Democratic mayoral hopeful Tony Saccone said he hopes to bring positive change to Ledyard, but in small steps. He is starting his campaign for mayor the same way.
Saccone hosted a "Meet the Candidate" event and hot dog roast Thursday at Erickson Park. He said he chose the park because it is one of Ledyard's many little-known treasures.
A small gathering of supporters attended the rally, eating hot dogs and listening to Saccone, a political new-comer, deliver one of his first campaign speeches.
"I'm a little nervous," the candidate admitted as he began his prepared remarks.
He spoke of empty storefronts in town and the pressing need to attract more business and light industry if Ledyard hopes to remain the picturesque, rural bedroom community that its residents love.
He also spoke of empty houses, noting some 40 homes in town that are now in foreclosure, and the need to leverage available programs to help people keep those homes.
Saccone said he is a political outsider, which was one of the things he considered a positive when making the decision to run for mayor.
But he is no outsider to Ledyard, he said. During his 23 years in town he has gotten to know Ledyard in a number of ways.
As chief of the Gales Ferry Fire Department, he said, he knows the town through its emergency services. As a parent of four children who were educated in Ledyard schools, he has come to know the school system, which he awarded high marks. And he has gotten to know the town’s seniors through his work in maintenance at Ledyard Senior Housing.
"As a town resident I have a sense of duty to serve," said the former civil servant, who retired from the Sub Base as Fire Captain. "I have been 31 years in the service of the United States government, and I want to continue that service to the town of Ledyard."
“What I have come to learn about Tony is that he is tied to the community and very actively involved in many ways,” said Ralph Hightower, who is managing Saccone’s campaign. “He sees a cross-section of residents, and tends not to view the town as Gales Ferry or Ledyard.”
At the same time, Hightower said, “Tony understands that there are different groups in town with different needs that have to be addressed.”
Most important, he said, Saccone is willing and able to ask for help.
“There’s a learning curve,” Hightower said, “but anyone who becomes chief of a volunteer fire department has the ability to mitigate and address problems.”
Town Councilor and former mayor Mary McGrattan noted similarities to the mayoral race in 1983, when she won as a woman and Democrat. That race featured three candidates, including then-Republican Wesley Johnson and independent Bill Levin.
This year there are four mayoral candidates on the ballot, including Republican John Rodolico, incumbent Mayor Fred B. Allyn Jr., who is running as a petitioning candidate, and petitioning candidate Robert Lawrence.
“I think the two (petitioning) candidates will definitely pull some votes away from the other two,” said McGrattan, who agreed that it should be an interesting race.
George Enos, who was in charge of grilling the hot dogs at the rally, said he has lived at Ledyard Senior Housing for four years, where he has gotten to know Saccone.
“He’s a very hard worker,” he said. “The guy never stops.”