Trumbull’s Republicans and Democrats elected new leadership last week, after both longtime party chairs decided to step down earlier this year.

The Trumbull Democratic Town Committee elected Tom Kelly, a former Board of Education member, now on the Board of Finance. Republicans elected Paul Lavoie, the vice chairman on the Board of Finance and former marketing chair for the party.

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the chairman of the Trumbull RTC,” Lavoie said. “Jack Testani has done an outstanding job leading the Republican Party over the last six years, providing great leadership to the community. It will be a challenge to keep up the great work; however, I look forward to leading the party and identifying, coaching, recommending, and electing Republicans that will continue to make Trumbull a great place to work, live and play.”

First Selectman Timothy Herbst nominated Lavoie and a second to the nomination was given by Jack Testani. He was elected by unanimous vote of the RTC.

Kelly was also elected by a unanimous vote and lauded his predecessor, Nancy DiNardo.

“We will seek to engage all of Trumbull in a true grassroots effort, and we will work hard for our candidates and for what we believe,” Kelly said in remarks after his election. “If we work together, we will accomplish our goals and put Trumbull back on the right track as a vibrant, family-centered community. I can’t fill the shoes left by someone like Nancy DiNardo, who has devoted the past 30 years to the Democratic Party in Trumbull, and to our state. The good news is that Nancy is not leaving the Town Committee, and she has told me that she is just a phone call away. I thank her again for all of her service to the Trumbull Democratic Party, and to our town.”

Democrats also elected Mary Beth Thornton as vice chair, Doug Sutherland as treasurer and Rose Lodice as secretary. District leaders are Tony Silber, David Kayne, Lisa Labella, and Beryl Kaufman.

Republicans re-elected Karen Egri as vice chair and Loretta Chory as treasurer. Barbara Whetstone was elected secretary. District leaders are Al Zamary, Cindy Penkoff, Elaine Hammers, and Diane Pomposello.

Chairman goals

After a difficult election, in which Republicans had a landslide victory, Kelly said he wants to focus on getting the message out.

“We need to make sure our message is being heard,” Kelly said. “We have so many positive ideas and I think we need to do a good job of getting those ideas out and let people know what we stand for. I think that the opposition has tried to define us by putting out a narrative that is not accurate — saying we are not standing for anything positive.”

Fund raising is another big goal, Kelly said.

“During the last election we were at a fund-raising disadvantage,” he said. “There are a number of ways we are going to be doing outreach and looking to recruit high-quality candidates.”

Lavoie was elected to the Board of Assessment Appeals in 2009, before being appointed to the Board of Finance in 2010. He was elected to a four-year term on the finance board in 2011.

“My goals for the RTC are very straightforward — to ensure that we identify, coach and elect Republicans to all available positions in Trumbull,” Lavoie said. “To deliver the Trumbull vote for all state and national Republican candidates and to continue to work with our elected officials to build upon the three pillars of success in Trumbull, as articulated by our first selectman — sound finances, great schools and an outstanding quality of life.”

In his day job, he is a vice president of business development for ETTER Engineering, a Connecticut manufacturing and engineering company. Before ETTER, Lavoie was a co-owner and partner of Response Marketing, a New Haven-based marketing agency.

Kelly is a former Republican, who said he left the party for a number of reasons, including the GOP’s position on guns. Kelly works for United Healthcare as director in regulatory and consumer affairs.

Herbst responds

First Selectman Timothy Herbst said he thinks that Kelly leading the party will make for more a divisive political scene in Trumbull.

“I firmly believe with the appointment of Mr. Kelly, the Democratic Party has really regressed and been hijacked by a group of people who take satisfaction out of tearing others down,” Herbst said.

Kelly has been a vocal critic of the Herbst administration and started an online town discussion forum, Eye on Trumbull, which is now a Facebook page.

Herbst said that for years, when a Democrat was in the first selectman’s office, the party was good at sharing a message about how it wanted to improve the town. He thinks the Democrats have suffered in the last few years due to negative influences in the party, that don’t focus on Trumbull but rather personal agendas.

Herbst said he takes issue with Democrats and members of his own party using social media in a negative way.

“I’ve spoken to members of my own party about social media and using it in a positive vein,” he said. “People say things online that they would not say face to face, and a conversation or a handshake is much more effective.”

Herbst said that members of the Democratic Party should be motivated to make improvements, rather than being motivated by personal dislike of the first selectman.

While Kelly started Eye on Trumbull, he said he isn’t sure he will continue as an administrator of the Facebook page. Currently, a handful of other residents act as page administrators. Kelly said he and his party are big supporters of public forums, at meetings or on social media, that allow residents to discuss town topics.

Kelly took issue with Herbst’s assertion that the Democratic Party has been hijacked.

“In terms of me hijacking anything, there were no votes against me once my name was in nomination, and no one ran against me,” Kelly said. “But doesn’t Tim have enough to do with campaigning all over Connecticut in his bid for state treasurer and trying to be first selectman in whatever time he has left? “

Kelly didn’t mention Herbst in his first chairman speech, because he said the party has work to do, regardless of who is in the first selectman’s office.

“I think he shouldn’t be worrying about who the Democrats elect locally; he has enough on his plate already,” Kelly said. “For my part, I will simply congratulate Paul Lavoie, who was elected as chairman of the TRTC, and wish him well in his new position.”

Herbst praised his party’s new elected leadership.

“Paul Lavoie is going to be an outstanding chairman of the TRTC,” Herbst said. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jack Testani and Dee Chiota for revival of the party. All of us are only here temporarily, but we have an obligation to build the bench with candidates who will keep moving Trumbull forward.”