Town Treasurer Patrick O’Hara, a Republican with a long history in Monroe politics, faces a challenge from Democrat, Christa DeLeo, an active volunteer in the community. Outside of the Town Council, it is the only contested race in this November’s municipal election.
“As treasurer, I make sure the taxpayers’ money is invested in the best rate possible,” said O’Hara. “I have a very simple job when it comes to investing: get as much free money for the town as possible. I get to beat up bankers from an investment standpoint.”
O’Hara, 55, a Monroe native, was serving on the Board of Finance when Emanuel Cambra retired as tax collector and Treasurer Deborah Heim, the former tax collector of Stratford, was hired as his replacement. O’Hara was then appointed to finish Heim’s term as treasurer on Feb. 4.
DeLeo, 42, said her past experience as a loan officer for First Union Bank, as office manager at her father’s private dental practice and as the accounts payable insurance processor for Family Dental Group after her father retired, would serve her well as treasurer.
“I have the technical knowledge to do the job of a treasurer,” DeLeo said. “I am also a mother that runs a household. Just like a household, our town needs to budget, spend and invest wisely.”
DeLeo and her husband Jason have two sons. She has held several positions on the Monroe Parents’ Council and is the current treasurer. She is also president of the Monroe Newcomers & Neighbors Club and a trustee and secretary of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library Board.
O’Hara owns O’Hara’s Nurseries on Shelton Road and he and his wife Donna have two grown children.
O’Hara was involved in youth sports, while his children were growing up, coaching freshmen football at Masuk High School for two seasons, coaching Little League and serving on the board of directors for the Monroe Youth Lacrosse League. He was also a trustee for Monroe Congregational Church.
In local government, O’Hara has been a Town Councilman, served on the Board of Education and served as chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission for nine years before being elected to the Board of Finance in 2017.
Touting his record
O’Hara said the town treasurer counter signs checks against the first selectman for expenditures, ensuring they are appropriate, serves as the town’s chief investment officer and is a member of the Pension Committee.
“We’re an $83 million business and we get two flushes of cash a year, in January and July when people pay their taxes,” he said.
After the town receives the first payment, O’Hara said tries to get as much investment income out of it as possible, while checks are written for the every day operations of the town.
When O’Hara was on the Board of Finance, he joined members in giving the town its unanimous blessing for the Town Council to authorize the first selectman to enter the town into Newtown Savings Bank’s Insured Cash Sweep Service on Jan. 14, 2019, according to Town Council meeting minutes.
In the program, Newtown Savings Bank invests all the town’s assets into different institutions to ensure no more than $250,000 is in one bank, so all of the money is covered by FDIC insurance.
After becoming treasurer, O’Hara said he reviewed all of the town’s investments to ensure the town was getting the STIF (Short-Term Investment Fund) rate, 2.4 percent at the time, or higher. He said he called one local bank whose interest was below the STIF rate and it was non responsive, so he moved the town’s money to Newtown Savings Bank.
O’Hara did not want to mention the name of the local bank that was not responsive.
In fiscal year 2018-19, he said the treasurer was budgeted to earn $325,000 in interest on the town’s investments, but he earned $905,000, exceeding the budgeted number by $580,000, earning 278 percent of budget.
“I love this job,” O’Hara said. “My job is to earn my fellow residents money and that money goes to the general fund for use in town expenditures: schools, public safety, parks, roads …”
Representation for all
DeLeo noted how Town Hall and all of the town’s boards and commissions are under Republican control.
“When checks are signed at Town Hall right now, the signatures are by two Republicans,” DeLeo said, adding of the treasurer’s position, “it would be better to have one Democrat and one Republican, just for balance and an extra set of eyes.”
“I’m definitely not insinuating anything is wrong at Town Hall,” she said. “Everything seems to be running well. It’s just to have balance. I think everybody should have a representative inside Town Hall and right now everybody is not being represented.”
DeLeo said it is not just about writing checks. “It’s about making sure everything is fiscally sound and the funds are going where they’re supposed to go.”
On her reason for running, DeLeo said, “as town treasurer I would have the ability be further involved in the Monroe educational system, the library and many other facets of our town that mean so much to me. Being a local elected official means I would have the opportunity to continue to serve the public.”