Anthony Saccone, who has served as chief of the Gales Ferry Fire Company, is one of four candidates running for Mayor of Ledyard on Nov. 8. His background and responses to seven questions appear below.
Name: Anthony G. Saccone, Sr.
Address: 29 Richard Rd. Gales Ferry, CT 06335
Employment: Fire Captain (Ret.) U. S. Naval Submarine Base Fire Department, 2008. Part-time employee, Ledyard Housing Authority.
Education: Assoc. Degree Fire Science and Technology
Previous elected experience: N/A
Civic experience: Fire Chief, 3 years, Gales Ferry Fire Department, member for 10 years.
1. What do you consider to be the single biggest issue facing the town?
I think that economic development is the biggest issue. The result of the Mayor and Council holding the budget relatively flat has in effect limited the Town’s ability to grow. I want our town to be a vibrant place for all residents. Economic development will increase resources through the services businesses provide, businesses attract other businesses, employment opportunities can increase, and intellectual capital can increase.
I have addressed this issue in more detail in question 2.
The second biggest issue is our leader’s inability to get along for the good of the town. I will lead our town’s team and facilitate communication that addresses our differences, works through our disagreements, and develops solutions for a better Ledyard. My leadership style relies on respect, trust and consensus-building.
2. What do you think Ledyard can do to attract and encourage greater economic development?
The town leaders must make economic development a priority and then act in a way that welcomes and supports development. The list of benefits that economic development produces needs to be expanded beyond the notion of additional taxes for the government. Economic development promotes: activity, (entrepreneurs are drawn to activity, their collective activity generates ideas, ideas that can result in additional services, ways to do things better, access to other resources); increased foot traffic from residents and consumers; jobs; retention of residents; and, an enhanced attractiveness of people considering which town is the best match for their desired quality of life.
The Mayor will play a visible role to promote/market the advantages of the town, its make-up, assets and people. I believe that it is the small businesses, sole proprietorship, that are critical to our economic development.
The success of economic development starts with a strategic plan that focused on the type of businesses desired to attract with the quality of life appropriate to Ledyard. The development plan needs to address the resources that focus on the needs of the business sector desired; i.e., small business start-ups – they typically fall prey to under capitalization (therefore identify the type of support that can ensure their success).
One of Ledyard’s assets is the quality of the school system and the families attracted by it. Many more families today are headed by women. The women are looking for work that provides flexibility to attend to the needs of their families. Owning a business is an option. Ledyard should work with the banks to make available micro loans for the start-up of a “cottage enterprise.”
High-tech computer businesses can also be attractive to Ledyard. Most have small footprints and will be in harmony with our desired quality of life. An added benefit is the exposure of our residents to the work of the 21st century and it could influence the public school curriculum.
3. How important would you say it is to maintain strong, professional working relationships with the town council and other branches of town government?
Critical. Without it the town will become dysfunctional – as in Washington, D.C. – progress and growth will be hampered, and opportunities to positively impact our quality of life will be missed.
Using ‘the bus’ as a metaphor, the town leadership needs to get on the bus and use their skills to ensure the town arrives at its destination and achieves its strategic goals. The Mayor is the leader and bus driver and cannot accomplish this alone…there must be cooperation. The best way to achieve this spirit of cooperation is to agree on the strategic goal. The result will be a shift in focus from the self-serving attitudes that block cooperation and positive communication. There will always be a requirement to monitor service excellence, and manage fiscal control. But the excitement and creative energy will be on moving the town into the 21st century, removing barriers to that progress, and meeting head-on the issues that threaten the achievement of the strategic goal.
4. For several years Ledyard has considered transitioning to an independent police department. Do you support or oppose the idea, and why?
I support an independent police department. Over the past several years the Resident State Trooper program has become more and more expensive. We are mandated to pay for the trooper’s benefits, overtime, costs that are projected to increase substantially in the coming years.
By going independent, we can have more control of our costs, by hiring a police chief and controlling that expense. Also, I think our officers are proud of their work, and independence will increase their pride, in their town; having a sense of ownership. We can receive the same or better quality of service for less money.
