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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jason Zandri running for mayor of Wallingford

As published online via Wednesday November 28, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff

(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD — Town Councilor Jason Zandri announced his candidacy for mayor at Wednesday night’s Democratic Town Committee meeting, positing himself as the man who would wire Town Hall.

The 43-year-old Democrat held up a stack of 60 letters during his speech, saying it was the correspondence he had received from Town Hall in just four months of being on the council.

“You’ve got to take this and triple it — 180 pieces of correspondence times nine councilors and I’m sure there’s other people,” Zandri told a large crowd that included his wife, four children and other family members. “Talk about money wasted ... it’s not just the postage, it’s the paper, it’s the time to put it into the envelopes and mail them. It’s all waste — this stuff can all be done online.”

Zandri, a systems analyst at Bloomberg in New York City, is aiming to run against 31-year incumbent Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. in the 2013 municipal election. Dickinson, a Republican, has not yet announced his own run for the seat, and generally waits to do so until the spring before the election.

The 64-year-old mayor is widely known for being opposed to Internet access in much of Town Hall, limiting access to a few departments, with many departments relying on fax machines and phones for communication.

On Wednesday night, Zandri said it would cost less than $20,000 a year to give every department head in Town Hall email and Internet access, and that would be a top priority for him if he became mayor.

He talked about the lack of Internet access making it difficult to do basic office functions like scheduling — how it’s taken two months to try to find a date for the Town Council and Planning and Zoning Commission to meet to discuss the downtown Incentive Housing Zone, largely because of scheduling difficulties.

“If we had a system in Town Hall like an online presence like email and calendaring, the Town Council secretary could look at the first availability for all members and book the night. Done, no emails, no phone calls,” Zandri said.

He also championed direct deposit for town employees, something they do not have. Dickinson has said that direct deposit wouldn’t save money because pay stubs still need to be sent to employees and that not enough town unions have mentioned it as a priority at the bargaining table.

“I haven’t got a pay stub mailed to me in 15 years,” Zandri said. He also discussed changing Town Hall hours to accommodate residents, and questioned land purchases and the climate of town departments.

Zandri is serving his freshman term as a town councilor. He was elected in November 2011. Born and raised in town, Zandri commutes daily to New York by train for his job. His father, Geno Zandri, a 10-year town councilor, made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 1999.

Fellow Town Councilor Democrat Nicholas Economopoulos stepped out of the race following Zandri’s announcement. Econompoulos had announced his own interest in running for mayor last November.

“I not only endorse this, but I am thrilled. I will give 100 percent of my support to Jason. You have boundless energy,” Economopoulos said.

Others in the room supported Zandri and mentioned his energy, though the committee will not officially endorse a candidate until after its convention next year.

“While there’s not an official endorsement here, I think the support here is overwhelming,” Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone said.

When asked Wednesday afternoon to comment on rumors Zandri would announce his candidacy that evening, Dickinson said the competition would be healthy.

"It's healthy for the town to have choice and different ideas. That's what we want for election time," Dickinson said Wednesday,

Dickinson said he wouldn't announce his own candidacy decision until after the town's budget is passed in spring.

"We still have the budget to do — that's pretty time consuming," Dickinson said.

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