Republicans Pledge To Work With Mayor; Landslide Against Dems; Turnout Low

by Christopher O'Brien

**Updated Thursday 8:30 am**
The VFW hall was filled with celebration as Republicans arrived from their Wolcott Rd. headquarters, learning what the next two years would bring. Across town at the East Street eatery, the mood was more somber as Democrats questioned what happened. For the first time in many years, long serving Democrats were ushered from office and replaced by a cadre of newcomesrs who pledged to work closely with Mayor Dunn. It is also the first time the Council has had a six member majority in at least a decade.

Dunn beat Democratic challenger Steven Olmstead 4180- 803.

The newly formed Town Council will be seated next Wednesday and have an entirely new dynamic. For the past two years, Council headed by four member minority Democrats Michael Santogatta and Steven Olmstead will see neither of the leaders. Fellow Democrat Michael Perrone lost re-election in a Row C gamble and even the fate of Charles Marsella hangs in the balance with a recount.

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Oh, ok. Here they are, courtesy of the Town Clerk’s office: 2011 Election Results
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Mayor Tom Dunn was elated at his VFW headquarters Tuesday night. “I’m glad that the people see the work we’re doing. We don’t have to spend thousdands of dollars in negative ads. Their problems are my problems and I’m ready to work hard for another two years,” Dunn said moments after giving a victory speach.

Former police officers Roger Picard and Don Charette bring along newcomer Jeffrey Slavin to the council. Picard was surprised by his performance in gathering a whopping 2517 votes in District 3. “I didn’t think it would be that high. Throughout the day people kept telling me ‘you got it, you got it’. But I couldn’t believe that until I saw the numbers.”

Republicans, who only had one member on the Council two years ago with four term Councilman Dave Valletta, was boosted by Row C -turned Republican – Gale Lanza – Mastrofrancesco and Rachel Wisler who replaced Randy Petroniro who won a Row C election two years ago. Last week, the Council balance was four Democrats, two Republicans and three Row C winners. The sands shifted to today’s six – to-three win.

“Everyone worked hard.We talked about the facts and its a victory for Wolcott,” says Lanza-Mastrofrancesco. “We’re going to work with the Mayor as we always have done. Even with the Democrats (on the pervious Council) we worked well together.”

Republican Vice Chairman Greg Dandio was very pleased with the results. “This really matches ‘People, Not Politics,'” a mantra Dunn had carried since his first campaign for mayor in 2003. “Two years ago there was bickering. This year both the Mayor and Republicans are in command.” The Republican – Row C coalition were frustrated by Olmstead’s siding with Democrats at times over the last two years.

At the same time, Democrats and some Republicans touted the successes of the Council over the previous two years under Santogatta’s leadership. Some of those initiatives included forming separate police and blight commissions, as well as instituting a new pension plan which promises to save the Town money over the next decade. Different Councilmen headed committees overseeing those initaitives.

Unnafiliated two term Councilman Michael Bokon lost re-election in the first district by 61 votes. A recount will be held in that district because only ten votes separate former Councilman David Gentile and first termer Charles Marsella. That recount might be held this Saturday, the Whisper has learned.
On the Democrat side, popular former school board member James Pape joins perrenial favorite Francis Masi on the Council. Santogatta, who won re-election two years ago by only 20 votes was retired by a more significant margin this year.

In fact, numbers across the board reveal a landslide for Wolcott Republicans almost across the board. Five hundred votes separated winners and losers in Town Council District 3 and 460 votes separated the lowest Republican and highest Democrat vote getters in the school board race.

“We were shocked,” says Democratic Town Committee Chairman Dave Gentile as results came into their headquarters Tuesday night. “But (Republicans) hitched their wagon to Dunn’s horse and it worked out for for them. Democrats expressed dismay with the amount of experience in rejected amongst their candidates.

“It takes alot to understand the Town budget, committee work and other issues going on into the job. We had some really good candidates. It didn’t seem to matter to voters what their community service, professional credentials or service to the town was. It seems odd,” Gentile says of the voters’ message.

For the first time in four years, no Row C candidates won this year to the major offices, a trend that was also seen with minority parties in Waterbury and Watertown who were voted out of office. Assessment Appearls candidate Joseph Santopietro won a seat on that commission, blocking any Democrat. During the day, he was unsure whether his name would be a help or hinderance. No comment was immediately available from organizer Robert Ficeto Wednesday evening. That campaign was decidedly subdued in compairison to the 2009 run.

Republicans also swept seats on the Board of Assessment Appeals and Zoning Board of Appeals, welcoming newcomer June Vitiello. Val Bernardoni, a former Salisbury First selectman and Democrat, won a seat on the ZBA.
Board of Education
Republicans strengthened their hold on the school board by winning the maximum six seats. Former kindergarten teacher and Town Councilwoman Roberta Leonard joins Chairwoman Patricia Najarian and other Republican incumbents on the Board.

Democrats Anthony Gugliotti was lost in a bid for Town Council and James Paper jumped over to the Council. The party’s only incumbent, Teresa Pineau lost her bid for re-election by 170 votes. Gentile highlighted the unique traits of the newcomers though. “They’re very good people. Tony Casagrande will be an excellent asset to the Board.” Casagrande was a corporation counsel to Waterbury’s Board of Education as well as other school districts. “What can be better that? You’ll get free legal advice from someone who’s dealt with education issues before on the board,” says the Democratic Chairman.

Kathy Cordone won a seat in her first bid for office this year. “she’s going to hold their feet to the fire,” says Gentile. Cordone in recent years has been critical of Superintendant Joe Macary and has raised concerns of low teacher morale in the last several years.

Lori Delbuono noted that her emphasis in sticking up for students. She noted how other school systems such as Watertown have adopted fees for school athletes to help with budget constraints in that town. “We can’t ever do that in this town. Arts, music and sports are important to a well rounded education. I have a voice and intend to use it.”
Gentile noted the newcomers to the Board of Education will do well. “Obviously we’re disapointed that

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