With former state official and longtime Wilton resident Toni Boucher topping its slate, the Wilton Republican Town Committee on Tuesday night, July 25, unanimously endorsed its team of candidates for local offices.
Boucher cited the principles of “consideration and inclusion” as she accepted the GOP nomination for the first selectwoman post being vacated by Republican Lynne Vanderslice.
The RTC, with a special meeting held at Comstock Community Center, also endorsed Joshua Cole for reelection to the Board of Selectmen, with current Republican Selectwoman Kim Healy not up for reelection this year.
Boucher said she and the other GOP candidates needed to “take off our political hats and put on our town hats. I think that’s what people want — consideration and inclusion.”
Antoinetta “Toni” Boucher, 73, was born in Italy and came to the U.S. at the age of five, when her family settled in Naugatuck. She has held a number of local offices in Wilton in the past, including chairing the Board of Education, and serving on the Board of Selectmen. From 1996 to 2008 she was the state representative for the 143rd District, then served as the 26th District’s state senator from 2008 to 2018 before losing two subsequent bids for that office.
“I really thought my life in public service was over,” she said, noting she had hoped that Cole would run for Wilton’s top seat instead.
Currently the town’s second selectman, Cole also currently sits on the Water Pollution Control Authority Commission, was a Zoning Board of Appeals member (including two years as Chair), and served on the Plan of Conservation and Development Committee. He has been a practicing commercial real estate and finance attorney in New York and Connecticut for more than 20 years.
Cole, however, in nominating Boucher, said he had given it a lot of deliberation but could not make the time commitment because of family and work.
“Toni is a consensus builder, a problem solver, and I know she cares deeply about our town,” he said. “She’s lived in town for 40 years and she knows Wilton’s past and looks forward to Wilton’s future.”
In seconding her nomination, Healy called Boucher a friend with whom she’s worked closely.
“My support is much more than just a political statement … There is no one that I know of who has given more time on a state and local level,” she said, noting Boucher’s professionalism.
While Boucher said running for — and serving in — an elected office was very time-consuming, it was also rewarding.
“There’s a need for people who can work well,” she said.
She noted that, if elected, her role as first selectwoman would include “championing our great schools, championing our neighborhoods, great fiscal management … and supporting the great employees that (serve) our town.”
“They don’t need to be challenged,” she said.
Board of Education
For the Board of Education, neither currently seated Republican members Jen Lalor nor Mandi Schmauch are seeking reelection.
Instead, four new candidates are being put forward by the RTC for the Board of Education, including former Wilton Public Schools teacher Heather Priest and Mark Shaner, both of whom are unaffiliated, along with Republicans Annie Chochos and former Board of Selectmen member Lori Bufano.
Priest helped build a culinary arts program at Middlebrook School, where her husband has been teaching for the last 20 years. Two years ago she made what her bio called a difficult decision to leave teaching to fulfill a life-long career goal of becoming a product development scientist within the food and beverage industry.
Shaner is a former aerospace engineer and management consultant who now leads strategy and corporate development for a cybersecurity insurer. He has lived in Wilton with his family for eight years and is active with Wilton CERT and the Wilton Soccer Association; his two children currently attend Wilton Public Schools. Shaner previously served on the board of The Epiphany School in New York City.
Bufano served as second selectman for two of her four years on the BOS, and has close to 10 years of experience serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning and Zoning Commissions; she currently serves on the Water Pollution Control Authority. A Wilton High School graduate who’s lived in Wilton since 1973, she has a 30-plus year career in healthcare and currently works for Yale New Haven Health System.
Chochos and her family moved to Wilton in 2015, and she began getting involved in Miller-Driscoll School once her son was in kindergarten, eventually leading the M-D P.T.A. as co-president for two years (2019-2021). She worked with district and Board of Education representatives to support Wilton schools through the uncharted territory of having school at home during the COVID pandemic. Since then, Chochos has continued actively volunteering at Cider Mill and served as the P.T.O. president of the Greek School at Archangels Greek Orthodox Church in Stamford.
Board of Finance
For the Board of Finance, the RTC has endorsed Prasad Iyer, who currently chairs the appointed Economic Development Commission and Rudy Escalante.
A Wilton resident since 2005, Iyer has one child still in Wilton’s school district and said he “is very knowledgeable about the local culture as well as the challenges and opportunities for the town to grow and thrive. … [He] is passionate about continuing to help Wilton grow by capitalizing on its unique characteristics, which make this a special place to live and work.” He’ll bring experience with various global corporations in the areas of financial planning and analysis, strategic planning, advertising and general management.
Escalante moved to Wilton a little over 30 years ago, and has been active in and around Wilton. He served on the Wilton Employees Retirement Plan Investment Committee (2018-2021) and as finance chair at Temple B’nai Chaim (2020-2023), and was President (2021-2023) and VP of Finance (2018-2020) of the Boy Scouts of America — CT Yankee Council. Professionally, from 2001-2017 Escalante was CEO of ICSA Software North America, a UK-based company specializing in corporate governance and compliance software for corporate legal departments.
