MONROE, CT — Town Councilman Terry Rooney praised the town’s economic growth and low tax increases under First Selectman Ken Kellogg, a fellow Republican he has worked closely with over the years. If he’s elected as Monroe’s next leader, Rooney promises more of the same.
“My platform is Ken’s platform,” he said at a campaign fundraiser at Osteria Romana on Main Street Tuesday evening. “We’re very identical in what we think the town needs. If you like what’s happening with Ken, you’ll like what’s happening with me.”
Rooney said he wants to bring a greater variety of businesses to town, so residents spend more of their money in Monroe.
“I want them to have everything they need here,” he said. “With the changes we made in Planning and Zoning, we’re able to do more things than before. We made the town more open for business. That’s what we need.”
Rooney said growth of the grand list is the only way to keep taxes in check as costs rise and services must be maintained.
Kellogg decided not to seek a fourth consecutive term this November. Rooney, a former Bridgeport police officer, will face Democrat, Jerry Stevens, a retired teacher for Monroe’s public schools who serves on the Board of Education in town.
Stevens locked up the Democratic Party nomination Tuesday night and Rooney is expected to be officially nominated with the rest of his party’s slate this Thursday.
Asked for his vision on education Tuesday, Rooney said, “we have amazing education. I trust Dave Ferris to have what’s needed in the education budget,” he added of the Republican school board chairman.
The first selectman acts on the Board of Education budget every year, before it goes to the Board of Finance for its review.
“If the current Board of Education says they need it, I trust that they did their due diligence,” Rooney said. “This is a conservative board of education under Dave Ferris’ leadership. Obviously, we will have discussions, but I am confident in the Republicans on that board. They will not waste taxpayers’ money.”
While he trusts that Ferris’ board will save money wherever it can, Rooney said the biggest hurdle is state mandates, especially unfunded mandates.
“I’m proud of this current Board of Education,” he said. “I’m proud of this school system. My son, Conor, went through it. He’s a high honors athlete at Endicott College. Many of our kids go to great colleges. That’s a testament to our education system.”
Conor, who plays soccer at his school, made the dean’s list. He attended Tuesday’s fundraiser and introduced his father to supporters. Rooney’s wife, Nadine, father, Brian, and inlaws, Humberto and Honoria Medeiros, also attended.
While introducing Rooney, Conor said he is his hero and “the best dad I could ever ask for.”
“His love and hard work for the town of Monroe can be seen by any of his peers or family members on a daily basis,” he said.
“And don’t get me started on this guy’s accomplishments. I don’t think we’ve driven past that EMS building together without him mentioning how he was the chairman of that,” Conor said of the building project. “In all seriousness, his hard work and dedication for this town will come a long way. He really is a man of Monroe.”
Rooney previously served on the Lake Zoar Authority and the Parks and Recreation Commission before being elected to the Town Council, where he is liaison to the Monroe Police and the Planning and Zoning commissions.
Through his work as a liaison, Rooney said he’s found what areas of the town need improvement and worked closely with Kellogg to make a positive difference.
At a previous fundraiser, Stevens criticized high turnover at Monroe Town Hall, but Rooney said it was necessary, especially in land use where he believes people were deterred from investing in Monroe.
“We’re seeing some great businesses. We’re seeing people build things. We’re seeing homeowners do things with ease on their homes,” Rooney said. “We always heard, ‘you can’t do things in Monroe. Monroe is hard to work with,’ well that’s over.”
“And I did see in the paper, and I’m not going to say who mentioned it, that a lot of people were let go at Town Hall, and I’m going to tell you right now, they needed to go,” he said, adding changes were necessary. “We need to level this town up a little bit. We need to make this town a place where people want to stay, where people want to spend their money, where people want to go out to eat, where there’s some entertainment. I know it’s a small town, but we can do better. I think we can do better.”
Rooney touted how tax increases were limited to less-than-one percent for the past six years and the continued growth of the grand list.
While expressing confidence in a victory this November, Rooney reminded fellow Republicans they need to come out to vote on Election Day.
Supporters back Rooney
Jaime Zuniga, co-owner of Osteria Romana, got to know Rooney over the years when he was a chef in Fairfield and Rooney was a Bridgeport police officer. He recalled how Rooney helped to drum up business for his restaurant when it opened in Monroe.
“He was one of my first customers,” Zuniga said, adding when he heard Rooney was running for first selectman, “I called him and said, ‘listen, let me know if I can help you.’ We have a good relationship. We worked together to make this happen today.”
“I’m shocked. I’m proud of him,” Brian Rooney, the former Bridgeport fire chief, said of his son seeking Monroe’s top office. “I watched him grow up in this town and know he’ll do a good job.”
Brian said he pushed for a tax cut a few years ago, while his son was serving as a councilman. “He kept saying, ‘we’re working on it,'” Brian said. “One year they did it.”
If Rooney wins in November, his father said, “I’ll be after him to keep taxes low.”
Kyle Lipeika, a police officer in Norwalk, moved to Monroe with his wife 10 years ago and they have one child together. He said he got to know Rooney from friendly conversations in coffee shops over the years.
“I think Terry’s a great guy,” Lipeika said. “He’s very easy to engage and have a conversation with. I think he’s great for the town of Monroe. I think he can bring a fresh new perspective on things, get more businesses in town and continue to make the town a safe place to live, while preserving its character.”
“This is a man that’s been rooted in this town a long time and truly feels like it’s his family,” said Bruno Maini, a fellow Republican who serves as vice chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission in town.
State Rep. Jason Perillo, R-Shelton, attended the fundraiser to show his support for Rooney, who he’s gotten to know over the past decade.
“He’s a very good person and I know he’s here for the right reasons,” Perillo said. “He will be an excellent first selectman and he will make Monroe proud. Some people want to be something and some people want to do something. Terry wants to do something. It’s not just a title.”
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