By Josh LaBella
Using her experience as City Clerk, her good relationships with people in West Haven and by surrounding herself with professionals, Debbie Collins says she wants to get the city back on track if elected mayor.
Collins, who announced her candidacy in February, said she decided to run because the city looks bad and has bad energy.
“Everybody is at each other’s throat,” said Collins. “It’s very negative. It seems like there’s no pride anymore. We’re Westies. We are supposed to bleed blue. This is the best place in the world but it’s like everyone feels defeated; like there’s no pride anymore.”
Collins said she feels like it is her time and has been considering running for the past several elections. While she said she likes Mayor Nancy Rossi as a person, she thinks she is hard to work with.
“I think I can do a better job,” said Collins. “I think I can surround myself with different people – and I think I expect more from people. That’s why I want to do it.”
The City Clerk said she wants to bring her 20 years of municipal experience and “common sense” to the top spot in West Haven. One issue Collins said she wanted to tackle is how the city looks. She said public works needs to do more to keep the city looking clean while citizens also need to do their part.
Collins called herself a people person and said she plans to utilize communication if she were to be elected mayor. She said she can take criticism and would be willing to hear people’s complaints and suggestions.
“I think sometimes people get caught up in that whole mayor thing where ‘It has to be my decision,”’ said Collins. “Well it doesn’t have to be your decision. That’s why you have good people around you – good corporation council and economic development.”
While Collins said she thinks municipal employees do a good job while getting a bad reputation, she said she could make City Hall more efficient. She said she wants to look at rewriting job descriptions, implementing employee evaluations and hosting monthly public meeting with the mayor and public works to hear citizen complaints and concerns.
Collins said everybody in the city knows the only way to improve the city — and lower taxes — is to bring in economic development. She said West Haven is not business-friendly and referenced a conversation she had with a new business owner who told her it took a year and a half for the planning and zoning to approve her permits.
“I don’t know the particulars but I’m thinking that’s a long time,” said Collins. “So we need to streamline somethings. That’s why I said I’d have more professional-type people running these offices.”
According to Collins, the city is not doing a good job at selling itself. She said West Haven needs to advertise at a larger level and that developers, mostly in the restaurant business, have called her and asked about working with her if she is elected.
Collins said she wants to see the Haven project finished but worries about the viability of building a mall in the city when many malls are struggling to compete.
“When this was first presented it sounded good,” said Collins. “But at that point malls were doing better. Now Trumbull mall has a little aquarium to bring people in. Milford mall has Dave and Busters. Clinton Mall just sold for $13 million it was on the market for $26 million – all built.”
When the Democrats caucus in a couple weeks to pick a nominee Collins said she “definitely won’t” get the nomination but is prepared to get the 800 signatures required to primary Mayor Rossi.
“Mike Last is Nancy’s treasurer and is the chairman of the party,” said Collins. “It’s a safe bet. I don’t even know if I’ll go that night.”
She said she is confident she will do well in the primary because she has been getting a lot of support from the public. She said if she loses she has yet to decide if she will run as an independent. Either way, she said she is ready for the next phase.