First Selectman Clay Cope Officially Announces Running for Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District

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Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – It seems like just yesterday Sherman, Connecticut residents were voting at the polls in the 2015 local election. First Selectman Clay Cope won his third consecutive term in office. Just as he was getting settled in the New Year, Mr. Cope announced that he is officially running for Congress. This is incredibly big news for small town Sherman! Regardless of whether or not Sherman residents and those in neighboring towns follow local, state, and national politics, many will surely pay closer attention now. If Mr. Cope wins this Congressional election, then he will be the very first representative from Sherman to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Sherman now has a front row seat to witness and be part of all the excitement and energy that Mr. Cope’s run for Congress is going to bring to our community.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cope shared in an interview with Citizen News the whirlwind of events of when it all began, the process, what’s going on now as he ramps up his campaign to win a Congressional seat, and what this means for the Town of Sherman.

We began our conversation by asking Mr. Cope, “When were you first approached and why did you decide to run, especially after just winning another re-election as First Selectman?” He replied, “I was first approached by a Republican leader in October. I was surprised because I was focused on Sherman for the last four years of my life. Really, it was more like 20 years. As long as I have lived here, and in some capacity, I am involved with Sherman through the church, the library, Planning & Zoning, the Matthew 25 Project, and as First Selectman. But, I agreed to run because I see it as an opportunity to serve the 5th District. My interest and involvement with the 18-town Western Connecticut Council of Governments honed my interest in this Connecticut District to serve a broader constituency.”

As for how the entire process works, Mr. Cope stated, “first, you  announce and start campaigning at the local level and reach out to the Chairmen of all the Republican Town Committees in the 5th District, which I have done. The next step is to secure their endorsements. Then, you get formally nominated at the State Republican Convention in May. If there is a primary, we would have a race for the nomination. After that, it’s campaign mode up until Election Day on November 8.” In the meantime, Mr. Cope is lining up supporters, getting donations, and working on his website and social media channels.

As for why Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District is receiving much press coverage, especially across the State, the main reason is quite simple and strategic. In the political world, the 5th District, which is historically a Republican district until fairly recently, is the best opportunity for the Republicans to win a seat in Congress. Right now, all seven Connecticut seats in Congress are occupied by Democrats. What makes this election even more interesting, the 5th District encompasses 41 towns and cities across northwest and central Connecticut, and this diverse region includes a high percentage of independent / unaffiliated voters that are up for grabs.

Aside from Mr. Cope being up against Democratic Incumbent Elizabeth Esty, who is serving a second term as the 5th District’s U.S. Representative, there are two declared Republican contenders, John Pistone and Matt Maxwell, vying for the same nomination at the State Republican Convention on May 9th. Another Republican exploring a run is Joseph Stango.

When asked about Mr. Cope’s contenders and why he thinks he will get the Republican nomination, he stated “out of all the Republican candidates, I am the only candidate who has ever held an elected position and I have that experience.” He elaborated, “There are three things that distinguish me from other potential candidates. #1, I am an experienced municipal leader and I know how to make government work. #2, I’m non-partisan and I can work with members across the aisle. Finally, #3, as a candidate, I am an experienced fundraiser.”

Mr. Cope added, “I think that I will appeal to the independent voters because they will trust me to not show partisanship. I will represent everyone in my district when I am elected. I will always act in their best interest.”

As for what the next steps are on the Campaign Trail, Mr. Cope said today, January 27th, is a big, defining moment in his campaign because it is the official date of his campaign launch. “Those invited are many of the biggest supporters. The launch is in Danbury at City Hall because it is the epicenter of the District. Joining will be surrounding mayors, first selectmen, and elected officials” he said. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, First Selectwoman of New Fairfield, Susan Chapman, State Senator Michael McLachlan, former Congressional candidate Mark Greenberg (who has also contributed), and many others are expected to attend.

“So, what does this all mean for Sherman and are you going to keep your First Selectman position while you campaign or will you step down?” Mr. Cope replied, “I will continue to serve the town at full capacity. I love my town and I love my job.”

As for how he makes the time for being First Selectman and for campaigning, Mr. Cope said it’s all about time management. With a thoughtful pause he then said “truthfully, being a First Selectman is a 24 / 7 job but I can certainly manage to do both.”

