Longtime Monroe finance board chair Michael Manjos resigns

Michael Manjos helped steer the town through budget processes during his 13 years on the Board of Finance.

MONROE, CT — Board of Finance Chairman Michael Manjos has been involved in the town budget process for the last 13 years. But that run has come to an end. The father of three is moving to Pennsylvania to be closer to his job as chief of sales for The 1916 Company, a top watch brands retailer headquartered just outside of Philadelphia.

Manjos moved to Monroe to raise his family in 1998 and his children attended the town’s public schools.

“A year or two after we moved to town I saw an ad in the Monroe Courier that the Republican Party was looking for volunteers,” he recalled. “I was a Republican and thought it would be a good way to make friends and it would be fun — and it turned out that way. It really did.”

Manjos served on the Economic Development Commission, then on the Planning and Zoning Commission for four years, before being appointed vice chairman of the Board of Finance under Mark Reed. He has been chairman for the past seven or eight years.

It was a time of high drama early on. A strong sense of distrust was felt between the Board of Finance and Board of Education.

The Board of Finance wanted the school board to use up money in its reserve accounts before receiving an increase and educators expressed frustration over deep cuts to their requested spending increases.

One year, then Superintendent Colleen Palmer’s requested increase was cut to one dollar.

In past years, there was also distrust of the government by voters who routinely turned down town budgets at referendum time, prolonging the process to several votes every year.

Finance Director Ronald Bunovsky Jr. goes over the budget at a Board of Education meeting.

“Merging the two finance departments, is what really brought everybody together and solidified the fact that we’re on the same team, even though we have different agendas,” Manjos said.

The merger was approved by the Town Council in 2021 with Ronald Bunovsky Jr. as director of the new department and Heidi Meade as deputy director, overseeing municipal finances.

“Ron was and is the perfect person for the job, because everyone respects him,” Manjos said. “He’s honest and forthright and respected — and Heidi as well, the two of them made that happen. We’re very blessed with the Finance Department.”

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza, right, talks during a Board of Education meeting, as Chairman David Ferris looks on.

“Some trust developed and the budget process has gotten that much better and easier, because we don’t have to have all those referendums,” he said. “It used to be five or six and drag on for months. We’ve officially become boring.”

Manjos also credits Superintendent Joseph Kobza and his administration and Board of Education Chairman David Ferris for the improved working relationship.

On the municipal side of the ledger, the Board of Finance has a joint budget meeting with the Town Council every year to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Jonathan Formichella

“Mike Manjos has been an incredible asset to the town of Monroe as the chairman of the Board of Finance,” said Town Council Chairman Jonathan Formichella. “His collegiality and expertise has helped shape Monroe’s bright future.”

“As chairman of the Town Council, I especially appreciated his cooperative approach to managing the town’s finances,” Formichella added. “Open communication between boards and commissions is critical to the success of the town. Mike made sure that the Town Council and Board of Finance were able to communicate with each other in an effective manner.”

Rising above politics

Manjos said he received blowback from some people in the Republican Party when he appointed Democrat, John Ostaszewski, as the finance board’s vice chairman a few years ago.

John Ostaszewski

“He was a super smart guy, a hard worker and a Democrat,” Manjos said of Ostaszewski. “At the time, not everyone liked that I appointed a Democrat as vice chair. People were mad, but then they realized he was the best for the job.”

There is also a mutual respect among board members.

When Manjos decided he had to move on, Steve Kirsch, a Democrat serving on the Board of Finance, was among the first people he told.

“He’s been very active on the board, even before he was on the board he was active, attending our meetings,” Manjos said of Kirsch. “I respected his commitment. We didn’t always agree on things. He believed in what he did, worked hard and always had his numbers ready.”

Steve Kirsch

“My relationship with Mike as chairman goes back to before I was an elected member,” Kirsch recalled. “During the annual budget workshops, Mike always allowed ‘average citizens’ such as me a great deal of freedom to participate if we had relevant information or knowledge to contribute.”

“As an elected board member since 2019, Mike and I did not always agree on every issue, but he always provided me an opportunity to be heard and to have my views considered by the board,” Kirsch said. “I wish Mike all the best.”

“Politics doesn’t always have to be nasty,” Manjos said. “You can listen and be polite, even if you don’t agree.”

‘Big shoes to fill’

Town officials reached for comment about Manjos moving on expressed gratitude for his contributions to Monroe’s strong fiscal health. First Selectman Terry Rooney called Manjos a “beacon of civility, professionalism and collaboration.”

Terry Rooney

“Mike has kept Monroe on a very responsible and fiscally conservative path for over a decade, while working with all personalities to make the best decisions for Monroe always,” Rooney said. “I have great admiration for Mr. Manjos for his years of offering his expertise to the Board of Finance and it’s impossible to find anyone that has ever worked on budgets with him to say they did not learn something from his leadership.”