Most, if not all, logistics can be worked out with neighboring towns, for example, a negotiated agreement could allow prisoners to be housed in Groton lock-up when needed. The need of additional levels of officers such as an assistant chief, deputy, etc. can be deferred several years, and not be an initial cost of independence.
Lastly, any large scale incident will bring in all the support needed from the surrounding towns, or specialized services from the state.
5. Assuming there are still savings to be found in the annual town budget, what are some likely places to look?
For the last 20 years the Mayor and Town Council have squeezed every corner of the Town’s budget. As a Fire Chief I have found innovated ways to save tax dollars by: regionalizing services with the Town of Groton for fire truck repair and tune-ups; and purchased through the U. S. Government to save tens of thousands of dollars on fire truck buys.
Contracts must be negotiated to get the best value and service. Productivity improvements must be identified and incorporated in daily practice. Unwanted services should be eliminated and those services that the residents value should remain. This will require more interaction between the residents and the Town’s leadership: more revealing and honest discussions that provide the information needed to make informed decisions, and prioritize our needs of capital improvements without going backwards.
6. A state economic development consultant recently called the riverfront in Gales Ferry the town’s most under-utilized asset. In your opinion, how could the town take better advantage of this asset?
Before we attempt to ‘take advantage of the riverfront asset,’ the entire town needs to be assessed. A strategic plan needs to be created for the whole town. Once alternatives have been identified across the town, and prioritized a plan of action will result. It seems to me that there are opportunities for developing farm and agricultural assets: vineyards, small farms. High tech computer based operations would be viable with the necessary fiber optics network.
Assuming that the riverfront is a priority I can envision some of the property would be suitable for: bike and running paths, condos, river boat tourism, marinas, outdoor activity business, and environmental/marine science habitats. I would incorporate the Stoddard’s Warf Park in the development. (If the state would give Ledyard the property.)
7. What is your “vision” for Ledyard and what makes you think you are the best person to lead the town toward that vision?
My vision for the town is one where Ledyard is the place of 1st Choice in southeast Connecticut to live, to educate, and to have a government that works together for the best benefit of the residents. Ledyard will be a great place for our children, our grandchildren and for seniors to live in. The education system develops life-long learners, flexible thinkers and innovators adaptable to the emerging technologies and needs of the 21st Century. The town will develop a financial base that frees us from the limitations of State and Federal budgets. Residents will have a town organization that is professionally staffed and provides services with excellence. Residents will have quality of life and affordability of living in Ledyard.
I have lived in the town 23 years and raised four children educated in Ledyard. I have been involved in volunteer activities that have exposed me to the workings of the town. In my capacity as Fire Captain at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base and Chief of the Gales Ferry Fire Company, I have successfully led teams by building trust, respect, and engaging in clear communications. I have valued each member of my team and this has resulted in solid working relationships through good and difficult situations. Service is the product that I have been responsible to deliver through my team to the town. This has been achieved by setting, monitoring and reinforcing the expectation of excellence. I have ensured that the team has been equipped with the knowledge and tools to achieve that level of excellence.
The town workers can expect that I will use these skills to lead, to work alongside and to support them. The Council can expect that I will use these skills to create a team environment for the town leadership, through on-going open communications: that facilitates the resolving of our differences and disagreements, and promotes timely problem-solving.
My experience has informed me of the importance of making plans that work and then to work the plan effectively. The workable plan will be achieved through the strategic goal setting process which allows consensus to be built. I will apply the cost saving successes that I have achieved through negotiating favorable reduced rates while maintaining the level of benefits, regionalizing maintenance services and purchasing fire trucks and equipment that ensures our capacity to provide service excellence at reduced rates through the government.
I commit to supporting the Board of Education and the Superintendent of schools to equip our children with tools needed for the 21st century. In a prepared speech to young college students, President John F. Kennedy wrote, “Leadership and learning are indispensable of each other.” The curriculum will be upgraded to meet the new national education standards, standards that prepare our students to compete in the 21st century. This will require a great deal of work on the part of administration and teachers. They can count on my support in this endeavor.
Finally, I am proud of this community. We have accomplished much over the last 175 years. I have the desire and the skills to lead this great community. More importantly, I am ready to work together with the Council, town employees and the residents as a team to meet the challenges we face in this 21st century.