MONROE, CT — Town Councilman Terry Rooney, a candidate for first selectman, touted the job of fellow Republican Ken Kellogg’s administration and outlined some goals of his own during a fundraiser kicking off his campaign at Vazzy’s Osteria on Main Street Tuesday evening.
From the podium, Rooney asked everyone to look at the person next to them.
“It may be a co-worker, a family member or a friend,” he said. “These are the people that show up and Monroe has a history of showing up — and I hope you all show up for me on November 7. God bless all of you. God bless America. God bless Monroe.”
The audience of close to 90 people erupted into cheers.
The strong showing of supporters resulted in many guests using overflow parking and walking to the event from Stepney Crossing nearby. Vazzy’s Osteria was adorned with political signs and red, white and blue balloons. Waitstaff served hors d’oeuvres and a spread included chicken wings, grapes, meats and cheeses.
Kellogg has decided not to seek reelection this November, setting the stage for this year’s race.
Rooney, a former Bridgeport police officer, is facing Democrat, Jerry Stevens, a retired teacher who enjoyed a long career in the school district and now serves on the Board of Education.
Among those in attendance Tuesday, were several town employees and elected officials. The state delegation included Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-21st, who is the Senate Republican leader, and Rep. Tony Scott, R-Monroe.
“I know Terry very well,” said Scott, who has worked with him over the years. “I think he’s a great asset to the town and he really cares about the town.”
“I’m here to support the Republican candidate for first selectman, because Monroe really needs to continue the progress Ken led, putting Monroe on strong footing and allowing it to move forward,” Kelly said of Kellogg. “And I think Terry can do that and bring some energy.” Looking around the room, Kelly added, “There’s a lot of new faces, a lot of young faces and that bodes well.”
‘He gets things done’
When Kellogg spoke at the podium, he introduced Rooney as “an amazing member, not just of the Republican Party, but the community.”
Rooney is vacancy chair of the Monroe Republican Town Committee, vetting candidates for boards and commissions. He has also worked on campaigns and organized fundraising events, according to Kellogg, who called him “an outstanding team player” and a leader of the party and the community.
As a member of the Town Council, Rooney is chairman of its Planning and Zoning, Public Works and Parks and Recreation Committee, and is a liaison for the Police Commission. Kellogg said Rooney is someone he often relies upon.
“He gets things done,” Kellogg said. “Anyone who wonders about his ability to get things done should take a trip to our EMS station on Jockey Hollow Road and see the phenomenal work that was done there, an amazing expansion and reconstruction of that facility — all done under his leadership.”
Rooney’s family has deep roots in the town. In fact, his great great grandfather, Charles Blakeman, was first selectman in 1847.
“It’s kind of cool, 166 years or so later I’m standing up here,” Rooney said of addressing the audience as a candidate for first selectman himself Tuesday.
Rooney said he is fiscally conservative and spoke of the tremendous responsibility a first selectman has as purchasing agent of the town.
He said he is in favor of reasonable development, so the burden isn’t all on the taxpayers.
In the six years Kellogg has been in office, Rooney said his budgets averaged tax increases of less-than-one-percent per year, a “big accomplishment” with inflation and costs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re seeing strong growth in the grand list,” Rooney said, adding Kellogg streamlined town approval processes making it easier to do business in Monroe.
Rooney vowed to “continue the hard work” Kellogg has done.
Among the things Rooney said he would consider doing as first selectman is hiring a part-time grants writer to take more advantage of available funds, keeping special education services in town, and building a sports complex to raise revenue by hosting tournaments and other events.
Rooney also suggested taking advantage of Lake Zoar, possibly having a boat for people to tour its scenic coastline.
One issue Rooney said he is concerned about is the opioid crisis, which has negatively impacted many families in the region. He also spoke of doing things in the area of wellness “to make a healthier town for our kids.”
Among his supporters were Dennis Condon, a Board of Education member in town.
“If you look at just the EMS project alone, it shows his leadership ability,” he said of Rooney’s role as chairman of the building committee.
Prior to Rooney and Kellogg taking the reins of the project, Condon said the long process included five different first selectmen and four building committees before they pushed it across the finish line.
Rooney’s wife Nadine and son, Conor, were also on hand to support him.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Nadine said of the number of people who showed for her husband. “It makes me very proud, actually.”
Nadine said Rooney worked on his speech all day, but she liked how he pushed his notes aside to speak from the heart at the event. As a former police officer, she said Rooney has respect from police officers and firefighters.
All respectful comments with the commenter’s first and last name are welcome.