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Election Season Enters Its Final Stretch

April 4, 2024
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Election Season Enters Its Final Stretch

In less than six weeks, on Tuesday, November 7, Orange residents will be heading to the polls to cast their votes for town government.  While the Republican ticket lists the well- known, experienced crew, local Democrats are fielding a number of newcomers to municipal governance, many of them with impressive credentials.

At the head of the Republican ticket is long-time First Selectman Jim Zeoli who is seeking his 10th term, and with him on the ballot for the Board of Selectmen are incumbents John Carangelo, Ralph Okenquist and Judy Williams.

Challenging Zeoli is Democrat Mark Moyher, who has a professional background in the financial industry, and running alongside him for the Board of Selectmen are incumbents PJ Shanley and Mitch Goldblatt, as well as newcomer Melissa Johnston, a marketing manager at a company called Defibtech.

Town Clerk Mary Shaw and Tax Collector Thomas Hurley, both Republicans, are on the ballot for re-election.  They are both unopposed.

It’s for the Board of Finance that things become interesting.  The Republican incumbents are Kevin Houlihan and James Leahy, current chairman and vice chairman of that board, respectively, who have served in their position for many years.  The Democrats are fielding Anna Mahon, who comes with a lot of name recognition as the former Amity High School principal; and Jen Alfaro, a business owner.

For the local Board of Education, incumbents Bill Kraut and Ken Ziman are running on the Republican ticket, along with newcomer Anthony Scarinzi, a computer programmer with Aquarion Water Company.

Running for re-election on the Democratic ticket are Susan Riccio and Betty Hadlock, and newcomer Ralph Marguy, a fire inspector at Yale University.

As for the Orange delegation to the Amity Board of Education, it looks like it will see a large turnover, as neither Christopher Browe nor Amy Tirollo or Shannan Carlson are seeking re-election.  The Republican candidates include Cathy Bradley, who comes with a long list of public service positions, including the Orange Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; Michael McDonough, a property management business owner; and Dana Lombardi, a Yale University financial assistant.

On the Democratic ticket is incumbent and board Chairman Paul Davis, along with Social Studies teacher Josh Orlinsky, writer Ken Briodagh and Jennifer Jacquet, director of Operations at Safe from Online Sex Abuse, a non-profit.

Running for constables are Republicans Gary Palermo, Jody Daymon, Glen Papleo and Michael Donadeo.  For the Democrats, it’s Jody Dietch, Santo Galatioto Jr and Randy Thomas.

For the Zoning Board, Republicans Tom Torrenti and Judy Smith are seeking re-election.  They are being challenged by two attorneys, Scott Rogalski and Ken Lenz.  In addition, incumbent Paul Kaplan is running for re-election, but his term is offset from that of the other candidates, with his current term not up for re-election until next year.

Running on the record:  Zeoli and his Republican team can point to a long list of accomplishments, first and foremost the preservation of open space.  “Prudent open space acquisition…like Ewen Farm, Orange Fairground, and the Hubbell property have helped to maintain Orange’s rural climate that we all love and helps to keep Orange green,” it states on the Republican Town Committee website.  Add to that the Racebrook Country Club property, which the town decided to purchase about two years ago in order to prevent large-scale development.

Most recently, construction wrapped up at the inclusive playground at Fred Wolfe Park.  Grand opening or soft opening, the kids couldn’t wait to take possession of their newest playspace, and, according to Zeoli, it has been enthusiastically embraced.  Some aspects of the playground project are yet to be added, such as shade trees, picnic tables, benches and such.

Hand in hand with open space preservation, Zeoli also likes to point out commercial successes that were negotiated, such as the FedEx Freight Distribution Center, Hilton Homewood Suites, and the V.A. Care Center that moved into Orange.  Most recently, the Firelite Shopping Plaza was turned into a mixed-use apartment complex with retail at the ground floor.  It is developments such as these that will revitalize the commercial area.

