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Rare Local Republican Primary Also Includes Town Clerk Competition

Published: August 20, 2017

On September 12, more than 5,000 registered Newtown Republicans will not only have the privilege to cast primary ballots to determine their choice of first selectman candidates, but also for the person who will represent the GOP on November’s general election ballot for town clerk.

Party endorsed incumbent Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia Halstead will likely be challenged by former Assistant Town Clerk and current Newtown Social Services Director Ann Spignesi LoBosco, who was expecting confirmation by the state that she gathered more than enough qualified signatures to primary when she sat for an interview with The Newtown Bee on August 11.

The top GOP primary vote-getter will be challenged by Democratic newcomer Valerie Hart.

Coincidentally, Ms Hart is a current co-worker with Ms LoBosco, who works a part-time job at Newtown MediSpa — an issue Ms LoBosco seemed happy to address during her interview.

“I work part-time with her at MediSpa and consider her a friend,” Ms LoBosco said. “I am supportive of the fact that she wants to put herself out there for the good of the town. We both feel that the town needs a change.”

Ms LoBosco did point out, however, that while she has maintained her certification as a Connecticut municipal town clerk, Ms Hart would first need to be elected to the post before she could begin any certification process.

Ms LoBosco told The Bee that she has made it her professional and personal goal to serve Newtown as its municipal town clerk. To that end she previously mounted an unsuccessfully run against Ms Halstead (then Debbie Aurelia) for town clerk as a Democrat after interviewing as a Republican hopeful and learning that the Republican Town Committee (RTC) was inclined to endorse their incumbent in the 2013 election cycle.

“I had always been a Republican. At that time I was new to politics, so I didn’t pursue a [GOP] primary,” she said. “But I wanted the job so bad, that when the Democratic Town Committee approached me about being their candidate, I decided to change parties and accept their support.”
Earlier this year, Ms LoBosco switched back to being a Republican, interviewed for the GOP ballot slot, and opted to mount a primary when the RTC again chose to endorse Ms Halstead.

Ready To Serve

If successful in the primary, and in November, Ms LoBosco pledged to work hard canvassing residents to determine what needs they may have of the town clerk that are not being met or maximized.

“I hope to provide residents with as many no-cost services for them as possible,” she said. Ms LoBosco said she will also ensure she continues her professional development, and that she avails her office staff to similar training and cross training to ensure anyone who comes into the office can get immediate answers or the services that are required.

“I’m a hard, hands-on worker,” she said. “The public puts its trust in you, and taxpayers pay the town clerk a big salary. I’m hearing there is a lack of visibility of our town clerk, and taxpayers should be able to walk in and see you doing the job. I also believe people who serve in public positions for a long time can become complacent. I think 2017 represents a year of change for Newtown, and I think morale in that office could use boosting.”

Ms LoBosco and Ms Halstead agree that the town clerk should not be viewed as a partisan post, and the challenger said, “I had no encouragement from the RTC to drop my decision to primary, just the opposite.”

Ms LoBosco said she plans to continue in the capacity as social services director if unsuccessful in her pursuit of the elected office. She said that position has given her an enhanced perspective of the diverse group of residents in town, and that her previous work in the town clerk’s office has greatly enhanced her skill set serving in the social services post.

She said one thing she learned was how many residents are either minimally exposed to computer skills, or do not own a computer.

“I think the town clerk can offer a lot of support and services to those who don’t own a computer,” Ms LoBosco said.

The Incumbent

A pre-primary interview with the incumbent Ms Halstead clarified that she began serving local residents as a certified assistant town clerk under her long-tenured mentor Cindy Simon in 2005, before she became certified and was appointed to the town clerk position herself upon Ms Simon’s retirement two years later.

Ms Halstead said she has maintained a rigorous program of continuing education and additional certifications since then. The lifelong Newtown resident and local high school graduate went on to graduate cum laude from Orlando College in Florida, where she worked for several years before returning home.

Since becoming a certified Connecticut town clerk in 2007, Ms Halstead has become a certified elections moderator, a member of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, a notary public, and a member of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and the New England Association of City and Town Clerks.

Among her duties, Ms Halstead represents, or has represented, Newtown as chairman of the Retiree Committee for Connecticut Town Clerks Association. Along with a national designation as a master certified town clerk (MCTC), she has attained international certification as a master municipal clerk (MMC).

During her years of service, Ms Halstead said she has organized training workshops for employees with the town’s website vendors, served as chairman of Newtown’s Website Committee for the site’s latest redesign, and served on a Civil Service panel conducting interviews for a new assistant town clerk for the City of Danbury.

During her tenure, Ms Halstead said she has managed the process of computerizing standards for recording documents, and helped facilitate making property records available online for purchasing at the convenience of various clients, residents, and information gathering representatives who utilize that data. She is also Newtown’s Veterans Services contact.

She also supported the integration of PropertyCheck, a 24/7 service that better protects residents from potential property and mortgage fraud. Outside her duties as town clerk, Ms Halstead serves as a member of Newtown’s Citizen’s Emergency Response Team (CERT), a volunteer and assistant for year-end accounting for Meal On Wheels, and is a member and current secretary for the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary.

As the town clerk serves as the issuing official for all local dog licenses, Ms Halstead has coordinated the annual #1 Dog activity to promote dog licensing, helped host an annual Low Cost Rabies Clinic for the past 12 years, graduated from Newtown’s Citizens Police Academy, and participated as a Newtown Relay For Life captain on the “TC TEAM” — after which she said was recognized for best cancer awareness having raised more than $2,500 for the cause.

In her capacity as the municipal information steward, Ms Halstead has organized numerous Freedom of Information workshops for newly elected and appointed officials, coordinated and hosted several receptions for local charity and community organizations, and has mentored for Newtown High School’s Career Center Intern program, training local students in office procedures.

Ms Halstead said as a result of her ongoing training, and the integration of off-site access to local files via the internet, her office is generating more than $1,500 per month in municipal revenue for electronic public records. In addition, she has applied for and received more than $53,000 in grants to make improvements in the town clerk’s office.

She has also aggressively sought to transfer paper files to an electronic database, and has amassed more than 467,000 images of municipal documents that were formally handwritten or typed — and not accessible online.

Ms Halstead she has provided opportunities to staff members to accompany her whenever state-mandated town clerk training sessions are offered.

She responded to those who may have noted her absence from the office, referencing the days of training she has taken to enhance the efficiency and output of the office on behalf of taxpayers, and the time she has spent representing the town on various professional committees and at conferences.

Ms Halstead also said after 12 years as a municipal worker, she is granted and bound to take the nearly four weeks she is annually entitled to in vacation/personal time, as well as sick time.

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