As published in the Record Journal Sunday December 11, 2011
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD — After an unsuccessful run for Town Council in 2007 as an independent, Jason Zandri ran as a Democrat this year and won. He’s eager to join the council in January.
“I’ve been attending meetings since then, and getting the information packet that the councilors get,” he said. “I’m going over the rules, the procedural stuff. I’m trying to get in that mode.”
Even before he began campaigning, Zandri had already made himself known to many in town through a number of different efforts. He has maintained two blogs, “Wallingford Politico” and “Jason Zandri for Town Council,” has written “From Wallingford” for the Record-Journal’s opinion pages, and has helped in the fundraising effort for the town’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration. John Sullivan, a Democratic councilor, closed up his political blog after he was elected, but Zandri said he plans to keep both his blogs up and running as a source of information for residents.
“I look at the blog as an ability to communicate with people,” he said. “On Wallingford Politico, I post stories, with very little editorializing. But on my own blog, I’ll express a little detail, some of my thoughts on an issue. It’s a prudent way to get information out there.”
Zandri has a long lineage in Wallingford, and his four children represent the fifth generation of Zandris living in town. He also has a history of political service in his family. His father, Geno, was a town councilor for 10 years.
Democratic Town Chairman Vincent Avallone Jr. said he hopes Zandri will bring some fresh ideas to the council.
“He’s extremely energetic,” Avallone said. “He’s someone that, when he starts a task, he wants to see it completed.”
A year before his 2007 run as an unaffiliated voter, Zandri left the Democratic Party. After his failed council bid, he took some time to evaluate his options.
“I had to think about whether to try for another shot,” he said.
Zandri was able to work out his differences, get involved with the Democratic Town Committee and eventually got on the Democratic ticket for 2011.
“I sat down with Vinny Avallone and I worked out my differences with the party, and became an active part of the group,” Zandri said.
“I’ve known him since he was young,” Avallone said. “He felt comfortable with me.”
Zandri commutes to his job in New York City, and he acknowledged that balancing work, family life and the council will be a challenge. But he said he can handle the time commitment to the council.
“I think being able to campaign for the fireworks allowed me to see if I could handle the burden of both,” he said.
Zandri said he doesn’t expect to put items on the council agenda right away, and wants to take the first four or five months — most of which will be spent on the budget process — to get his feet wet.
But he added that he has a good working relationship with the eight other councilors and won’t be afraid to engage in debate.
“I don’t feel like I can’t express my thoughts and have a discussion,” he said. “We may not agree all the time, but I don’t think it will be an issue. I want to build bridges and work across the aisle.”
Though he understands that he’ll be a freshman councilor in the minority party, Zandri has already identified a few areas he’d like the council to examine.
Zandri said he hopes to see the council look toward adding voicemail and email to Town Hall and also to see action taken on the Wooding-Caplan property. The town purchased the 3.5-acre parcel for $1.5 million in 1992 and it has remained vacant since. A 2006 referendum overturned a decision to sell it to a developer. Other ideas that have been proposed include a parking lot or a new police station.
“If we’re going to put the police station there, I’d like to see that outlined,” he said. “I’d like to see a plan.”
Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, who worked with Zandri on the fireworks campaign, called him “a gogetter.”
“He’s full of ideas and energy,” Fishbein said. “He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and roll up his sleeves to get the job done.”
Sullivan said that Zandri is “an extremely dedicated person” and he’s looking forward to working with him on the council.
“After the election, the council isn’t Democrats and Republicans, it’s nine people that need to work together,” Sullivan said. “I think Jason can be a bridge builder.”
Zandri said he will bring a “can get done” attitude to the council.
“Of course we should be careful and cautious, but if there’s something we want to try to accomplish, we need to look at how we get it to completion,” he said.