22 October 2007

Everyday Interview: State Rep. Jason Perillo

New feature! In our quest to continue bringing you new and interesting content, today we have a brief e-mail interview with newly-minted State Representative Jason Perillo, of Shelton.

What factors went into the decision to run for the 113th House District

I believe that my district and the state are at a crossroads. Young people are leaving Connecticut in droves while seniors and families are finding it difficult to cover the costs of rising energy bills. We need to do more to address these situations, which is the practical reason why I ran. But the decision was not just one based on practicality. I had tremendous respect for my predecessor, Dick Belden, and I consider it a tremendous honor to follow him in his representation of Shelton in Hartford. When his wife, Bert, asked me to run for the seat, there was little doubt that is was something I needed to do.

What do you do the day after you get elected to the State House?
I had visions of a lazy day to catch up on the hours of lost sleep from the weeks before, but I was too eager to get started. So, staying in bed ‘till noon went out the window as I tried to get myself together in advance of the swearing in and my orientation. Fortunately, Dick Belden kept detailed files and I was able to get up to speed on many of the projects he was working on for our constituents.

What is the orientation process like?
The Republican Caucus has been absolutely wonderful. Everyone is working hard to get me up to speed on the ins and outs of Hartford. We've covered everything from the mechanics of floor activity to "where's the cafeteria in the LOB?" It's really nice to know that I'll be serving with such intelligent and talented legislators and staff.

What are your goals as a State Rep for the next year?
In my district, the preservation of agricultural lands and the continued state involvement in our downtown revitalization efforts are essential. Shelton's downtown has come a long way, and I hope to keep it moving in the right direction. More broadly, I believe that fiscal responsibility and job creation are essential to the future success of our state. We need to control state spending, protect against tax increases, support small businesses, and provide incentives for the state's young people to stay here.

What committees will you be assigned/ would you like to sit on?
I've been assigned to the Commerce, Environment, and Appropriations Committees. These are ideal for me as farm preservation and economic development are so important to my district and to the state.

How do you feel about being the first candidate to run for office under the new Citizens Election Program?
My feelings on public financing are mixed. Obviously, an instant infusion of cash from the State of Connecticut made my personal fundraising efforts easier. On the flip side, my neighbors, my family, and other taxpayers in the state paid for my campaign handouts and my opponent's mini orange footballs. The State spent nearly $40,000 on this campaign. In just over one year there will be 150 other campaigns for the House and another thirty-six for the Senate. That's a lot of money not helping seniors and not supporting school districts.

Looking back, what advice would you have for other potential candidates for the State House?
There's no substitute for knocking on doors and meeting voters. They respect that you'd take time out to visit with them. Personally, I enjoy going door-to-door. It's a great opportunity to meet people and hear what's on their minds. I actually found that I made a lot of friends by walking through Shelton's neighborhoods and talking to people about what's important to them. It may seem daunting, but it's really enjoyable.

If you had the campaign to do over again, what is one think you'd do different, if anything?
I really think we ran an outstanding campaign. In Shelton we're fortunate to have some intelligent individuals like Senator Dan Debicella and Mayor Mark Lauretti - men who understand the needs of the community and who truly care about others. I've worked closely with them for years and when you have that kind of understanding, it's easy to communicate a message that resonates. I was fortunate enough, as well, to join our local expertise with some truly talented folks from Hartford. The staff of the House Republicans is brilliant and I think that bodes well for the Republican Caucus going forward.

Your thoughts on the gentleman whose seat you now fill - Dick Belden.
Dick Belden was a legend in Shelton. In office for thirty-three years, he was the only State Representative ever to represent me. I grew up just down the street from him and he was truly a mentor to me. After his death there was a headline in our local weekly that said it all: "There was no one better". It's true. Dick Belden was a humanitarian - dedicated to the community to a degree that we may never see again. People have frequently said to me since the election, "You have big shoes to fill." In truth, I'm not sure that they can be filled. But I'm certainly going to do my best to honor his memory by serving with dignity and respect for the office, putting the residents of Connecticut first.