Republicans look to work through party divide

Despite winning big, not all Republicans are happy with the slate of candidates who were voted into office just one week ago on Election Day.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Anthony Simonetti said even though the RTC did not get all of its endorsed candidates voted in, the party has to focus on how it will move forward to best serve the residents of Shelton.

“As the chair of the RTC, my job is to facilitate our candidates, and provide the mayor as many loyal Republicans for his administration, and to go forward with him and anything he needs to do to keep the city on track,” Simonetti said.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said he doesn’t understand why former Planning and Zoning Chairman Ruth Parkins was the only endorsed Republican candidate who wasn’t elected.

In her place is Mark Widomski, endorsed by the community group Save Our Shelton (SOS).  Widomski won after he collected the most votes of any of the five candidates who ran for P&Z. Along with Widomski, Commissioners Jimmy Tickey and Anthony Pogoda were both re-elected.

SOS members speculated that the push to get Parkins out of office came as a result of her supporting the would-be 121-acre mixed-use development, Shelter Ridge, that was approved by a 4-2 vote earlier this year. Residents opposed to the approved zone change and development are currently raising funds to fight the city of Shelton in a lawsuit that challenges the procedure used in the P&Z’s decision process.

Lauretti disagrees with those speculations by SOS.

“If people weren’t happy with Shelter Ridge they can’t just take it out on her, they should take it out on me, too,” Lauretti said. “They should take it out on everyone that voted for it. It’s not just the Planning & Zoning Commission, it will be the other commissions, too. It made no sense that they were going to vote against Ruth Parkins and then vote for me. They shouldn’t have voted for me because I support it, too.”

Lauretti ran unopposed in the 2017 election, which guaranteed him a 14th term in office. P&Z alternate Ned Miller, who also voted in favor of Shelter Ridge, was also re-elected in 2017.

Greg Tetro of SOS said the group was pleased overall with the candidates who were elected.

“Save Our Shelton wants to thank everyone who supported us this election,” said Tetro. “We provided a choice and the voters responded. We can’t be more proud of those who were elected to P&Z.”

Both Board of Aldermen President John Anglace and Simonetti stated that now the city’s government must focus on working with its board and commission members. Anglace said the results of the race have earned Widomski his respect and the support of the RTC.

“We have a situation now where we have to get these boards up and running to handle the tasks they are assigned and accepted when they decided to run for office. It’s going to be a learning curve for Mark [Widomski] and the other people on the board that are new,” said Simonetti. “The other people will have to assist him and he will have to do his homework so that he can perform the duties that he’s accepted. We look forward to him doing his job as a Planning & Zoning commissioner and putting in all of the time and effort that it takes, which is quite extensive.”

Lauretti was puzzled when he heard Anglace say that Widomski has earned his support after winning the election.

“I don’t see that, I don’t see where he’s coming up with that,” said Lauretti. “I can’t speak for the Republican Town Committee, but Mark Widomski doesn’t have any respect from me.

“He’s not on the team,” the mayor added. “Team Lauretti has been around for a long time. We used to have good team players, but that’s changed because people have changed. I mean people who profess to be on the team. We haven’t been a team in eight years. We have defeated the enemy and now the enemy is us.”

Widomski said his main focus is determining what’s best for the residents of Shelton.

“I look forward to working with both parties, all residents, developers, and Shelton officials to achieve a goal of wise and appropriate growth,” said Widomski. “We must take a common-sense approach when growing our Shelton. We must protect our neighborhoods, control traffic and listen to the wishes of all residents.”

“That’s cute that he would say that, because he’s never expressed an interest in running for anything, until he decided to petition his way on,” Lauretti said. “This was an effort to go after Ruth Parkins, and it’s pretty clear to everyone.”

Parkins oversaw her last scheduled meeting as P&Z chairman Tuesday, Nov. 14.

Asked if he would find another place for Parkins on Team Lauretti, the mayor said he had doubts that she has any interest in participating in another form of city government.

“I’m not sure that she would want to serve anymore, because after what she’s been through the past couple of years is pretty disheartening, in my opinion,” Lauretti said. “People don’t understand the level of work that goes into being the chair of Planning and Zoning in Shelton, Conn. The busiest Planning and Zoning Commission in the state of Connecticut.”

Parkins said she hasn’t ruled out a future in Shelton government, but she’s not immediately considering any positions.