The “winds of change” are sweeping through Ansonia, Mayor David Cassetti told an audience of about 150 gathered at Emmett O’Brien Technical High School for his third inauguration Thursday.
Not in the mayor’s office, of course, but in new businesses, lower taxes, as well as more open, engaged government, Cassetti said.
And, come next month’s Board of Aldermen meeting, there will be a new person in the second highest post in city government.
New Aldermanic President
Despite being re-elected to the board, its current president, Second Ward Alderman Phil Tripp, said he will not seek a third term in the role.
Tripp led a bloc of Aldermen who occasionally clashed with the mayor and his advisers, particularly over the past two years, during the mayor’s second term.
But several of the Aldermen in that group either did not seek re-election or lost their spots in the Nov. 7 election, in which local GOPers rode the mayor’s coattails to sweep the board 14-0.
“Even though we’re all Republicans there are some dynamics of change and I made the decision that I won’t be a candidate for president of the Board of Aldermen,” Tripp said before the inauguration Thursday.
Tripp’s fellow Second Ward Alderman, Lorie Vaccaro, said he hopes to replace Tripp.
“I feel confident. (But) I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Vaccaro said.
Seventh Ward Alderman David Blackwell said he’ll nominate Vaccaro for the post and expects fellow members of “Team Cassetti” to vote for him when the Aldermen meet Dec. 12.
“I know Lorie wants an opportunity at it and he has our support,” Blackwell said.
Despite occasionally clashing over the past two years, Vaccaro and Tripp had conciliatory words for each other.
“Lorie’s a good person,” Tripp said. “He’s done a lot of work for the city and he was a key player for the Board of Aldermen. He was very helpful to me . . . I’m sure he’ll do well.”
“I respect Phil,” Vaccaro said. “Phil brought me in. I was at the polls with Phil for probably 12 out of 14 hours on Election Day and we get along fine.”
Vaccaro has been Cassetti’s closest ally on the Board of Aldermen, and the mayor said after Thrusday’s inauguration he hopes Vaccaro wins the post.
“We’re coming together,” Cassetti said. “I think it’ll definitely be smoother with the new president.”
Cassetti Cites Changes, Says More In Store
During his inaugural address Thursday, the mayor evoked the “winds of change” language repeatedly, saying the candidates elected Nov. 7 must “not just to talk of change, but actually achieve it.”
“Over the past four years our city has seen such changes,” Cassetti said, referencing his “Ansonia Recharged” campaign and several of his administration’s accomplishments:
- reducing and stabilizing taxes
- bringing new jobs and raising the grand list
- kickstarting a “manufacturing revival by cultivating a pro-business climate”
- restoring infrastructure and remediating contaminating properties
- boosting the city’s bond rating
- starting new community events and initiatives and making government more open and accessible
“Above all, we have put all of Connecticut on notice — Ansonia is a city on the move, and ready to reclaim our spot as the heart of the All-American Valley,” Cassetti said.
Yet challenges remain, none of which loom more ominously than what has become annual uncertainty over how much money the city, still a distressed community, will receive from the state in terms of financial support.
“If our state leaders created these problems by being unrealistic and spending beyond their means, our only hope remains with doing the opposite,” Cassetti said.
The best way to do that — regionalization.
“Cooperation with our neighboring cities and towns is the path forward,” he said.
“The question of the day is no longer ‘Should we pursue regionalization?’” the mayor said. “Rather, it is ‘How can we make regionalization work in the best interest of Ansonia residents?’”
After the event, he said he hoped the election for mayor in Derby of Rich Dziekan, who worked during Cassetti’s first term as director of constituent services, would pave the way for cooperation between the two cities. Dziekan will take the oath of office Saturday.
“I’m hoping that we can talk with Derby, probably on public works, regionalizing public works, (and) our sewer system,” Cassetti said.
“That is definitely on the scope,” Cassetti said.
Cassetti said his other top priority for his second term is movement on the redevelopment of Ansonia Copper & Brass, a sprawling former industrial powerhouse but now an eyesore in the heart of downtown.
“I want to look to get some money from the federal government and the state to get the remediation and the demolition done,” Cassetti said. “That’s the big prize right there.”
The mayor’s administration struck a taxes-for-demolition deal with the property’s owner during Cassetti’s first term, but after some initial fanfare the deal died.
“We tried, we did take care of seven acres down there, but the owner was not cooperative, so now we’re going to take it over and get the monies to remediate it,” Cassetti said. “The development probably won’t occur for three or four years, (but) we can get it torn down and remediated.”
The mayor was sworn in for his third term by Clifford D. Hoyle, the city’s probate judge.
Rev. Alfred Smith of Macedonia Baptist Church offered an invocation, and Jim Wegner, pastor of Reclaim Christian Church offered a benediction.
Cassetti’s children, Lillian, Jennifer, and David Jr. led the audience in the pledge of allegiance, and five members of the Ansonia High School Mixed Chorus sang the national anthem.
The ceremony also featured a musical interlude from the New Haven Classics — a performance of “My Girl” with the lyrics of the chorus altered slightly, to “My Mayor.”
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