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After 26 years on the Board of Finance (BOF), Matt Hoey said he is ready to step up to the top job and help Guilford continue to grow and thrive.
Hoey and his wife have been residents of Guilford for 32 years, deciding to relocate here because they found the community welcoming, and because they were impressed with the school system that their three children eventually went through. Shortly after settling in town, Hoey joined the Democratic Town Committee (DTC).
Hoey grew up in Old Saybrook and said his home was a “Kennedy-era Democratic household,” meaning his parents took to heart President. John F. Kennedy’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” His parents served on various boards and commissions, setting an example their son remembered. Hoey said the BOF presented the perfect opportunity for him to get involved once he moved to town.
The Finance Times
His tenure on the BOF has been lengthy, serving as chair for 24 of his 26 years on the baord, and Hoey said he is proud of many things the board has accomplished over the years including Guilford’s financial position, the AAA bond rating, the health of the fund balance, and the ability of the board to work together, regardless of politics.
“I have been blessed to work with dedicated and talented people on the board and almost all of whom are more interested in putting Guilford in a better place as opposed to partisan politics,” he said. “While I have always been in the majority as the chair, I have always worked to get consensus and for the most part we have been able to do that. If you just look at the last few years the budgets have traditionally been six to one over the last six years.”
Hoey said he is pleased that the town has been able to accomplish all of these things with what he sees as reasonable tax increases. While Hoey said he understands full well that some in the community struggle to absorb any level of tax increase, he said the money the town spends has never been frivolous and people get a lot of bang for their buck.
“We spend money on the services that people have come to expect from their government and we have done that in the face of a declining contribution from the State of Connecticut,” he said. “Some folks talk about the increases over the last 10 to 15 years, but you also have to look at what we have added during that time for full transparency.”
In that window of time the town developed a fulltime Fire Department, implemented the Senior Tax Freeze program (an initiative of which Hoey said he is continually proud to have been a part), preserved thousands of acres of land, and continued to support the school district.
“I am proud of having supported the school district,” he said. “The BOF is responsible for having given them the tools to turn Guilford into one of the top 10 or 15 school districts in the state and yet our per-pupil expenditure ranks somewhere in the mid-70s [percentage-wise]. You are getting significant return for your dollar.”
While he described Guilford as a well-managed town, Hoey said he knows the same cannot be said for the state. Guilford is still awaiting final news on how much money the town can expect from the state, but Hoey said the significant revenue reduction that was built into this year’s budget was a reasonable estimate considering how little information was available.
“I don’t think it would have been prudent to cut much more than that as some proposed, because that would have meant either passing on a much more significant tax increase or we would have had to make cuts,” he said. “To suggest that you would have cut more so that the budget would have been rejected and then would have forced the town and the BOE to make cuts in order to pass a budget, to me I don’t see that as a responsible way to deal with the public.”
Why go for the top job now? Hoey said a lot of it has to do with timing in his personal life. All of his kids are now out of school so while he felt ready to take on this role four or eight years ago, Hoey said all of the pieces have now fallen into place.
The announcement by current First Selectman Joe Mazza (R) that he would not run again spurred a lot of debate, but Hoey said he was going to run this year regardless of if Mazza chose to retire. While the two men come from opposing parties, Hoey said bashing Mazza is not a part of his campaign strategy.
“You won’t hear me running against Joe Mazza’s record,” he said. “I think he has done a good job and I am proud to have worked along side him in helping to make Guilford a better place.”
If he gets the job, Hoey said there are things he will do differently because he has a different management style. While he said Guilford is strong now, he sees areas for improvement.
“If you are not striving to improve, you are sliding backwards and that comes from my business background,” he said. “I think you have to look at efficiencies and that is doing a couple of things: one, is there and opportunity to save costs? Two, is there a better way to deliver services? And if the second suffers because of the objective of the first, it is not worth doing in my opinion.”
The Care and Keeping of Guilford
While maintaining all that is good about Guilford, Hoey said he wants to encourage more people to get involved, which he said comes down to communication.
“There are so many people in this community with so many diverse talents that could be used on various boards and commissions that we don’t know about,” he said. “There may be some people who are turned off by the very nature of political structure by which you need to go through to get involved and I would like to create an avenue for people to get involved without having to go through those processes.”
Hoey said he wants to use his business expertise to enhance the experience of government for all residents as well.
“I have been in the private sector for a long time and I have been in customer-facing department for most of that. I think providing exceptional customer service is the hallmark of strong, great organizations and that can be true of municipalities as well,” he said. “Instilling a spirit that the taxpayer or the resident is like a customer and, while they might not always be right, they always need to be treated as your customer and you have to earn their respect and you do that by treating them fairly and honestly.”
At Your Door
As Election Day draws closer, candidates are hitting the street and knocking on doors to talk to voters. Hoey said he has heard a lot about protecting the education system and about protecting the services in town.
“A significant number of people I talk to talk about the education system,” he said. “In fact I have had a couple of people say if you negatively impact the education system, we will move to another district. If you start fooling around with class sizes or start funding initiatives ,they will move. I have heard that on several occasions.”
When asked why he is the right candidate, Hoey said it comes down to leadership and vision.
“I bring an open management style to board meetings and to considering complex issues and I am willing to listen to all opinions and all sides of an issue and I bring the passion I have for protecting the values that our community is built on,” he said. “It is about leadership and a vision to protect the quality of life that we have in Guilford.”
Sandy Ruoff and Lou Federici join Hoey on the Democratic ticket. Hoey said both of his running mates have a lot to offer—specifically mentioning Ruoff’s history of effective library management—and said together they are ready to work for the town.
“Our team, the Democratic team, has some great talents,” he said. “[Ha]aving a capable dedicated resources like Sandy and Lou will make a big difference.”
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