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Incumbent Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati faces challenge from political newcomer

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MERIDEN — Incumbent Mayor Kevin Scarpati, an independent endorsed by Democrats, is seeking his fifth term in the upcoming November election, but he’s not without competition. His opponent in the race is lifelong Meriden resident and Republican-backed candidate Kurt Hourigan. 

For both candidates, galvanizing the continued economic growth of Meriden is the most important issue for their campaigns. Scarpati, who has been in office since 2015, summed up his platform for re-election in one word — momentum. He wishes to keep the momentum he’s built over the past eight years, spearheading new development projects that aim to bring new storefronts to the downtown area. 

According to Scarpati, over the last two years, he’s earmarked a significant portion of federal ARPA money granted during the pandemic toward targeting new businesses and finding uses for underutilized parcels in the city. He also noted that, while in office, he has also overseen the movement of several significant projects, such as the continued development of the Meriden Green, the construction of the new library, and the start of the new senior center. Because of his record, Scarpati believes that it should give voters confidence in his continued success in office. 

“Under my leadership, working with (Economic Development) Director (Joseph) Feest, I made it a priority to make sure that some of these federal ARPA monies that we received from the federal government after Covid were specifically earmarked for economic development and engaging businesses, specifically new businesses that currently aren't in our city,” Scarpati said. “Those are things that are ongoing and we have to continue to prioritize to keep the momentum of Meriden moving forward in the right direction.”

Newcomer Hourigan is similarly aiming to revitalize businesses in the community and improve communication between the city and the public. He wishes to give residents a voice and act as an ambassador between them and the council. Maintaining those lines of communication, Hourigan said, is important for keeping an effective government and knowing what the residents want. 

Having worked in construction, Hourigan says that he learned how to delegate and develop projects like the recently complete library and the upcoming senior center project. To that end, he is also looking to collaborate with the city’s Development & Enforcement Department to crack down on blighted properties across the city and hold absentee landlords accountable for maintaining their properties. 

One of the most pressing issues he’d deal with upon assuming office, Hourigan said, would be reining in the tax assessor’s office, which he believes has done considerable damage not only to property values in the city but also by sowing distrust between the public and city officials. 

City Assessor Melinda Fonda, recently placed on administrative leave, has been an ongoing source of controversy since her hiring in 2019 with her reclassification of tax-exempt properties, which has caused several lawsuits to be filed against the city.

“I believe there is deep distrust in our city government and its operations amongst the public, me included. We have an out of control Tax Assessor who has been let loose on the taxpayers by shelling out property values that are way overvalued. We need to move quicker to get the rescue funds granted to many businesses across the city, in their hands. We have businesses getting the run around from the city with outrageous demands. These delays have caused many of the businesses to seek additional funding or cancel projects because the process delays have caused the project’s costs to increase. ” Hourigan said. 

“As mayor I will strive to give the residents a voice once again in Meriden’s future. 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.”

In the election, Scarpati is endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee, though he remains an unaffiliated voter. He stated that unlike mayors in other cities and towns, Meriden’s position of mayor is more ceremonial and it’s his role to preside over City Council meetings and communicate to the public, wanting to do what’s right by residents rather than adhering strictly to any party lines. 

Outside of his economic focus, Scarpati noted that he was also working jointly with the school system to continually make improvements to the district and improve the quality of the education children receive in-district. It is those relationships with people in the school system and across all departments he said that are essential to keeping momentum going to further many improvement projects behind the scenes. One example he cited was that over the last year, the city repaved over 11 miles of road across Meriden — and when he first took office, it was only two or three miles of road improvements per year.

“We need to make sure that our business is operating as efficiently and smoothly as possible. And we're always going to have bumps in the road, no pun intended, but if we can do whatever we can to alleviate those and improve on those, that's what I'm here to do,” Scarpati said. “For me it's never been about party politics, it's always about what's best for Meriden, whether that's our students or in this case, most recently, our seniors. I prioritize our residents above anyone else. And that is what I hope they realize. And I'll continue to do that over the next two years.”

Hourigan’s nomination by the Republican Town Committee was not unanimous, with several members of the party favoring cross-endorsing Scarpati. Despite this, Hourigan said that support from his colleagues is strong for his candidacy. 

“The best thing about being a Republican in our city is that we are always welcoming of different views and discussions. My opponent was once a Republican himself and had built personal and working relationships with some members on the committee. I respect those relationships and although my nomination was not unanimous, 99% of those on the Republican Town Committee that I have spoken with are supporting my campaign,” said Hourigan.

Hourigan also noted that he has his own connections in the community that he’s built over his 50 years of living in Meriden. He has been involved in the city’s ethics board, the Boy Scouts, youth athletics leagues, and many other civic organizations — along with having three children he’s put through the Meriden public school system, giving him a personal investment in seeing it further improved over his tenure.

Having spent many years working in quality control, Hourigan said that it has taught him how to communicate and work alongside people with many different backgrounds and interests -  a skill he said would be key in helping mediate between matters on the City Council, which currently maintains a Democratic majority. 

Through collaboration and significant investment in new business, Hourigan hopes to set Meriden on a path to prominence in the state’s economic landscape. 

“I’m just your average, hardworking, middle-class Joe looking to help make Meriden a safe, affordable and fun place to work and raise your family,” Hourigan said. “I’ve been blessed to have lived in Meriden for over the past 50+ years and remember the greatness Meriden once projected to the rest of the state. I look for your help in making this a reality.”

Election Day is Nov. 7. Maps with local polling locations will be made available online on the Meriden city website and in the upcoming Record-Journal voter guide.

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