Planning and Zoning Commission
The RTC endorsed three candidates for the Planning and Zoning Commission, including incumbent Chair Richard Tomasetti, a Republican; incumbent Vice Chair Melissa-Jean Rotini, who’s officially unaffiliated; and Anthony Cenatiempo, a Republican who currently chairs the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).
Tomasetti, an architect and lifelong Wilton resident, has also served on the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee, Building Inspectors Board of Appeals, Water Pollution Control Authority, and Wilton Family YMCA Board of Directors. “His expertise will help Wilton to be proactive in updating its zoning regulations to ensure they are effective and forward-thinking, believing strongly that this will encourage a higher level of design and incentivize preservation for everyone’s benefit,” RTC materials stated.
Rotini, whose been both appointed and elected to P&Z, currently serves on the Master Planning Sub-Committee, and previously was a member of the Plan of Conservation and Development Committee, chair of the EDC, member of the Math Curriculum Review Committee for the Wilton School District, PTA volunteer, and assistant cheer coach. Professionally, she has a 20-year career as an attorney during which she represented firefighters, police officers, and widows in the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund and Federal 9/11 Litigation as well as municipal clients in matters involving affordable housing, environmental regulations, public safety, election law, Medicaid, guardianships, human resources, civil service law, and governmental operations. Rotini is currently the assistant commissioner of a municipal department managing recycling and solid waste programs for nearly 900,000 residents, as well as storm water management, and regulatory compliance for solid waste, wastewater, and clean water facilities.
Cenatiempo has served as a member of the Wilton Zoning Board of Appeals since 2018, and chair since 2019. A practicing attorney since 2005, his practice focuses on family law litigation at both the trial and appellate level in Connecticut.
Zoning Board of Appeals: Republicans Mohammed Ayoub and Jeff Turner were endorsed for the ZBA, with Lily Zoruba receiving an endorsement as an alternate.
- Ayoub is vice president and design director leading HDR’s Manhattan Offices Design Studio, and has led the design of several large-scale, award-winning complex projects and masterplans across the United States, Europe, Middle East and Asia.
- A Wilton resident and real estate agent since 1997, Turner has been very involved in many town volunteer organizations and boards. He is currently VP of the Wilton American Legion and treasurer of Wilton’s Memorial Day Parade Committee, as well as a Director of the Wilton Kiwanis Club and the CT Military Officers Association. Turner has served on the boards of the Wilton YMCA, Ambler Farm, Wilton Little League, Wilton Football, and St. Matthew’s Church. He was a commissioned officer in the US Navy, serving four years on active duty and 18 in the reserves before retiring in 2008.
- Zoruba grew up in Wilton and graduated WHS in 2017. After earning her degree in marketing from University of Scranton, she now works as a business development representative at POTOO Solutions. Zoruba is newly married to another Wilton native who is currently deployed with the Marines.
Board of Assessment Appeals: The DTC endorsed incumbent Republican member Dan Falta. With an undergraduate engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA in Finance from UCLA, Falta has spent the last 25 years of his career focused on global markets, mostly as an institutional salesperson providing FX and interest rates hedging solutions to private equity firms. His current employer of 17 years is Australia and New Zealand Bank.
Constables: Three candidates were endorsed for Constable.
- RTC Chair Peter Wrampe
- Republican Maggie Bittner is a Connecticut native who moved to Wilton 11 years ago. She has spent the last 20-plus years building a career in event management and currently owns Matchbook Events, LLC. Bittner has volunteered with the school PTAs and served on the board of the Wilton Education Foundation and Wilton Newcomers Club.
- Angie Bertolino, affiliated with the Independent Party, is the Founder/CEO of Hollywood OS and the author and publisher of several books on the entertainment industry. The Bertolino family moved here in 2019 from Los Angeles after finding Wilton on a map looking for the best schools in America. She currently volunteers on a number of committees at Miller-Driscoll School and will do the same at Cider Mill PTA this year too.
“I think we got a great slate,” said Jake Lubel, RTC vice chair, noting a “deep effort” in finding the best candidates.
“We went as wide as we could finding people, looking for people,” he said.
Lubel noted that each member of the RTC was forwarded an advance document containing biographies of the candidates.
While the RTC did not allow photographs or any recording during the meeting, spirits seemed high among the 30 or so members in attendance, with applause following the unanimous endorsements and moments of laughter peppered in between some of the official orders of business.
During a more somber moment, however, first selectwoman-nominee Boucher noted that her acceptance of RTC’s endorsement was particularly bittersweet, as earlier in the evening her close friend, Janet Bondeson of Wilton, died after being removed from life support.
A former RTC member who served as a financial officer for both the town and Board of Education, Bondeson also worked as Boucher’s treasurer for a number of years while she was in state office.
“She was a quiet, solid person behind the scenes,” Boucher said.
Editor’s note: some biographical information has been added from materials provided by the RTC.