For now, Mr. Cope said he is doing what he always does as First Selectman of Sherman. “We’re in the beginning of the budget process and I am working on the operating expenses for the Town’s departments and buildings. In particular, looking with our superintendent of the DPW [Department of Public Works] to prioritize paving projects for the next fiscal year.”

In his personal time, Mr. Cope said he is continuing to raise money for his Congressional campaign and lining up supporters.

If Mr. Cope wins the 5th Congressional District seat, likely the RTC will select a candidate to fill the open First Selectman position. Then, Selectman Bob Ostrosky will present this person to Selectman Don Lowe. If they agree on the replacement, then it’s a done deal. An election will only occur if an agreement could not be reached.

We asked Mr. Cope, “As Sherman’s First Selectman, what are a few of your accomplishments that you are the proudest of?” Mr. Cope said that he brought in over $700,000 in grant money to provide for road improvements, school security, senior transport vehicles, and public works projects. Also, throughout his Administration, Mr. Cope said he takes pride in “running a very lean but effective budget without compromising services.”

To say the least, this is going to be an interesting election to watch. Sherman’s own First Selectman, Clay Cope, may very well win the race. If he does, then Mr. Cope will be a Representative for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District in Washington, D.C., 115th United States Congress. And to think, his political career began right here in Sherman!

Written by Alicia Sakal for the January 27th Edition of the Citizen News, a weekly newspaper serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut. Contributed photo.

 

Job losses higher than job gains in Connecticut

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On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, the Connecticut Department of Labor (CT DOL) – Office of Research released their monthly Business and Employment Changes Announced in the Media report. For the reporting month of January, 1,066 jobs will be created while 1,141 jobs will be lost.

Unlike last month’s reported number of 2,543 job gains with zero jobs lost, this month’s CT DOL report is disappointing. Connecticut just can’t seem to steadily gain enough new jobs over a longer time period, which would show an upward job growth trend.

As for Startups and Expansions in the New Year, the companies projected to add jobs to the Connecticut economy: Electric Boat with 840 jobs in Groton; Comcast with 200 jobs, statewide; and Future Health Care Systems with 26 jobs in Bridgeport.

As for Layoff and Staff Reductions in the New Year, five companies reported plans to close business or relocate. This news offsets the job growth figures for this same timeframe. General Electric in Fairfield is relocating to Boston over the next three years, which can possibly impact up to 800 employees. Macy’s is closing its Enfield store and is laying off 104 employees. Walmart is closing its West Hartford store and is laying off 100 employees. Westrock in Montville is closing its paper mill and is laying off 87 employees. Acosta Sales and Marketing in Norwalk is laying off 50 employees.

Article by Alicia Sakal. Written for Examiner: Job losses higher than job gains in Connecticut

Photo by Jeff Turner, Flickr.com

Will First Selectman Clay Cope Run for Congress?

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Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – First Selectman Clay Cope, who is serving the beginning of his third term, was just informally asked to become a U.S. House of Representatives candidate for Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District in this year’s election.

Regardless of whether or not First Selectman Cope decides to formally accept the nomination, it’s an honor. If he accepts and gains official endorsement at the Republican State Convention in May, then he would likely challenge Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty, who is serving her second term as a U.S. Representative.

Should First Selectman Cope win the Fifth District Congressional seat in the 115th Congress, a two-year term, then he would potentially be the highest ranking Republican in the State of Connecticut. In other words, there are five Connecticut seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two Connecticut seats in the Senate. All seven of these congressional seats are occupied by Connecticut Democrats. By contrast, the Republican Party is the Majority in both the House and the U.S. Senate in the 114th Congress, 2nd Session.

This is certainly big news for small town Sherman. The Fifth Congressional District is expansive and includes 41 towns that extend into Fairfield County, Litchfield County, Hartford County, and New Haven County.

Written by Alicia Sakal for the January 13th Edition of the Citizen News, a weekly newspaper that serves Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut. Contributed Photo.

2,543 jobs will be created in Connecticut

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On Wednesday, December 30, 2015, the Connecticut Department of Labor (CT DOL) – Office of Research released their monthly Business and Employment Changes Announced in the Media report. According to the Startups and Expansions section of this report, job creation in the State is looking more promising, with the collective creation of 2,543 new jobs reported. As for layoffs and staff reductions, none were reported in the month of December.

For those with long-term hiring plans, The Outlet Shoppes at Rentschler Field in East Hartford plans on creating 1,628 jobs in November 2017 when the new mall opens. Yale University plans to hire 500 new employees over a three-year period.

