Shelton mayor's race: Lauretti touts taxes and development

Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti
Republican Mayor Mark Lauretti

From Mayor Mark Lauretti’s perspective, residents just need to look at their tax bills and all the economic development around them to understand why he should be re-elected.

“If people are not happy with Shelton, they would have to leave the state for the services we provide and the taxes they pay,” Lauretti said.

He said Shelton’s taxes are lower than in all surrounding towns and went down in 2013.

At the same time, Lauretti said, more open space has been added, security in the schools is being upgraded, environmentally friendly propane school buses have been purchased, a new animal shelter is being constructed, and downtown redevelopment efforts are progressing.

Lauretti said Shelton’s tax base continues to expand. “Look around — we have an enviable balance,” he said of commercial development, residential development and open space.

He said this reflects a healthy, thriving community with a high quality of life. “People want to be here,” he said.

All the progress, said the 11-term incumbent, “didn’t happen overnight.”

‘I take nothing for granted’

Lauretti, 58, is seeking another two-year term. The Republican was first elected in 1991 with no prior political experience.

He said he ran the first time because he had just opened a restaurant and was frustrated with all the regulations and taxes. He said the government was creating obstacles to running a successful business.

“I was young and foolish and frustrated with politics,” he said.

Lauretti said when it comes to winning re-election, “I take nothing for granted, especially the public. But I feel comfortable with the product we deliver, year in and year out.”

The mayor said he wants to remain in office because “I like to achieve things. The latest one is the propane buses.”

Job keeps him busy

As mayor, he said, he is always working. “I’ve worked this job every day for the last 22 years,” he said. “The job and the campaign never ends for me.”

Lauretti is giving no indications he is tiring of the job. “Right now it’s working for me and I think it’s working for the city, so I’m going to go for it,” he said of seeking re-election this year.

He said residents are not upset he is considering a run for governor in 2014. “Shelton doesn’t get hurt either way,” he said, explaining that if he wins, Shelton would have a strong advocate as governor.

Stands by his direct style

Lauretti said he doesn’t hide where he stands on issues. “I’m very public. People know where I stand on issues,” he said.

“I’m not afraid of the media,” he continued. “I’m not afraid of the Board of Education — they don’t intimidate me.”

Ongoing priorities include infrastructure improvements, expanding recreational opportunities, education enhancements, and downtown renewal.

He said riverfront revitalization, including the new 250-unit Avalon apartment complex and the expansion of the Riverwalk that begins soon, will boost all of downtown and the entire city.

“That stuff wasn’t there prior to Mark Lauretti,” he said. “What was there was tremendous blight.”

Downplays Scanlon scandal

He downplayed questions about how former Assistant Finance Director Sharon Scanlon could allegedly steal close to $1 million from the city over a 10-year period without it being noticed.

He said the city has a Finance Department and outside auditors to monitor expenditures.

“I don’t look at individual checks,” he said. “We have over 1,500 line items in our budget.”

“I know in politics, particularly at election time, we like to blame people, but no one is perfect,” Lauretti said.

No debates this year

Lauretti said he has “little to say” about his opponent, Democrat David Gioiello, who also ran unsuccessfully against him in 2007.

Lauretti has said he’s not interested in participating in debates. “What’s there to debate about?” he said. “People in this community know what they have in Mark Lauretti — and people either like that or not.”

When asked what he doesn’t like about being mayor, Lauretti talked about the role of the media and how it frequently “misinforms” the public.

“They’ve lost their focus on what their job is — to supply the public with information and not to try to create the news,” he said.

Lauretti and his wife, Anndee, have four children. In the past, he has owned restaurants and worked as a schoolteacher and sports coach.