Meriden residents should re-elect Kevin Scarpati as mayor. Should they follow that recommendation, the 34-year-old Scarpati would be on his way to a fifth term as well as celebrating a double victory: He’s getting married this month, to Shelby Verrone-Webb.
Scarpati has shown that a lot can be accomplished with the comparatively lesser influence offered to the role of mayor in Meriden. He has used the role in part as a bully pulpit to advocate for the causes he supports. Nowhere has that been more in evidence than in Scarpati’s support for Meriden senior citizens. It is not a stretch to say the move toward a new senior center, now designated for the site of old medical office buildings on Cook Avenue, would have gone nowhere without his constant influence. When city councilors appeared willing to balk at making a commitment, the mayor’s prodding pushed the project forward. The result is that city seniors, a significant part of the overall city population, can look forward finally to a senior center they deserve.
Scarpati is an unaffiliated candidate who has the endorsement of the Democratic Party. His experience in local government is rich for someone in his mid-30s. He’s served on the school board and the City Council, and has been involved in community organizations. His experience has helped shape his involvement as a member of the committee making recommendations for how Meriden should best spend its allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Scarpati can also add a new public library and the continued development of the Meriden Green as developments to take pride in.
Scarpati’s opponent, Republican-backed Kurt Hourigan, is a lifelong city resident with good ideas and aims, including improving communication with the public. The situation with Meriden’s tax assessor, whose employment was recently terminated, was cited.
"As mayor I will strive to give the residents a voice once again in Meriden's future,” he said. “That includes increasing communications and improving customer service between City Hall and the public which they serve. I will work to help restore a positive image of Meriden."
While there are voters who will no doubt embrace this approach, it doesn’t add up to a compelling enough reason to oust an incumbent who has been serving Meriden in an admirable way since 2015.
Voters in Meriden will also be shaping a new City Council and Board of Education. Candidates we’d like to see return to office, and newcomers we find worth supporting, include the following:
At-large incumbent Michael S. Rohde has so much experience serving Meriden it’s hard to know where to start. The Democrat is also a former mayor, which adds up to 26 years of experience as a councilor or mayor. He’s a co-founder of the Meriden Farmers Market and known for other initiatives, but most importantly he’s the public figure behind Meriden’s remarkable flood control work.
Sonya Jelks may be subject to scrutiny and criticism, for delaying a recent vote on appointing a council liaison to a community watchdog committee, for example, but that also goes with the territory of council majority leader. One thing the Democrat has brought to representing Area 1 is strong advocacy for residents who have not always been given a voice.
Voters should consider Joe Scaramuzzo and Kirsten Misner, Democrats vying for council seats in Area 2 and Area 4, respectively. Voting for Misner is voting to unseat Republican Michael Carabetta, who won notoriety a couple of years ago by organizing a referendum to defeat a council-approved tax increase.
At-large candidates worth supporting include Democrat Chad Cardillo, a social studies teacher at Maloney High School, who has an eye out for students as well as supporting seniors.
Those looking to back a conservative approach have solid at-large candidates to support in Republicans Sean McDonald and Elain Cariati. McDonald is a former Republican Town Committee Chairman, and Cariati the current chair, who faced off against Scarpati in the mayoral race two years ago.
Republican Rob Kosienski should be returned to the school board, where he has served admirably as its chair. Republican Elmer A. Gonzales is also an incumbent who has earned re-election. Non-incumbents worth supporting are Democrats Diadette Hernández, Enileika López-Riddle and Nickimmy Hayes.
The race for city clerk entails a challenge to Republican incumbent Denise Grandy by Michael Cardona, a city councilor and deputy mayor. Residents would be well served by either candidate, though Grandy has the experience.