For businesses with hiring plans now and into the new year, Sunrun, a solar energy company, just opened a new location in Hartford and created 80 jobs. Hubbell Electric Heater Company in Stratford will create 35 new jobs.

As for two businesses that are moving to Connecticut in 2016, Serta Simmons Bedding from Massachusetts will create 200 jobs when they move to Windsor Locks. Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits from New York will create 100 jobs when they move to Stamford.

Article by Alicia Sakal. Written for Examiner: 2,543 jobs will be created in Connecticut

Photo by Ethan Prater, flickr.com

Jolly Old Saint Nick Arrives by Fire Truck at Holy Trinity

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In the wee hours of morning on Saturday, Jolly Old Saint Nick was seen rolling into Holy Trinity’s parking lot with sirens blaring and lights flaring. Over 100 children, parents, and volunteers were in awe and couldn’t believe their eyes.

Once again, it was a magical moment for those who believe. After 36 years of Saint Nick arriving in style by fire truck, one would think the newness would wear off with parishioners and townspeople, but it never does!

In a private conversation with Jolly Old Saint Nick, he disclosed to Citizen News that Engine #2, driven by Jim Riley, is his all-time favorite vehicle. With a not so jolly Ho. Ho. Ho., Saint Nick somberly continued to say how it’s retiring soon and the last public appearance is at Breakfast with Santa. He quickly clarified… “I am not retiring. Only this old fire truck is.” Perhaps next year, Saint Nick will grow to like the shiny, new replacement firetruck.

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As for what happened to all of Saint Nick’s reindeer who were supposed to pick him up when Breakfast with Santa was over, they are lost. Two reindeer assistants and the children are hoping Santa’s reindeer will easily see the glittery reindeer food from the sky because it was sprinkled on the front lawn outside the church. Naturally, Rudolph’s nose will also help guide them back. Everyone is hoping the reindeer will find their way back to Sherman to pick up Saint Nick well before Christmas Eve.

Short Story and Photos by Alicia Sakal.

Uniquely Sherman: 17 Distinctive Places To Go For All of Your Holiday Shopping

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At first glance, holiday shopping options in Sherman for family and friends can appear to be quite limited. Our quaint and rural town is not about having tons of commercial buildings and streets lined with endless rows of boutique shops and national retailers.

However, if one looks closer, Sherman certainly does offer “something for everyone” and there are plenty of in-demand organic, home-grown, free trade, and locally handmade products to be discovered along with several other neat and original finds for the one-of-a-kind people on your holiday shopping list.

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For coffee lovers, the Sacred Grounds coffee shop just opened its doors. Coffee roaster and owner, John Rich, has a passion for pure, certified-organic coffee and he only buys coffee beans from fair trade sources all over the world. Stop in and say “hi” to this enterprising Shermanite and buy some premade gift baskets with coffee samplers and coffee accessories. Mr. Rich is also offering 10% off everything in the store until New Year’s Day. Holiday Blend, Mexican Chiapas, and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe are the top sellers, so far!

The Sherman IGA certainly gives shoppers the “home for the holidays” country experience. Owner, Mike Luzi, will special order anything. It’s also easy to grab a handmade fair trade basket and create your own gift basket by filling it with local, organic, and international specialty foods. The popular farm-fresh Arethusa eggnog is now available for a limited time. “Just in for the holidays” are poinsettia plants, Christmas cacti, and Amaryllis and Narcissus growing kits for the “green thumb” along with holiday decorations like wreaths, swags, and kissing balls. There’s also a new shipment of nicely embroidered “Sherman” sweatshirts and baseball caps along with a full kiosk of 50 gift cards, including an IGA gift card option.

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Sherman’s charming gift shops are top on the list for many holiday shoppers. Barrie Sachs, owner of Happy Rainbows, is an herbalist and she can mix up a great tasting tea with natural, healing ingredients. She carries many local artisan products such as jewelry, chimes, crystals, and crystal singing bowls. Many children like the semi-precious stones and gems for their collections and they find the chocolates irresistible. Organic cat nip and soothing sound boxes are perfect gifts for cats and dogs, too.

