman of the town‚Äôs most powerful commission, Mike DelSanto isn‚Äôt afraid to defend controversial Planning & Zoning Board decisions in Southington. ‚ÄúWe were elected to do a job and we accept the awesome responsibilities,‚ÄĚ he proclaimed recently.
‚ÄúThis is a great community and people want to come here,‚ÄĚ he says, adding that business people as well as developers envision the town as an oasis of growth.
The 45-year-old lifelong resident is fully aware that the PZC carries a wealth of weight in public attention and decision making. After all, he and his fellow volunteer commissioners must decide where buildings and homes are permitted to build. This often irritates residents, particularly when visions of ‚Äúold Southington‚ÄĚ fall victims to bulldozers and concrete.
‚ÄúLandowners have a right to sell their property and despite the fact that residential properties are diminishing, it‚Äôs a fact that businesses are always seeking places,‚ÄĚ DelSanto said noting that Queen Street is ‚Äúnot the most ideal road, but now there‚Äôs more smart management. ‚ÄúThe commission enforces the interconnectivivity theory,‚ÄĚ he explains which ensures that new retail construction include road connections for smooth traffic in and out of development sites.
DelSanto was prompted to run for office 16 years ago as a Republican. He‚Äôs been elected chairman for the past eight years. He has no ambition to jump to a council seat, saying it‚Äôs ‚Äúmuch too political for me.‚ÄĚ Over the years some PZC members have sought to run for council but DelSanto is far too dedicated on the PZC. He explains that when first elected, he and other new commissioners had to quickly absorb a solid book of regulations. ‚ÄúThere was a lot to absorb,‚ÄĚ he said.
The Town Council is a bit too political, according to the graduate of Western New England College, earning a degree in criminal justice. The father of two young boys, Jack and Max, DelSanto feels he can still manage being a husband and father and serving as chairman.
‚ÄėI consider myself a leader and that inspires me to do what is right,‚ÄĚ he states. The Republicans have controlled the PZC since 2009 and DelSanto believes the commission is beyond politics. ‚ÄúWe have good people, smart people who have the best intentions for the town,‚ÄĚ said DelSanto, adding that the PZC is well aware that citizens often grumble about too many homes, too many retails plazas and too much traffic.
West Street is an example of the limitations of the PZC. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a state road. We have no control of additional lanes, traffic or things like that. The Department of Transportation has been asked numerous times about making some improvements to move traffic on a road that exceeds 30,000 cars per day. Yet, the chairman said the PZC obviously wants and can control the types of businesses on the street.
When the council narrowly chose attorney Mark Sciota to be the next town manager, DelSanto immediately reflected what many of his Republican and Democrats were saying. ‚ÄúNo reason to search anywhere. Mark was always the best choice,‚ÄĚ he stated. ‚ÄúPart of the early days for PZC commissioners was receiving advice and guidance from him.‚ÄĚ
DelSanto played football at Southington High and at college. He was elected class president in his junior and senior years at Southington High and as class president in college as a sophomore and junior. Yet, he loves spending his free time with his active sons and his wife, Jill. He has spent over 18 years as a Family Service Supervisor for the State of Connecticut, Judicial Branch at Meriden Superior Court.
DelSanto was raised by a tight Italian family. Relatives owned businesses and his father has been active in several civic organizations. ‚ÄúI‚Äôd never move from Southington. It‚Äôs been good to my family going back to my grandparents and beyond. My brother Tom and I were raised to be good citizens. Our parents expected nothing less,‚ÄĚ exclaimed DelSanto.