Mayor Rich Dziekan’s new administration reached out across political rivalries again this week by hiring Lynn DiGiovanni as a consultant.
DiGiovanni is former Mayor Anita Dugatto’s sister-in-law.
Dziekan unseated Dugatto — a two-term mayor and the city’s first female to hold the position — on Nov. 6.
DiGiovanni will act as a conduit between Dziekan’s administration and state officials concerning the widening of Route 34 and the redevelopment initiative under way on the south side of Derby’s Main Street.
She will be paid $1,000 per week, according to Andrew Baklik, Mayor Dziekan’s chief of staff.
The hire is temporary, as DiGiovanni is scheduled to take another job outside of Derby government in mid-January.
DiGiovanni essentially held the same position when Dugatto was in office, albeit on a voluntary basis, according to Baklik.
She has important institutional knowledge when it comes the various redevelopment grants Derby has received in four years — and the state has a lot of money tied up in Derby.
The state has committed somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million during Dugatto’s time in office to help Derby come up with a workable plan for its redevelopment zone — the stretch of land between Main Street and the Housatonic River from the Derby-Shelton bridge to the former Lifetouch property next to the entrance to Route 8 south.
About $450,000 paid for a consulting company to study the area and hold public forums which resulted in the “U street” plan for the redevelopment zone.
The city is receiving $5 million from the state to build streets and infrastructure within the redevelopment zone.
Most recently Derby received $200,000 from the state to conduct environmental assessments in the redevelopment zone.
A job training facility connected to a community college is already in serious discussions for the former Lifetouch property.
The hope is the redevelopment zone can eventually yield 469 residential units, 96,000 square feet of retail, and 66,000 square feet of small manufacturing.
DiGiovanni was a key behind-the-scenes player between Dugatto’s administration and the state regarding those grants, Baklik said.
On Monday Dziekan and Baklik — both Republicans — told The Valley Indy Carmen DiCenso, a Democrat and former president of the Board of Aldermen, had been hired as a part-time economic development liaison.
He will be paid $25 an hour, Baklik said Wednesday.
Baklik said DiCenso and DiGiovanni will be working closely for the next month.
Bringing in both DiCenso and DiGiovanni makes sense, Baklik said.
“Lynn was another no-brainer choice for us. I keep thinking about that (Sterling) opera house grant, and some of the things that were not communicated in between the change of administrations last time,” he said, referring the city drawing money from a grant without doing the necessary paperwork.
“We just don’t want those things to happen,” Baklik said. “It’s really great from a continuity standpoint to have her on board.”
The chief of staff said the new administration “doesn’t want to drop the ball with things we have going on with the (state) DOT, or DEEP, or the Department of Economic Development. (DiGiovanni) really has great relationships already, not to mention Naugatuck Valley COG.”
In an email, DiGiovanni said her decision to take the job was not hard. The downtown projects are not about party politics, they’re about the greater good of the city.
“For the first time in many, many years, downtown development is getting some real traction,” she said. “A project of this complexity and scale requires continuity and persistent effort to be successful — and it has to transcend politics. I wanted to do what I could to maintain that momentum and position the new administration for continued success.”
Baklik said hiring DiCenso and DiGiovanni show Mayor Dziekan wants to move Derby forward, and that hiring good people isn’t connected to which “team” they were on.
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