Whether the next City Council will have any women after the Nov. 5 election depends entirely on voters in one of the city’s three districts.
Of the 13 candidates seeking a council seat, the only two women in the running are 3rd District Democrats.
The most well-known, Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, served three council terms on the council before running unsuccessfully for mayor in 2007, when she lost a bitter primary to the man who has served in the city’s top job ever since, Art Ward.
|Jim Albert and Derek Czenczelewski at the Mum Festival.|
The other, Mary Fortier, is a lawyer with the Waterbury court system.
Both are taking aim at first-term GOP incumbent Derek Czenczelewski and newcomer Jim Albert, who got into the race last month when city Councilor David Mills pulled out to care for his ailing wife.
Czenczelewski, who has pushed for privatization and to rein in spending, is considered the most vulnerable of the three incumbents seeking reelection.
He said the Republican-majority council, which took control in 2011, “has asked the tough questions” on a wide range of issues “and created a new age of transparency in government,” including monthly town hall forums that Czenczelewski initiated.
The Republican incumbent has championed a number of ideas, from tax breaks for owner-occupied rental properties to hiring a broker to sell lots in the city’s industrial park.
Albert, a retired U.S. Air Force officer and hospital executive, said this year’s race is “about the size of government and taxes. My opponents have openly and repeatedly said the best way to improve our quality of life, student performance, and economy is to grow government and raise taxes.”
He said government has a role to play but “we can’t afford more taxes at this time” and called for a detailed review of spending.
Fortier said there are “fundamental differences between our opponents and ourselves. We believe government is and should be a power for good.”
“This election isn't about taxes, it's about spending, using the resources we have wisely. Irresponsible cutting of budgets under the guise of protecting the taxpayer leads to the breakdown of services and programs that support and protect all our citizens,” she said.
Zoppo-Sassu said, “Republicans may say they are keeping taxes low, but there are many areas where fees have increased under their watch: hidden fees and costs such as a 50 percent increase in swimming lessons” at the city’s indoor pool.
Zoppo-Sassu said the city’s priorities for capital spending are also a concern. She said that even firefighters, whose union endorsed her, are “scratching their heads about a costly new training facility.
“How about fixing some potholes instead?” said Zoppo-Sassu.
Czenczelewski, who works as marketing director for The S/L/A/M Collaborative, attended Bristol schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in sports promotions at UConn. He and his fiancée, Sarah Chagnon, built a home in the district last year. He has no children.
Fortier has a B.A. in history and secondary education from Boston College and a law degree from the Western New England College of Law in Springfield, Mass.
She’s worked for the state court system since 1999, including the past six years as the caseflow coordinator for complex litigation in the Waterbury court.
Fortier and her husband, David, have six children. She’s been involved in many community organizations and served on the city’s Housing Code Board of Appeals, but this is her first political foray.
Albert, a 1974 St. Paul Catholic High School graduate, owns a healthcare consulting practice and teaches graduate courses on healthcare and technology at the University of Connecticut and Boston University
A career U.S. Air Force officer who retired in 1998, he holds a bachelor’s degree in risk management and insurance from UConn and a master’s in technology management at The American University in the nation’s capital.
He and his wife, Denise, have two grown daughters, Albert is a past president of the Franco-American Club of Bristol, among other local organizations.
Zoppo-Sassu, the communications director for the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, first sought office at age 26 when she battled unsuccessfully with Plymouth Republican Bill Hamzy for a state House seat.
Married to city Police Officer Peter Sassu, she won a 2nd District council seat in 2001 and held it until 2007 when she got her party’s endorsement to run for mayor but lost the subsequent primary to Ward.
She’s running in the 3rd District now despite living in the same Merriman Street home because the boundary lines changed following the 2010 Census.
A Bristol native with three children, Zoppo has a B.A. in political science from Providence College and a master’s degree in public affairs from UCOnn.
There is one woman among the six council members, Democrat Mayra Sampson, who is stepping down next month. Sampson said the city “does need more women” in positions of power.
City councilors serve two-year-terms for $9,500 annually. There are six council members, with two elected from each of three districts. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5.