FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The Fairfield Daily Voice sent five questions to each of the candidates running for state office this fall. The following responses are from Heather Dean, a Democrat running for state representative from Fairfield and Trumbull’s 134th District.
Dean currently represents District 4 in Fairfield’s local legislature, the Representative Town Meeting. She served on the body from 2003 to 2009 before being voted out of office. She was reelected to the RTM last November. She has also served on the Board of Education’s Cultural Diversity Task Force and the PTAs of Osborn Hill School and Roger Ludlowe Middle School.
Professionally, Dean worked in health care for 18 years before taking over Bright Futures Child Care Learning Center with her husband, Jeff, in 2003. She has three children.
Dean is running against Republican Tony Hwang, who is in his second term as state representative. The 134th district covers all of Fairfield north of Hill Farm Road, Stillson Road and the Samp Mortar Reservoir. It also includes a section of southwest Trumbull. (To see a complete map of Fairfield’s districts, click here.)
1) What are the biggest issues facing your district?
Education, Jobs, Taxes, Transportation and Infrastructure.
Education: The reform bill is a start. I support new- teacher probationary periods then renewable tenure using teacher evaluations that are fair and not for retribution. Our teacher-training programs are excellent and should guarantee that our children are being prepared. Let’s make that happen.
Storms last year wiped out businesses which simply could not exist after the power grid failed. What’s the point of creating jobs if we can’t get to them, or have power or water to work with when we do arrive?
I support initiatives to increase train travel and other forms of mass transit. People want to work but simply can’t get here.
Small businesses have built our economy. I’ll bring my real small-business experience with my scissors to cut through the red tape that chokes more than helps. We need incentives to hire staff without costs to taxpayers.
2) What would you do differently than the previous office-holder?
I volunteer because I want to help the 134th, not build my own business. Some families in Fairfield and Trumbull experience more [bills each] month then paycheck, savings gets drawn down and unemployment runs out.
Connecticut needs to live within a budget. We must look first to responsible cuts in spending. Telling voters to cut 5 percent across the board from their own bills is wrong. Could you imagine telling your bank that you’re going to reduce your mortgage payment by 5 percent? That’s irresponsible.
I would focus more on legislation that would directly impact the 134th district. Rather than make drive-by appearances, I would reach out to the community at local meetings in addition to welcoming constituents at my Hartford office.
I would learn from my peers on both sides of the aisle, not merely parrot the party line. I’ll ask hard questions, do my homework, and show up to cast an informed vote.
3) Is Connecticut going in the right direction or the wrong direction?
I’m an optimist. If I didn’t think we were going in the right direction, I would have moved. Gov. Malloy has the right plans in place. He understands that we need to move away from defined benefits to defined contributions or perhaps a hybrid for our state employees, as one example. We have entrepreneurs who want to start businesses and grow them. Companies are coming back to Connecticut and those already here, are expanding. Connecticut can be a great cottage industry and manufacturing state if we work together on regulations and incentives. People want to stay here; I want to help make that possible. We must make certain our children are receiving the education needed for our world at large, whether they choose to leave Connecticut or not. I want Connecticut to set the standard on educational excellence. Let’s keep our bar raised and expect big things.
4) What would you do to involve your constituents in your decision-making process?
There’s a lot more to representing the people than photo opportunities and attaching my name to others’ initiatives. Instead, I would hold district meetings throughout the 134th in addition to being a part of the Trumbull and Fairfield state delegations when they meet with the community. I’ve done this in the past with much success, even when not in office but just as a member of the Democratic Town Committee, I held meetings to meet my neighbors. It’s very freeing for voters to come without a camera or reporters, other recording devices and just express concern, frustration and occasionally praise for something done right in town. I would like to convene periodic focus groups to get direct dialogue with people on specific issues be it the budget, education reform, or a transportation bill.
5) Why should people vote for you?
As I walk through the neighborhoods of the 134th, I know I can do a better job.
My husband, Jeff, and I took over Bright Futures nine years ago and have learned how to do deal with employees, federal, state, and local regulations. We have employees; we have a payroll to meet each week that they count on. I am a job creator and understand the issues the vast majority of small business owners in Connecticut have to contend with daily.
I am serving my fourth non-consecutive term on the RTM and proud of my ability to work with both sides of the aisle. I’ve chaired committees and have striven to be fair and let all voices be heard while also asking the tough questions so my vote is always an informed one.
This is about duty and public service. I feel compelled to help, it’s my nature.