Joe Maturo tapped perhaps an unlikely campaign manager for his mayoral bid this year. One who is a relative political newcomer. Who is a self-described independent thinker. Republican Councilman Paul Carbo prides himself on voting with his "heart and head," and not necessarily along party line (his voting record so reflects). And, he maintained, he's got no political ambitions for himself. He just wants to see the town run better and Maturo is his pick to do it.
"I felt Joe did a very good job," said Carbo. "Five terms, five balanced budgets, a positive fund balance of $3 million plus."
Maturo, who served five terms as mayor from 1997-2007, said he embraces Carbo's independent streak.
"I know he's an independent thinker. I don't think anyone in the Republican Party who's an elected official toes the party line, and certainly not Paul," said Maturo. "I think he's very capable, very astute and a good leader."
The 56-year-old Carbo said he paused at first when Maturo asked him to be his number one guy on the campaign. In 2009, Carbo worked with Republican John Finkle in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Democratic Mayor April Capone, who is running this November for her third term. With Finkle likely primarying Maturo this September, Carbo said he had to mull it over.
"I did have to think about it. I wanted to be sure where Joe's head was in taking the town back again," said Carbo, who's serving his first term on the Council. "There was some talk back and forth before I said yes."
Carbo was quick to point out that he considers Finkle a "good man. I just think that the success of the Republican Party falls under the Maturo administration. Again, I think Joe would be the better candidate to unseat April."
But would he have said yes to Finkle if he had gotten to him before Maturo did?
"Probably not. When (Town Councilman) Ken McKay was going to be John's opponent, I was leaning towards Ken," said Carbo. (Joe Zullo is Finkle's campaign manager.)
Carbo grew up in the Foxon section of town. He came from a family of "diehard Democrats," he said. His father was assistant director of Public Service under the Proto administration; his mother was an administrative assistant at Joseph Melillo Middle School.
In 1972, Carbo graduated East Haven High School and then pursued a degree in allied health sciences from Quinnipiac University. He initially worked as an x-ray technician (today he's a self-employed consultant for an imaging company).
Carbo married, had five daughters and in 1990, the family moved to Northford. Up until then, Carbo said he was registered as an independent. Once in Northford, he joined the elephant club. He moved back to East Haven in 2001 and held onto his party affiliation.
"I tend to be fiscally conservative," said Carbo explaining why he turned Republican. "I believe a party should run their town, state government as they run their house. You just don't spend more than you have."
On social issues, he sounds a little less conservative. While the councilman said he's pro-life, he said he doesn't believe the government should dictate what a woman does with her body. That abortion should be strictly a woman's choice.
Back to November
Carbo said he didn't sign on with Maturo to further a political career. No, Carbo said, what's important to him is his kids, his wife, his business, and enjoying life, like taking family trips to their second home in Vermont.
"I have no political aspirations whatsoever other than sitting on a board. I was once a scientist. I am now a salesperson. I do not want to run the town," said Carbo.
While no party likes a primary, which drains money and energy from the main event in November, Carbo said if there is one, he'll deal with it.
"We are not adverse to going to a primary but we will do whatever it takes to unify the party," said Carbo. "We just want to move forward with the best candidate that can do the job."
Maturo said Carbo's lack of political experience doesn't daunt him one bit. In fact, he said it's an asset.
"New people are good to have on staff because you come up with new and fresh ideas," said Maturo. "Great guy. Great family. And a beautiful family at that."