Anthony Saccone is new to Ledyard’s political arena and as far as he’s concerned that’s not a bad thing.
“Being an outsider to the political world, I bring a fresh view or vision for Ledyard,” said Saccone, the Democratic candidate for mayor, who since 2008 has been chief of the Gales Ferry Volunteer Fire Co. “I can look at a situation for the first time and not be held back by the way things have always been done.”
One thing he won’t do, he said, is throw political brickbats at his opponents. Many have been highly critical of Republican Mayor Fred B. Allyn Jr., who this year is a petitioning candidate for mayor. Critics have called Allyn dictatorial, secretive and divisive, among other things.
Saccone, however, said that Allyn “generally has done a good job,” while stressing his management style and vision would differ greatly from the incumbent.
“I’m not going to be critical during the campaign,” he said, relaxing at his Richards Road home. “I refuse to run a negative campaign. I’m going to focus on our own vision and how we can best achieve our goals.”
Saccone, who is 54, isn’t oblivious to how the town is run. As chief of the fire company since 2008 (and a member since 2001) he has managed a $250,000 budget and appeared before the Town Council on several occasions. He said he has balanced the fire company budget every year and, for the last two years, six line items haven’t changed.
The biggest challenge has been attracting volunteer firefighters, as has been the case with fire companies and other volunteer organizations throughout the region. He said there are 25 volunteers but only 15 of them are active. In a perfect world, there would be 35 active members, according to Saccone.
Saccone was raised in a middle-class family in Greenbush, N.Y. His father was a lineman for a utility company while his mother raised Tony and his six brothers and sisters. He served in the Navy from 1976-79, aboard a destroyer out of Norfolk, Va. His first civilian job was with the U.S. Postal Service. He transferred to Florida but found it too hot to be a letter carrier in the Sunshine State.
Saccone and his wife, Noreen, were married in 1987 and moved to Ledyard in 1988. They have raised four children.
He had always wanted to be a firefighter and landed a job at the Submarine Base fire department that year. He would serve in that position for 20 years. There was an overlap since he joined the Gales Ferry company 10 years ago.
Saccone said the lure of becoming a firefighter is the camaraderie inside the firehouse and he said he enjoys the job’s challenges and serving the community as well.
He acknowledged that there will be a learning curve as he becomes more and more immersed in town politics and governance. “But, at the same time, I know the town, its people and its government,” he said.
Development a top priority
He sees economic development as a high priority for the next mayor. He considers development as a balancing act – bringing jobs and economic activity to town while maintaining Ledyard as a bedroom and agricultural community.
He envisions companies with 250 or fewer employees setting up shop at such sites as the Ocean State Job Lot center on Route 12. He said there are empty business locations elsewhere and that one of the best-kept secrets is that rental rates are lower in Ledyard than in surrounding towns.
Saccone also wants to make families facing economic hardships aware of state and federal programs that can ward off foreclosure of homes. One program, for instance, provides for the deferment of mortgage payments for three to six months.
He said he currently works 55 to 60 hours a week – between his job with the Ledyard Housing Authority and as volunteer fire chief.
Saccone is in a four-way race for mayor. In addition to himself and Allyn, there are John Rodolico, the Republican nominee, and petitioning candidate Robert Lawrence.
He clearly sees a need for the next mayor to be a visionary. In a recent short speech, he used the word “vision” five times.
One example: “A leader has vision for the future that incorporates the dreams and aspirations from the broadest cross-section of the Ledyard population today, a avision that can expand for the Ledyard of tomorrow.”
He also said he expects Ledyard to be the town of “first choice.” He said this vision emcompasses:
- A a great place for children, grandchildren and for seniors to live. It envisions a place where you see their future in Ledyard and decide to stay there.
- A place where education develops life-long learners, flexible thinkers and innovators.
- A financial base that frees residents from the limitations of state and federal budgets.
He said in an interview that he sees the mayor, representing the executive branch, working closely with the Town Council, the legislative body, “toward a common cause.”
As for raising morale for town employees, he said there should be fair contracts that serve both the workers and the town. Sometimes, he said, morale can be improved by something as simple as a pat on the back.
“I would be a servant of the people,” he said. “All residents should feel like they’re part of the system.”