At a party caucus Monday night Ledyard Democrats nominated Gales Ferry Fire Chief Tony Saccone as their candidate for mayor. It will be Saccone's first foray into politics, a move he said he has considered for about two years.
But it was only a couple of nights ago that Saccone formally made the decision to throw in his hat, and even at the start of the caucus Monday his plans were still unknown to many in the room.
Nominating Committee Chairman Kenneth Koe announced Saccone's candidacy, citing his background as a civil service firefighter at the U.S. Submarine Base and, after retiring as captain from the Base, as chief of the Gales Ferry Fire Co. for more than three years.
"His work experience has included supervising volunteers as well as paid employees, and he has negotiated with unions," Koe said. "He told us about several money-saving initiatives that he introduced into the fire department operations. He is a team player, and has made a favorable impression on everyone on the DTC Nominating Committee."
Saccone joins a four-man race for mayor that includes incumbent Republican Mayor Fred B. Allyn Jr., who is running as a petitioning candidate, GOP-endorsed John Rodolico, and petitioning candidate Robert Lawrence.
Saccone has lived in Gales Ferry for the past 23 years. He and his wife, Noreen, have four children.
State Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-42nd, was on hand to offer his support to Saccone, someone he has known and worked with for several years, he said.
"I don't know that I've met a more professional, more honest, more hard-working, more ethical public servant than Tony Saccone," Reynolds said. "I feel honored that we will have him to support and to work for this fall."
Democrats also nominated a slate of candidates for Town Council and Board of Education.
For Council: Mary McGrattan, Bill Saums, Sharon Wadecki, Naomi Rodriquez and Ed Monahan.
For Board of Education: Sharon Hightower, Michelle Hinton, Stephanie Calhoun, John Phetteplace, Rebecca Graebner and Ted Nunes.
Saccone, whose retirement job is in maintenance at Ledyard Senior Housing, said he feels he has the time now to devote to the mayor's job. Asked his top priority should he be elected, he said it would be holding the line on taxes.
"And moving the town forward," he said, "keeping Ledyard safe for our kids to grow up in a safe town."
Saccone said his experience in the emergency services affords him a special insight on volunteerism and recruiting volunteers, something he said is vital to small towns like Ledyard.
"Eighty percent of the firefighters in Connecticut are volunteers, so we need to keep drawing on that resource -- not just for the emergency services, but also for town government and a range of other services," he said.
Saccone said he's been a political watcher for many years. "Just in the past couple years I've been thinking about getting into town politics, mostly because I enjoy the public service aspect," he said.
This will be his first political campaign. "I jumped right in there, didn't I," he said.
Democratic Town Councilor Bill Saums said he was thrilled by Saccone's nomination.
"There's been a lot of discussion about whether the Democrats would put a candidate forward," he said. "We decided that the most important job a political party has is to put candidates forward so that the voters can decide.
"I've been saying all along I wanted a candidate we could stand behind, not just a name, and tonight we got that person."