“He will be greatly missed and my hope is whoever is chosen to fill his shoes will bring the same energy and diligence to the position,” he added. “I wish Mike well in his relocation and future. Thank you Mike, it’s been an honor to work with you Sir.”

Rooney’s predecessor, Ken Kellogg, worked closely with Manjos during his three two-year-terms.

Ken Kellogg poses for a photo by his cake at his retirement party.

“Working with Mike Manjos for so many years was an absolute pleasure,” Kellogg said. “Mike is really smart, no-nonsense professional and Monroe was fortunate to have him share his talents with us for so long. I could always call upon Mike for his input and guidance, knowing that he would give thoughtful advice with only the town’s best interests in mind. He frequently went above and beyond the call of duty, and I am grateful for his service to Monroe. I wish him all the best.”

“It was a pleasure knowing and working with Mike for the past 15 years,” Bunovsky said. “He will certainly be missed! Regardless of the situation or problem at hand, his goal was always to find the best solution for the town. He has left Monroe with solid financial policies and procedures in place that will help with the continuity of the board’s work for years to come.”

Appreciation was also expressed by school district and board leaders.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Mike Manjos over the last four and a half years,” Kobza said. “Mike always had the best interest of the town and the school district in mind when making decisions. I had to work through some pretty difficult financial issues over the years, and Mike was always there to offer recommendations and support.”

“He has opened up a line of communication between the town and the Board of Education that will serve this community well for years to come,” Kobza added. “I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for the town and the district.”

“Mike’s leadership has been instrumental in the town’s solid financial status,” Ferris said. “His cooperation, blunt honesty, and understanding of the issues will be missed. I wish him the best of luck and someone has some very big shoes to fill!”

A change in leadership

Among the things Manjos is most proud of is the way the Board of Finance made things work when displaced students from Sandy Hook Elementary School moved into Chalk Hill following the tragic shooting in 2012.

The board worked with local police, town officials, school boards and the federal government.

Manjos also said he believes the town has done a better job of longterm planning, developing a five-year capital plan, while maintaining a AAA bond rating.

“I think I will miss just working together with everybody in town, knowing the people,” Manjos said. “It’s the friendships developed over the years. You miss solving problems together, working things out, feeling like we were actually accomplishing something.”

Manjos said he enjoyed working with his fellow Board of Finance members, Finance Director Ron Bunovsky Jr., Deputy Finance Director Heidi Meade, Superintendent Joseph Kobza, First Selectman Terry Rooney and Ken Kellogg before him.

“We had a great team,” Manjos said. “I think I left a good team.”

The finance board has yet to vote for a new chair, but Manjos said he hopes Vice Chair Rebecca O’Donnell will be his successor. “I think she’ll do a great job,” he said.

Rebecca O’Donnell

“Mike Manjos is leaving behind big shoes to fill,” O’Donnell said. “I recall from my early days of joining the Board of Finance, Mike’s leadership and his consistency to lead positively stood out. As chair, Mike has valued participation from board members and Monroe residents and his calm, thoughtful demeanor has welcomed input and discussion.”

O’Donnell credits Manjos cultivating partnerships with each first selectman in office, Town Council members, elected board members, town employees, and residents, “many of which have become lasting friendships.”

“Forging a pathway with better communication and fiscal responsiveness has been so beneficial to the town in recent years, especially looking back at 2020 when it was highly critical given the uncertainty and economic turns the pandemic presented,” she said.

“I’d be remiss to not mention his contributions in strategically bettering Monroe’s financial position over the years and accolades of a AAA bond rating, a healthy fund balance, and sustainable fiscal budgets,” O’Donnell added.

“Monroe will always have a warm welcome for him when his travels bring him here. I wish Mike all the best in his move,” she said.

Manjos recalled telling Bunovsky, Rooney and Meade he was leaving town, while they had dinner together.

“The great thing about the town and volunteering is you build relationships with these people,” Manjos said, “especially through working with Ron and Heidi, the different administrations. We figured out how to make it work, developing the relationship with the Board of Education.”

“I hope I left it a little better than I got it,” Manjos said of the Board of Finance, “and I hope Rebecca and the whole board will do the same.”

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1 Comment

  1. It cannot be overstated just how important Mike’s leadership on the BOF has been these past 13 years. Mike made an extraordinary complex task of Budgeting seem routine. Through the unending ‘unforeseen’ issues that came up yearly, Mike provided cool, calm solutions to overcome these obstacles.

    Mike, best of luck in the future, and thank you for your dedicated service to our town.

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