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Race For Mayor Starting To Take Shape In Derby

by Eugene Driscoll | Feb 7, 2017 8:24 pm

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Posted to: Derby, Derby Election 2017

Richard Dziekan is again planning to seek the Republican nomination for mayor of the City of Derby.

“I plan on making a formal announcement within the next few weeks,” Dziekan told the Valley Indy Tuesday.

Dziekan’s potential opponent, Mayor Anita Dugatto, a Democrat, is serving her second term as mayor. She’s running again too, having filed candidate registration paperwork with the Derby Town Clerk’s Office Jan. 31.

Dugatto beat Dziekan by 112 votes to win a second term in 2015.

But the mayor may also face a challenge for her party’s endorsement from fellow Democrat Carmen DiCenso.

DiCenso, a former Derby High School football coach, is the president of the Derby Board of Aldermen.

Both Art Gerckens, a Second Ward Alderman, and Linda Fusco, chairwoman of the Derby Town Democratic Committee, said DiCenso has expressed interest in running for mayor.

The Derby Democrats usually meet in July to endorse a candidate for the November election.

The Valley Indy left individual emails and voicemails for DiCenso and Dugatto Tuesday seeking comment.

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Dziekan is a retired Hamden police officer and U.S. Air Force veteran.

He works as director of constituent services in Ansonia as part of Mayor David Cassetti’s administration.

He is a former member of the Derby Board of Aldermen and the Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation. He was born and raised in Derby.

Dziekan has been making plans to run again since he conceded defeat to Dugatto in 2015.

He said taxes are increasing in Derby but revenue isn’t keeping pace.

“I’ve been watching this administration. (Mayor Dugatto) promised a lot, but it seems like the same old same old,” Dziekan said.

He said he’ll concentrate on economic development. He also said he’ll work harder to bring Derby together, noting that the mayor is often at odds with fellow Democrats on the Derby Board of Aldermen.

“I can’t believe the arguments and little factions they have going on. I’ll work to bring the boards together to work with the front office,” Dziekan said, referring to the mayor’s office.

Dziekan said he told members of the Republican Town Committee that he wanted to run during a RTC meeting last week.

Ken Hughes, a former Republican Aldermen, said Dziekan is smart to start early in the election season.

“Rich needs to start his grassroots campaign early knocking on as many doors as possible multiple times,” Hughes said in an email. “Most of all he needs to make sure he gets out the vote on Election Day.”

The GOP is confident going into this election, said Sam Pollastro Jr., the chairman of the Derby Republican Town Committee.

“We are excited about this year’s election given the overall good results from two years ago,” Pollastro said. “While endorsements are still months away we are looking forward to Dziekan’s announcement and a GOP victory in November.”

DiCenso was first elected to represent Derby’s Third Ward in 2011.

He is Derby’s most popular Alderman, having received the most votes in the Aldermen races of 2011, 2013 and 2015.

DiCenso has taken an active role within Derby government. He’s chairman of the city’s blight committee, and he’s a constant presence in Derby City Hall and at government meetings, even though Alderman is a volunteer, non-paid position.

Like Dziekan, DiCenso has not filed any of the necessary paperwork to run for office at this point.

But three Democrats told the Valley Indy DiCenso has been making phone calls to gauge support from his party.

Fusco, the Derby Democratic Party leader, said both DiCenso and Dugatto have told her they want to run — but it is still early in the political season.

“The mayor has told me she is running, unless something changes her mind. Carmen has told me, unless something changes his mind,” she said.

“Do I want to talk about it? No. But I have to, because the rumors are out there. I can put it in the back of my mind until it becomes a reality, but I really do think that it is coming,” Fusco said.

There’s been a division between the mayor and various Democratic Aldermen since at least 2014.

Click here or here for examples.

At the Jan. 26 Derby Board of Aldermen meeting, DiCenso raised a number of policy issues, including the management of the parking garage, City Hall hours, and the use of the Sterling Opera House.

In an interview Tuesday, Gerckens, a Second Ward Alderman, said DiCenso was trying to undermine the mayor during the Jan. 26 because he’s gathering support for a mayoral run.

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Gerckens said DiCenso called him weeks ago to talk about running for mayor. Gerckens said as Aldermanic president DiCenso should be helping the mayor.

“Things are starting to happen in Derby. We are starting to move forward. I’d hate to see us go back to square one. I don’t understand what he’s going to do that’s different than the mayor,” Gerckens said. “Instead we’re just throwing little darts at these public meetings.”

Fusco acknowledged there are divisions among the elected Democrats.

“It’s there,” she said. “There’s no getting around it. It just doesn’t seem to be fixable.”

That division could continue after the July Democratic Town Committee’s official endorsements, if the candidate not endorsed forces a primary.

“Sometimes primaries, if that’s what it comes down to, can be healthy,” Fusco said. “It clears the air. It can shake out issues. It can flesh out issues, and make people take a stand.”

Dugatto was first elected in 2013, when she defeated incumbent Mayor Anthony Staffieri, a Republican who now serves as an Alderman representing the Third Ward.

She is the first female mayor in Derby’s history.

She’s refocused efforts on redeveloping the south side of Main Street, she’s reorganized the work flow within Derby City Hall, she’s led an effort to tweak zoning, and there’s been an uptick in economic development activity recently in the city.

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