Last week the Republican Caucus of the Newtown Legislative Council chose Dr. Neil Chaudhary to replace newly elected Mitch Bolinsky in Newtown's third district.
"To formalize the appointment, a roll call vote of Republican council members will be taken shortly after Wednesday’s Legislative Council meeting is called to order," wrote Chairman Jeffrey Capeci in a release. "Town Clerk, Debbie Aurelia, will swear Neil into office after the vote so he can participate in the meeting."
Chaudhary brings experience on the Tick-Borne Disease Committee and years of scientific experience as part of the Preusser Research Group. Newtown Patch spoke with Chaudhary about how he's preparing for the role.
Tell us a little about your background. What skills or experience do you consider most useful or applicable towards serving on the council?
Well, I am a scientist, and I think it makes sense to approach new ideas with an open mind and let the facts guide decision-making. I'm experienced working with committees -- I'm on the Tick-Borne Disease Committee, as well as two standing committees on the National Academy of Science and the Connecticut DMV Committee on safe teen driving. A lot of these do deal with policy-making.
My profession involves a lot of working with budgets, and I have about a dozen papers dealing with cost-benefit analysis. I think in general, I bring thinking outside the box. Not that this is directly related, but I also developed new innovative ways to observe and conduct nighttime seatbelt use. To date, I think I've done the only study on the effectiveness on the enforcement of cell phones. I was one of about 20 people nationwide to give testimony to the NTSB. So I think the experience is there.
What committees will you be serving on?
I don't know yet. It's possible I'll fill in wherever Mitch was, but ultimately it's up to Mr. Capeci. They're all very interesting. I think Ordinance seems to be quite active right now, and I think it would be interesting. Obviously, the budget's approaching and I think that's going to be a lot of work.
What are the concerns for balancing the budget next year?
Well, I really need to see the proposals from the Board of Education and the Selectmen and go from there. I do like to keep an open mind -- and as the information comes in, that's when I'll make decisions.
Do you think the town needs a Blight Ordinance? If so, how should it be set up?
It's important. Nobody wants to let the town move towards ruin or anything. The exact wording of the ordinance, however, is something I think the subcommittee -- if I'm part of it -- need to work through the details. I've thought about it a little bit, but I think I need to hear what other folks are saying and see the details of the proposal before I can add something.
You'll be the District 3 representative -- what are the big issues in your district? Do they pertain to all of Newtown?
Well, that's one of the things I'll have to do, is find out from the constituents about their concerns. I'm not even sworn in at this point, so I look forward to hearing from the constituents what needs to be addressed from District 3 and Newtown as a whole.
Have you had a chance to acclimate yourself with the council? How do you plan to approach serving on the council?
I've been attending the meetings fairly regularly for a while now. I'm looking forward to jumping in with both feet. There's a bit of a curve, but … I want to be as instrumental and productive as I can.
Honestly, I don't come into this with an agenda. I'm really looking forward to serving Newtown, and addressing the topics as they come up. I don't know if it's typical that people say, "There's this problem I need to deal with, I'm going to get on this committee," but that's not the way I approach it. I've been in this town for ten years, and I just wanted to continue being involved. It's a wonderful town to live in.