Town Councilman Jason Zandri announced his candidacy for the office of mayor at the Democratic Town Committee meeting last week. In so doing, he set in motion a possible contest with 31-year incumbent
Zandri is expected to gain the official endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee at its convention next year. Councilman Nicholas Economopoulos, who had expressed an interest in running, has thrown his support behind Zandri.
“I’m thrilled. That’s the word I’m using,” said an exuberant Economopoulos on Friday. “We were lucky to have Zandri come forward. We can get this town up and running again.”
Economopoulos ran through a number of mayoral elections in which Dickinson triumphed, among them the election in 2009 when Dickinson ran unopposed.
“Those people ran old-fashioned campaigns,” he said of previous Democratic contenders such as Vince Testa and James Vumbaco. “They tried to run the campaign running as a gentleman. You’re not going to win this campaign running as a gentleman.”
Economopoulos — or “Big Nick” as he is known — said that at present Zandri faces an uphill battle, although he said his odds of winning will improve once the Democrats begin publicizing some of the issues they decry in government.
“It’s hard for the truth to come out,” he said, noting the 6-3 majority the Republicans have on the town council in addition to their presence on the boards and in the departments of town government.
Among a number of concerns, Bill Comerford, another Democratic stalwart, criticized the lack of attention by the current administration to Wallingford’s infrastructure.
“It’s nice to have a triple aaa bond rating,” he said. “The problem is we’ve fallen so far behind . . . We have fallen behind in our infrastructure — the roads, the sidewalks. The parks. It’s catching up with us.”
He mentioned a computer program he said most towns have that evaluates roads and keeps track of preventative maintenance. An employee at the Department of Public Works in Wallingford said she could not comment on whether Wallingford had such a program, although she did acknowledge the town’s limited computer capacities.
“Go look at the ceiling in Town Hall. The ceiling of every single floor in town hall is stained,” Comerford said, noting that, on occasion, buckets have been placed in Town Hall because of leaks in the roof. “There’s no accountability” he decried.
“If they delay long enough, you end up spending more. We have seen this time and time again,” said candidate Zandri, reached in New York where he commutes to work as a systems analyst at Bloomberg News. He thought of sidewalks in Wallingford that he said have deteriorated and also the condition of school roofs. “If they delay long enough, you end up spending more.”
“At what point do you cut bait?”
One very public aspect of town government is the lack of computer service in most municipal departments.
“That’s an embarrassment,” Economopoulus said. He noted the waste of taxpayer dollars because of the need for postage, paper and the use of municipal employees’ time that now compensates for the lack of email. “It’s ridiculous.”
“We have to move Wallingford forward,” said Zandri, who noted he has lived in Wallingford all his life. He thought of the recent hurricane where residents tried to access information through Facebook and Twitter to no avail. “We’re not even quaint anymore. We’re behind the times.”
He also said Wallingford was becoming less of a community and more of bedroom town. He said he hoped to inject community spirit — and pride — in addition to fresh ideas. “The current administration is too much an administration from the past.”
The incumbent mayor, however, has not yet announced his intention to run for re-election. On Friday, Mayor Dickinson said he will not decide whether to run next year until after the forthcoming budget process, which he said he expects to find “agonizing.”
“I take nothing for granted,” the mayor said.