Mazza to seek Guilford’s top seat

Monday, June 15, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Selectman Joseph Mazza has announced he plans to run for first selectman, potentially setting the stage for a primary this fall.

Republican Kenneth Wilson, who ran unsuccessfully for first selectman in 2007, announced last month he wants to run again.

Mazza, a Republican who has been a selectman for six years, said people have asked him for several years about running for first selectman, and this year he decided that it was the “right time.”

An accountant with his own practice in Guilford, Mazza, 64, served on the Board of Finance for 10 years before being elected to the Board of Selectmen.

“I think if you take the experience I’ve had as an elected official from the Board of Finance and being on the Board of Selectmen, take my professional experience as an accountant, I think I can really kind of steer the town government in a new direction,” he said.

“I think I have a lot to offer in being more creative in the way we do things, look for more efficiencies, bring in technologies.”

Mazza said he thought the town government had lost some community trust during the most recent budget cycle, when voters first rejected a 2009-10 budget proposal before approving a reduced package. He said he would initiate a “top-to-bottom review” of town finances to look for areas of potential savings.

“Basically, I’ve been, I believe, a fiscal conservative, fiscally responsible selectman,” he said.

He pointed to the creation of the Elderly Tax Relief Program and the Public Works Commission as two important accomplishments as a selectman.

Mazza was chairman of the Elderly Tax Abatement Commission, which came up with a plan for the program.

“I’m eager to continue to serve the town of Guilford — I’ve said all along that my first concern is the town and its citizens, and party politics is second,” he said. “I think some of the things that I’ve done show my experience and my determination to help people.”

Wilson said Mazza has “served the community well,” as a selectman, but all the encouragement he receives from residents who want a change in administration “validates my desire to run for first selectman.”

Wilson said he gets correspondence daily from people in town looking for significant change and Mazza may be perceived by voters as being “more of the same.”

The Republican Town Committee is currently interviewing candidates for all elected positions, Chairman Jim O’Keefe said.

The Town Committee caucus, at which members will approve a slate of candidates for the fall election, is scheduled for July 28, O’Keefe said. Any necessary primary elections would take place Sept. 15, he said.

Incumbent First Selectman Carl Balestracci did not return a call for comment about whether he plans to seek re-election. He said when questioned by a member of the public at a Board of Selectmen meeting last week that he was not ready to make an announcement.

The November election will mark the first time that members of the Board of Selectmen are elected to four-year terms, following a charter revision last year.

The first selectman is the only full-time employee on the five-member Board of Selectmen. The position pays about $95,000 a year.

Mazza, who is originally from the Bronx, N.Y., has lived in Guilford for 22 years. He served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1968 to 1970. He is married, and he and his wife have five adult sons from previous marriages.

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