Eldridge: Shelton needs ‘fresh eyes’

Photo of Brian Gioiele
David Eldridge

David Eldridge

Contributed photo / Contributed photo

SHELTON — David Eldridge says Mark Lauretti is not the only person who can run a city and keep taxes low. Now it comes down to convincing the voters.

The retired Shelton police officer turned mayoral candidate calls himself a fiscal conservative. But while his stance on maintaining a low tax rate mirrors that of the 15-term incumbent, Eldridge states he will do so while reining in development, streamlining city operations and investing in education.

“He isn’t the only person who can keep taxes low,” Eldridge, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a long-time employee at Sikorsky Aircraft, said about his opponent on Election Day, Nov. 2.

“We need someone dedicated to our residents,” Eldridge added. “Someone who will set better priorities, install better managers and practices, someone who will maximize resources for the betterment of the city.”

Eldridge admitted that, in the past he has supported Lauretti’s fiscal policies, but now believes Lauretti has been in office “way too long” and and allows the city to run “on autopilot.”

“I am committed to working day and night for the people of Shelton,” Eldridge added.

Eldridge, once owner of Anna’s Place in downtown Shelton, said, if elected, he would be busy on his first day. He said he would request the Board of Alderman approve a full financial audit of city finances, something he says is overdue.

“While my hope is a portion of good city employees will stay on, I will certainly be bringing in an all-star team to run the city,” Eldridge said. “There will be much-needed changes at the Police Department, and our emergency services departments will know I am there to support them, which in turn supports our residents. The era of wasteful tax dollar lawsuits will be over.”

Lauretti’s critics have often said his budgets do not invest in the school system. Eldridge says that will change under his stewardship. He said he is committed to holding the line on spending while making strategic investments in the schools.

“I will do all I can to eliminate pay-to-play sports, so all young people and families are not deterred from participating,” Eldridge said. “I will ensure grant funding opportunities support our classrooms, school safety, and the social and emotional well-being of our students are pursued. Our future workforce deserves better.”

Eldridge said the lack of appropriate school funding and the city-run bus company’s problems — with lack of drivers, missed routes and no line-item listing of costs — has eroded parents’ confidence, something he intends to restore under his leadership.

“Truthfully, we should have never been in the student transportation business. It is a debacle, and we don’t know the true costs of running this bus company,” he said. “There has been no transparency and line-item budgeting. We need to work toward turning these services over to the professionals through a competitive process and good negotiations, so we get the best deal for taxpayers.

A major concern that no one speaks about, Eldridge said, is that some of the buses are nearing the end of their service life, yet no plans for purchasing new buses have been discussed.

Eldridge said he would hire a professional grant-writer to secure state and federal money to augment the budget. The money for the new hire could come from money saved from streamlining the city’s workforce.

“We need a full-time grant writer to ensure more money comes in and we continue to grow our grand list with a thoughtful and well-planned vision for our city,” Eldridge said.

Ultimately, Eldridge said his goal is to bring people together for the betterment of the city. He cited his campaign team as proof of his ability to unite people, with Republicans Jim Capra, a former alderman, and school board member Anne Gaydos helping run his campaign which is on the Democratic ticket.

“They believed in me and realized we need change and 30 years of our current mayor is enough,” he said. “They would have never work with my campaign unless they were certain I would keep taxes low.

“We need fresh eyes on our city operations,” Eldridge said. “Our bond ratings have tanked. Our education system is declining. We have poorly planned development throughout our city and proposed for our neighborhoods. We need new ideas and leadership. Someone who can work with people.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com