During the election season, Patch will profile candidates from all parties for Newtown's elected offices. In this story, Legislative Council candidate Anthony Filiato discusses his background, his budget experience and his vision for Newtown's future.
In November, Legislative Council chair Jeff Capeci will step down as a representative for Newtown's third district, and Republicans have chosen Anthony Filiato -- a Brooklyn-born attorney and consultant -- to run in his stead in the third district.
"I was kind of surprised," Filiato said. "I had to think about it ... But it's hard to say no these days in town when you see how hard everybody's working."
Filiato has lived in Newtown for eight years and previously served on the town's charter revision commission. He worked for ten years as a maritime lawyer for Lloyd's of London before moving to Wilton to work as a consultant for Signal Mutual Indemnity, providing worker's compensation benefits to stevedores and longshoremen.
"If you drive down the New Jersey turnpike, those cranes are generally insured by us," he said.
Filiato is the father of three children -- a daughter at Newtown High School, a son in 8th grade at Fraser Woods, and a daughter at Reed Intermediate School. He said a civic lesson to his son, a boy scout, motivated him to get involved.
"I was mentoring him on his citizenship badge and explaining to him about participation and volunteering," he said. "It felt natural to do it. Since we've been here, all the people we run into seem to be people trying to do the right thing."
Filiato's experience on 2012's charter revision commission mirrors that of several other first-time candidates this year. (See Patch's previous profiles of this year's first-time candidates for more.)
"It was a very good experience," he said. "We did a lot of work, and we did a lot of research. It was very clear to me the council members involved [Capeci, Mary Ann Jacob and Paul Lundquist] were very serious about it. They wanted to get the job done."
Capeci told Patch he's had his eye on Filiato since then.
""We were impressed with him, and he was interested in becoming involved again," said Capeci. "When I decided not to run, he stepped up to fill my spot ... I think he'll come to service with some experience."
Among Filiato's experience, he said, is a background rich in drafting the kind of ordinances the council deals with regularly, having regularly drafted ordinances on the state and federal level. He's cautious to note he doesn't expect to play the role of an activist.
"I'm not a crusader," he said. "You try to do the best job, you try to do what's right, and you try to let the people be involved as much as possible. The one thing you can't do is not listen."
But he singles transparency as one issue on which he won't flinch.
"I'm from Brooklyn, so I'm not shy," he said. "I can be tactful when need be, but when it comes to something like that, I speak my mind. I think if you're honest with your clients, they keep coming back."
He said he's ready to have an input in the town's budget process, and likes to approach budgets on a line-by-line basis.
"In my line of work, we have to budget each year, and it approaches $200 million a year," he said. "The town and school budgets don't frighten me. I run a pure mutual -- employers with different interests. You have to balance them and come up with the best answer. I think every budget can be tightened, but I don't think you can look at a budget and just say, 'We can cut 10% off this.' We went through this with the charter revision: when you split the budget, if people vote against one or the other, it would sometimes hurt one or the other. If the school budget passes, everybody's going to vote against the town budget. If the people in charge and the people who have the knowledge say you need this bridge and a roof on a school building, you need both."
On Changes in Newtown
"I think change is inevitable," he said. "The question is, how do you keep it from being too radical too quickly? There are people here who make Newtown what it is, and you want them to stay here. You need to work on a solution that lets everybody participate and feel like the town is theirs."
Filiato lives in Botsford, and says that while the recent retail growth there has been great, he's interested in more office park development in Newtown.
"We have three exits off 84," he said. "I think the opportunity's there -- and it would be great to see that happen at Fairfield Hills. The big problem is those buildings are just so darn big. There's nothing you can do with them. To take them down is extremely expensive. But the buildings as they exist, the square footage is incredible. It's a problem."
While enrollment may be dropping, Filiato said he believes Newtown is headed for a harmonious balance.
"We're almost at the balancing point," he said. "15 years ago, it was the newcomers who were in the minority. I think that's pushing upwards. There are many things we do in town where there is no acrimony. At the labor day parade, it doesn't matter who you are or what you do. This is our town. And I'm trusting this town."