Zeoli is proud of the business-friendly reputation the town has built.  “Orange’s light is shining bright at the moment,” he is quoted on the party website.  “We have put in a lot of hard work and effort over the last several years to prepare the industrial zone for this level of development.  With continued support from our team, which includes the Orange Economic Development Corporation and our local commercial Realtors we expect to maintain this momentum through the long term.”

The housing market has also expanded considerably in recent years, adding more housing opportunities for area residents.  Several housing projects have come to fruition, all in close proximity to the Boston Post Road, for different target audiences.  In addition to the Firelite Plaza project, another development with affordable units is going up just up the road; and the Beecher Walk condos for those 55 and older are now fully built out.  On the other side of the Indian River Road, The Vero recently opened its doors, and is offering senior living solutions and assisted living facilities.

On the Republican website, the Town Committee also expresses support for the public schools – both the elementary and the Amity system.  However, the relationship between the Amity leadership and the Orange Board of Finance has been fraught with tension in recent years.  In fact, the Amity budget failed to pass at referendum after the vice chairman of the Orange Board of Finance published a series of articles criticizing the Amity surplus.

It is notable that long-time Amity High School Principal Anna Mahon — who is now assistant superintendent in Brookfield — is running, not for the Board of Education, but for a spot on the Orange Board of Finance.  If elected, she could presumably help build bridges between the schools and Town Hall.

Challenger Mark Moyher:  Zeoli’s challenger, Democrat Mark Moyher, meanwhile has been busy introducing himself to the voters of the town.  He has gone door-to-door, talking to nearly 1,200 residents, he said.  “I am getting feedback through these conversations, I hear what people want,” he said in a phone conversation.  The number one concern is taxes, he said.

Mark Moyher’s background is in the financial industry, where he currently is head of trading at Wright’s Investors Service, and has lived in Orange for over 25 years.  Both he and his wife Ilene serve on the town’s Recycling Committee.  At the time of our conversation, he had just come from a weekend spent at the Orange Country Fair, splitting his time at the Recycling booth and the Democratic Town Committee booth.  He is also planning to help out at the upcoming Shredding Day event on Saturday, October 7.

If elected, he would make an effort to provide more transparency in government, which he finds sorely lacking under the current leadership.  (Moyher mentioned Fred Wolfe Park playground as being a prime example for that lack of communication and openness.  People were confused about whether the playground was open.)

As first selectman, he would make himself “as available as necessary,” even after hours, for people who are looking for information.  When elected, he would leave his current job at Wright’s Investor Service, he said, to be able to devote himself full-time to the town’s business.

He talked about the need for more attention to infrastructure improvements, in particular the roads, but also High Plains Community Center, and the school buildings.  He expressed dismay that Orange kids were sent home early in September due to the heat, while their counterparts in Bethany and Woodbridge had air conditioned schools.

He thinks that monies for such projects may be available through grants, which would allow the town to do things without raising taxes.  Besides which, the town’s fund balance of some 19% is too high in his opinion.  “We are overtaxing people,” he said.  Even with a fund balance of 8-10% of its budget, the town would keep its triple A bond rating.  His campaign slogan for this election, “More with Moyher” is reflective of his intention of doing more without raising taxes, he said.

Absentee voting:  Eligible voters who are either out of town on November 7 or can’t vote in person for any reason need to apply for an absentee ballot ahead of time, said Town Clerk Mary Shaw.  Her office will start sending out ballots to voters who requested one on October 6.  The clerk’s office will be communicating with the Registrars of Voters to make sure that the names of those who received a ballot will be checked off.

Those who vote absentee can return their ballot either by mail (if received by 8 p.m. on Election Day), by dropping them in the ballot box outside Town Hall; or by delivering them to the clerk’s office.  For questions, call the clerk’s office at Town Hall, (203) 891-4730.

In-person voting:  In-person voting will take place at High Plains Community Center, for all three voting districts.  Even though the ballot is the same for all, voters will be directed to their specific district, based on their address.  Hours are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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