Trumbull in 2021: An election, some development and a few heroes

The closing year was one of both change and sameness in Trumbull.

In 2021, town residents saw their top official get elected to a third term, but lots was new as well. New development projects started or seemed on the cusp of starting. A popular sport got some traction in town. Old friends were lost. Some people got in trouble, while others revealed themselves to be heroes.

Here are some of the top stories of 2021 in Trumbull.

Meet the ... same boss?

In the town’s elections, Democratic incumbent First Selectman Vicki Tesoro competed with Republican Mark Block for the town’s top spot. The election was marked by some confusion, as Trumbull had recently expanded from four districts to seven, meaning many residents were voting in a new district and voted at a new polling place. This led to some calls to the registrar’s office, and people sought information on where to vote.

Despite that, the results of the race for the town’s top office were clear. Tesoro beat Block 5,977 to 4,420 and cruised to a third term.

Democrats took the whole top of the ticket, with Mary Markham beating Republican Katie Miller-Creagh for town clerk, 5,720 to 4,586, and Anthony Musto besting Republican Paul Lavoie for treasurer 5,547 to 4,737. Republicans made some gains on the town council, shrinking the Democratic majority to a single seat.

Developments abound

This was a big year in developments in Trumbull. Construction began on Residences at Main, at 5085 Main St., a 260-unit luxury apartment complex located between the Merritt Parkway and the Westfield Trumbull mall, about 500 feet from each. The $60 million project was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission in 2020.

Construction was expected to take 18 months, and the five apartment buildings in the complex will be four stories tall and will include a mix of one- and two-bedroom units.

As that project began, one reached completion. In October, Trumbull cut the ribbon on the new Long Hill Market, a 16,000-square-foot shopping center at the former site of Marisa’s restaurant. The plaza included such businesses as Summer Evans Studio, Dunkin’ Donuts, Elevate Physical Therapy, and Premier Martial Arts.

Yet another project, the redevelopment of Trumbull Center, is gearing up. In December, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard a pre-application for a plan to tear down two buildings in Trumbull Center and replace them with a single building combining retail and residential space.

The town is already on the cusp of opening a student-run bookstore in the center, as that project was approved this year.

Prom history

For the first time, Trumbull High School chose two female students as its prom royalty. Caitlyn Arnone, a musician in the Trumbull High band who also plays goalie on the lacrosse team, was chosen as the prom royalty with her girlfriend, Caitlin Daigle, a Trumbull High cheerleader who was forced to sit out this season with an injury.

At the time, Arnone said she was thrilled to make local history.

“To be the first time two girls were chosen, especially two girls that are dating each other, I thought it was really cool,” she said. “It’s great that my classmates weren’t thinking about gender.”

SeaQuest in hot water

The SeaQuest interactive aquarium in the Westfield Trumbull mall faced multiple woes this year. In March, a USDA animal care inspection unearthed multiple violations at the facility, including for a 2020 incident in which a child was bitten by an otter, another incident in which a facility employee hit otters with a metal food bowl and for missing records.

SeaQuest CEO Vince Covino pledged at the time that workers would adhere to all state and federal regulations.

The aquarium also engaged in a tax battle with the Town of Trumbull, which sued the Idaho-based company for an unpaid tax bill. SeaQuest filed its own suit, claiming the town had overvalued the company.

Task force reformed

Trumbull’s town council took steps to reform its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion task force this year, installing two co-chairs, a Democrat and a Republican.

Andrea Fonseca, an assistant principal at Orville H. Platt High School in Meriden, was originally nominated to be a vice chair of the task force. She became co-chair along with Republican Jeannine Stauder after the council vote.

RIP, Ted Lovely

Longtime educator Edward “Ted” Lovely died Nov. 23 at the age of 88. Bridgeport native, he eventually moved to Trumbull, and took multiple jobs in the school system, culminating in his serving as principal of Trumbull High School for 10 years. Following that, he served as supervisor of staff and curriculum development for Trumbull Public Schools.

The sad fate of Bear 211

In late May, reports started of bear sightings throughout the state, starting in Trumbull. The bear, dubbed Bear 211, wandered into other towns, including Westport and soon became a social media darling. But his story had a sad end in July, when he was put down after being critically hurt when he was hit by a vehicle in Easton.

Pickleball mania

A new sports craze hit Trumbull this year — pickleball! The sport was so popular that new courts were constructed at Unity Park and opened Sept. 26. Though it resembles tennis, pickleball courts are smaller than a tennis court, and the nets are lower. Some said the sport’s growing popularity is due at least partly to fact that it’s a good fit for active seniors.

Local heroes

A group of staff members at Frenchtown Elementary School gained hero status this year after rescuing a child choking on school grounds. The group — dubbed the Frenchtown Five — helped a third grade student with special needs when he reportedly began choking on a snack.

The child’s teacher, Rachel Dustin, dislodged a cracker blocking the child’s airway, while others rallied to their side in case more help was needed. The group received recognition from the Board of Education for their actions.

Bumpy year for Vazzano

Restaurateur and former member of the Trumbull Police Commission John Vazzano had a year rife with legal troubles. In February, he was charged with bribery and hindering an investigation into the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. The charges came after a 9-month investigation into allegations that in November and December 2019 a longtime dish washer at Vazzy’s Restaurant in Bridgeport and another kitchen employee sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl in the restaurant.

Vazzano was accused of offering a bribe to the girl’s family.

But, on Dec. 23, Superior Court Judge Kevin Russo granted Vazzano accelerated rehabilitation, on the condition that he provide a luncheon to a charitable organization in Bridgeport on Feb. 20, the two-year anniversary of his alleged bribe attempt.

Also this year, the Department of Labor announced as a result of “widespread violations,” Vazzano’s Original Vazzy’s on Broadbridge Road will pay nearly $100,000 in back wages to dozens of employees and in civil penalties.

Make-A-Wish center opens

This fall also saw the opening of the new Make-A-Wish building at 56 Commerce Drive in Trumbull. The new $6 million center offered a variety of amenities, including a airport-lounge designed entrance, where children can use their imaginations to travel anywhere they want.

This report uses past reporting from Donald Eng, Daniel Tepfer, Tara O’Neil, Brian Lockhart and Eddy Martinez.