This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published May 13, 2020
Little did Mike Milici know when he was growing up in West Haven or getting a degree in marketing from Quinnipiac University that he would become a town assessor, much less work at the same post for three decades. But when he found his way into the East Haven position by accident, Mike discovered it was his calling.
After graduating from Quinnipiac, Mike was living in West Haven and Sal Guerra, a Democrat, was elected mayor. With the change in party, the town was seeking a candidate with a degree to become the assistant assessor.
“I really had no idea what the job entailed when I started, but I liked it and went through the certification process. Unfortunately the assessor died the same day I got the certification so I became the assessor there for a year,” says Mike, a Branford resident. “It’s like I stumbled into my niche.”
Mike, who was living in Milford at the time, truly found his place when the assessor in East Haven announced his retirement and he was recommended for the job. Mike went to an interview with Bob Norman, who was mayor at the time.
“He hired me after about 10 minutes and I’ve been grateful to him for this opportunity ever since,” says Mike, who will be celebrating 30 years as the town’s assessor on Thursday, May 14. “It’s been a pretty good run and, with a 12-year-old son, I have no plans of retiring any time soon.”
In 2002, Mike was looking to cut down on his commute and settled in Branford as it is convenient to East Haven and he has some family history in the town. He got involved in town government, serving as the chair of the Democratic party for several years.
As the assessor for East Haven, Mike often had business in Branford. His job led him to meet his wife, Trista Milici, who works at Branford Town Hall as executive secretary to the first selectman. The couple began dating in 2005 and married in 2007.
“I was doing inspections for the Town of Branford and we got to meet through there,” says Mike. “She’s the love of my life.”
Mike is the stepfather to two “wonderful stepchildren,” Brianna and Neil Cline. The Milicis have a 12-year-old son, Michael, with whom Mike shares a love of baseball. Michael plays for Branford Little League, taking after his dad, who played at Notre Dame-West Haven, Southern Connecticut State University, and Quinnipiac University.
“He’s a good baseball player, but because of COVID, it doesn’t appear there’ll be a Little League season, which is unfortunate because this would’ve been his last year,” says Mike, who enjoys working with Michael in the backyard. “My father was a ball player as well—he was actually drafted by the Detroit Tigers back in the day.”
To go along with his love of baseball, Mike has always enjoyed working out. When he was in college, he convinced his coaches to have the team participate in a Nautilus workout program, noting that many teams weren’t doing workouts like that at the time.
Mike did a few bodybuilding competitions when he was younger, but gave those up in favor of other forms of exercise like weightlifting, boxing, and bike riding— all things he now enjoys in his down time, along with gardening.
Mike also loves the diversity of his job, noting that every day is different and that his job has evolved over the years as technology advanced. As a town assessor, he oversees setting the value on properties. Taxes are based on the determined value.
“I enjoy the field work and I enjoy interacting with people,” says Mike, who has a staff of three. “In my day to day, I’m coordinating the staff on their duties and doing field inspections or court cases for the town.”
He remembers that when he started the position, the field sketches were drawn by hand, a process that’s now done on the computer. Over the years, more and more information has also become available online, which means that in-person visits aren’t as plentiful as they used to be.
“Everything has changed quite a bit with computers and the Internet over the years,” says Mike. “The computerized systems have made it so a lot of people don’t come into the office the way they used to. Real estate agents and appraisers can access the information from home, whereas in the old days, they’d be in all the time, pulling field cards and asking for help.”
Mike and his department are busiest from Oct. 1 through Jan. 1 when their focus is compiling the Grand List. In addition to doing field work, he also meets with residents or business owners to discuss questions.
“It’s never been boring and I have a pretty good reputation and rapport with people,” says Mike. “I always try to be fair. They may not like the answers they get, but I try to be truthful and forthcoming.”
Mike also uses his experience in Branford, where he serves as an alternate on the Board of Assessment Appeals. Though he is an alternate, he makes sure to attend all of the meetings.
“The Board of Assessment Appeals is set up by statute for people who are aggrieved with the actions of the assessors,” says Mike. “They can go plead their case to get their value reduced. We recently went through a revaluation in Branford and the turnout was relatively heavy, but we got through it.”
One of the bigger projects Mike worked on over the years was serving on East Haven’s Economic Task Force under former mayor Hank Luzzi. The task force helped design the town’s tax incentive programs that are still in place today.
Now working under East Haven Mayor Joseph Carfora, Mike is working under his sixth administration in his 30-year career. He has worked with many people over the years.
“I enjoy the work, I have a wonderful staff, and a good rapport with residents, who know I have an open door policy,” says Mike. “Most of the people at Town Hall get along pretty well. We’re starting to have some retirements now, but we’ve had an older workforce with a lot of people being here for 20-plus years. I think I’m the only original department head left from Bob Norman’s time, though I have no plans to retire anytime soon.