The mayoral race in East Haven heats up as two candidates, both Democrats, will face each other in a primary vote on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
For voters who need details on the primary, click here.
The two candidates are John "Jack" Stacey, the Democratic Town Committee's endorsed candidate following their July 16 caucus, and Gary DePalma, who obtained the required signatures to force a primary.
Patch asked the candidates two general questions as the town heads into Tuesday's primary. Neither candidate saw the other person's response prior to publication.
Question: In your opinion, what is the #1 issue facing East Haven today and what are some of your general ideas to rectify the situation?
Jack Stacey: There is no one issue in East Haven that outweighs all the others because each person, each neighborhood would prioritize a different issue. While speaking with residents I hear them talk about the high taxes, the blighted properties, the embarrassment they feel when they tell people where they live. People have come up to me on the street to decry the lack of upkeep and maintenance on the streets, their sidewalks, public properties, parks, our schools. The parents worry about the test scores, the seniors worry about the rising cost of living and access to public services. They lament the inability to get responses from Town Hall. They pray for jobs. They want East Haven to meet it's potential. These are all pieces of a greater puzzle and we must address all of these issues if we are to improve the quality of life for our residents.
Gary DePalma: Since announcing my candidacy for Mayor, I’ve outlined a platform calling for new leadership to restore integrity to town government, advance economic growth and improve education standards. I’ve never wavered from advancing those objectives. In fact, after speaking with thousands of people across town, it’s clear to me more than ever these top issues carry equal standing related to their direct impact on East Haven families. East Haven’s negative portrayal across the country is fueled by a culture of arrogance and political expediency from its current town government. We’re facing a leadership structure that rewards contributors, rather than hard working taxpayers. Government is not supposed to be about enriching friends; it’s about protecting the best interests of an entire community. I will work to implement a strict code of ethics with the aim of re-establishing the principles of integrity and hard work to public service. Approximately half the money allocated for education in East Haven goes to administrative overhead. Look at the results: According to the 2013 Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) scores, roughly 40% of East Haven 10th Grade students failed to reach goal in ANY of the four subject areas tested: Reading, Writing, Math & Science. I’ll work to see that we use your money to educate and invest in our students, instead of wasting it on administrative costs. As lifelong public servant, I understand the value of a dollar earned. I’ll apply the same principles of self-control I’ve use in my own home to manage the fiscal priorities of our taxpayers. With that said, it’s important we re-invest in core infrastructure to promote growth and improve quality of life for all our residents. Fact is, neglect in this area has left East Haven in a state of disrepair. It serves as a deterrent to prospective business partners interested in making an investment in our community. I will strive to ensure the taxes we pay match the services we receive. Ultimately, I believe new leadership is required to bring strong values back to Town Hall in order to build a better, more prosperous community in East Haven.
Question: What are your qualifications for the position of Mayor of East Haven?Jack Stacey: I have been a teacher for 15 years, where I worked with a diverse population and learned to listen and address the needs of individuals. I have been an active member of my community for over 30 years, serving in numerous leadership roles. I have served on the Civil Service Commission overseeing the testing, applications, and hiring of town employees. Both of my children went to East Haven schools and I coached youth sports around town for a decade. But what makes me the best candidate in this race for Mayor is that I have common sense. I can unify people. I exercise good judgement. I can admit my mistakes and correct them. I am a hard-working, intelligent, compassionate man. And I am the only candidate running for mayor who can make good on the promises we make you because my promises are achievable, measurable and for the benefit of all of East Haven.
Gary DePalma: My decision to run for Mayor was made after I was elected to my 3rd consecutive term on the Town Council, representing the 2nd District. I have worked budget issues and analyzed our town government from top to bottom during my Council service. As a result, and quite frankly, I became frustrated with a process that catered to political expediency more than the best interests of our taxpayers. With the help of supporters from both political parties, I saw this decision as an opportunity to change that cycle, force our elected officials to accountability and advance town government beyond its current limitations. A deep commitment to public service best distinguishes my candidacy. My parents, Fred & Sylvia DePalma, raised three boys and taught us the importance of public service. I spent my professional career as a Police Officer. I worked on the front lines of this community for over 25 years. I’m proud of that service. The principles of hard work and fiscal restraint best represent my core beliefs. Sound financial management on both a personal and professional level is a primary indicator of success. As Mayor, I will use my experience to restore strong ethics and a focused leadership style to Town Hall. My top priorities will always be the East Haven taxpayer and quality of life in our Town.