The Sherman Historical Society’s Old Store never disappoints and is always decked out in its holiday glory. There’s something for everyone young and old with a plethora of gifts to choose from such as holiday ornaments, ceramics, handmade jewelry, and children’s gifts. Kimberly Taylor, owner of Crystal Visions, carries crystals and semi-precious stones, and has nice selections of spiritual collectibles and essential oils.

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Hair by Susi is running a “20% off full foils special on Thursdays” until the end of January and she has a nice holiday gift selection, too. The Wet Brush, a children’s detangle brush, is all the rage. Colorful scarves and elegant and versatile pashminas are perfect for fashionistas. Owner, Susi Funk, also carries a trendy jewelry collection by Caron Designs, a local jewelry designer.

Three farms in Sherman are continuously up to something epicurean. White Silo Farm and Winery offers an assortment of premade gift baskets for wine connoisseurs. They carry holiday favorites like sparkling red raspberry and sangria packs for parties. There is plenty of award-winning mustard for sale, too. In addition to farm produce and a CSA program, Strawberry Fields Farm is offering strawberry jam, strawberry and rhubarb jam, pink champagne jam, and maple syrup. There are festive holiday wreaths available, too. Happy Acres Farm offers several options for buying their grass-fed beef over the holidays including gift boxes, cow shares, and a winter CSA program.

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Continuing with the “Taste of Sherman” theme, two restaurants in town offer gift certificates that are perfect for foodies and they also make great gifts for teachers, friends, and family in the area. An American Pie Company gingerbread man or other sweet treat goes well with a gift certificate. Combine a gourmet Italian food basket or Italian Pandoro Christmas cake with an Amore Restaurant gift certificate. Another “old standby” is a nice bottle of wine or a case of artisan beer from Sherman Wine and Spirits.

For those who appreciate the performing arts, there are tickets available to see the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland production at the Sherman Playhouse, which is playing until the end of December. The Sherman Jewish Community Center (JCC) is having its next Musical Jamboree near the end of December and the Sherman Chamber Ensemble has a few local performances lined up in January for The Best of Baroque. For aspiring musicians, Hank Milligan Music is offering one free music lesson per interested student for piano, guitar, or drums and he teaches students of all ages and all levels.

What’s more, there are four “go-to” places for buying artwork off the walls from talented local artists. On display at the Sherman Library until early January is fine art photography by Judith Fecco. Webster Bank features stunning photography works of art by Cynthia Newlin O’Connor. A young and aspiring photographer, Max England, has works shown at both Webster Bank and American Pie Company. White Silo Farm and Winery is featuring landscape photography by Judy Cerrato until the end of the month.

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If it’s the holiday spirit of giving you’re after, then consider donating to a local non-profit in your name or someone else’s name as the ultimate present. It’s simply amazing how many good causes there are in Sherman. Out of a few dozen to choose from, some of these will surely lift the spirits of those who are going through hard times: Friends in Service Here (FISH) provides transportation to medical and therapy appointments and loans health care equipment, the Matthew 25 Project provides nutritious meals and distributes thousands of dollars in energy assistance to seniors and neighbors, and Hungerford Place is Sherman’s Food Pantry.

Holiday hours vary by store and business. Happy Acres Farm is by appointment only during the winter months. Be spontaneous and take a quick drive or stroll to town whenever you’re in the mood to shop for the holidays. Unique, “only found in Sherman” finds are everywhere.

Should you like to bring a “little of Sherman” to out-of-state folks, then mail your gifts from the Sherman USPS location to support their business. Popular this season are the Charlie Brown, Elvis Presley, Paul Newman, Harry Potter, and Ingrid Bergman stamps. Holiday greeting cards and boxes are also available.

Story and Photos by Alicia Sakal, Citizen News 12/9 Edition.

 

First Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Amore Restaurant

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Passersby will most certainly notice a festive 10-foot Christmas tree as they drive by Amore Restaurant on State Route 37 East in Sherman this holiday season. Community togetherness was the hallmark of this celebratory gathering on Friday night. Over 50 people sang Christmas carols and shared a champagne toast with the Ragosta family at their First Annual Christmas Tree Lighting event.

The brilliant idea to have a Christmas tree on display outside Amore Restaurant was a simple, natural progression. Luisa Ragosta said “we bought a Christmas tree from the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department and thought it would look nice outside our restaurant. The next thing I know, it turned into a close-knit community gathering, and there you have it!”

Article and Photo by Alicia Sakal, Citizen News 12/9 Edition