Change (And Espresso) In Ansonia City Hall

Photo: Ethan FryWant to know the busiest place in Ansonia this week?

Spend a couple hours at Mayor David Cassetti’s office.

Cassetti has been on the job just two days — he was sworn in Monday night to replace seven-term incumbent James Della Volpe, who he defeated last month in a shock upset — but he hit the ground running.

Tuesday (Dec. 3) afternoon found Cassetti in an hours-long meeting with Board of Education member Bill Nimons, a member of his transition team.

But the new mayor is nothing if not a multi-tasker. He darts in and out of his office periodically to ask a question to government liaison Tara Kolakowski, or greet a job seeker dropping off a resume.

Then in walks Ken Plavnicky, a Republican supporter who is dropping off what will soon greet visitors when walking past Cassetti’s office door: a maple-wood seal of the city made by Kayla Thompson, a student at Emmett O’Brien Technical High School, which graced the front of the podium at which Cassetti delivered his inaugural address Monday.

Cassetti is a 1979 graduate of Emmett O’Brien — he refers to the school warmly as “my alma mater” — and is proud to say he’s the first of the school’s alumni elected mayor.

Photo: Ethan FryDuring a brief break Tuesday, Cassetti said his stint thus far in the job hasn’t offered much in the way of surprises.

“It’s what I expected,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean it will be business as usual around City Hall.

Cassetti said he will announce replacements Thursday (Dec. 5) for outgoing Corporation Counsel Kevin Blake, Grant Writer Eileen Krugel, and Zoning Enforcement Officer James Tanner.

Blake will be replaced as corporation counsel by John Marini, a former Republican Alderman and currently the chairman of the Republican Town Committee.

Krugel is the chairwoman of the city’s Democratic Party. Cassetti, a Republican, said she will be replaced will be taken by Sheila O’Malley, outgoing Derby Mayor Anthony Staffieri’s economic development director and chief administrative assistant. O’Malley’s appointment is subject to the approval of the Board of Aldermen’s salary committee, the new mayor said.

Cassetti on Tuesday did not say who would replace Tanner, who he said the city parted ways with him due to “philosophical differences.”

Cassetti said the trio who lost their jobs as part of the transition will be paid through the end of the month.

Tara Kolakowski, who served as government liaison for Della Volpe and prior to that represented the city’s Seventh Ward as a Democratic Alderman, will stay on in the mayor’s office for a few weeks to effect a smooth transition before being replaced.

In addition to a new cadre of advisors, Cassetti said he will announce on Friday (Dec. 6) appointments to a raft of vacancies on town boards and commissions, in addition to a new “cost-cutting commission,” which he said during the campaign he’d create to look for possible savings in city spending.

Those appointments will be voted on by the city’s Aldermen during their regular meeting Dec. 10.

Cassetti said he’ll also ask Aldermen at that meeting to re-start the charter revision process with a view to modifying the city’s government to allow a city manager position, another one of his campaign promises.

The Aldermen could theoretically thwart Cassetti’s appointments and proposals, but with his Republican party taking a 9-5 advantage on the board, on which Democrats held 10 seats before last month’s election, they’ll likely be approved.

Cassetti said, though, that that doesn’t mean he’ll be running the city by whim.

He’s owned his own construction company for decades, so he said he knows what it’s like to be running an organization — though running a city is obviously much more complicated.

“I need everybody’s input,” Cassetti said, echoing a promise he made to residents during his inaugural address. “It’s a little bit different here, and I see that.”

Photo: Ethan FryStill, the mayor’s office already reflects Cassetti’s personality.

A portrait of his political idol, Ronald Reagan, hangs framed on the wall above two commemorative Reagan plates and a model of Air Force One.

A polished bust of Reagan — a Christmas gift from his wife three years ago — sits on a table below, next to another new addition to the office: a hotplate and espresso maker.

“You want a cup?” he asks. “I’ve got to have my espresso.”

(No milk, two sugars)

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