Stratford School Update: Coronavirus Data Dashboard

As of Thursday, 32 Bunnell High School students were in quarantine, and four Bunnell community members — two students and two teachers — were isolating after testing positive.

Five students at Flood Middle School were quarantining as of Thursday as a result of testing positive for the virus, as were four Lordship Elementary School students, one Nichols Elementary School student and one Stratford High School student. Three Stratford High School staff members were in isolation after they were confirmed to have the virus.

Fifteen Stratford High School community members and 14 people associated with Flood Middle School were in isolation as of Thursday after close contact with a person who tested positive.

The large number of quarantines comes as the district moves forward with plans to switch from a hybrid learning model to a schedule that would bring students into the classroom four days per week, despite vocal opposition from teachers and community members.

Know Your Town: The Arts Alliance of Stratford

by Mark Hannon
President of the Arts Alliance of Stratford

The Arts Alliance of Stratford, was conceived as a way to support and foster the growth of the arts, educational and cultural experiences in the Stratford. The Alliance creates collaborations among professional and emerging artists of all mediums, patrons of the arts, businesses, schools and community organizations, as well as by advocating for the arts.

The Alliance was born in 2007, originally as the Stratford Arts Guild, a vision of resident Debbie Gilbert, to see a unified “place” for the arts and artists. Acknowledging an abundance of talent in the performing, writing, music, and visual arts, she envisioned that all could participate as artists, audience and supporters, creating economic benefit for the community. “We need look no further than our neighbors in Bridgeport and Milford to see how partnerships among government, the business community and the arts attract people to visit and spend their money,” said founder and current VP/Treasurer, Debbie Gilbert. In 2014 the name of the organization was changed to the Coastal Arts Guild of CT to reflect its focus on regional partnerships.

Debbie took a hiatus and Mark Hannon, the current President, fulfilled Debbie’s vision for the Alliance by receiving 501c3 charitable status. He continues to work tirelessly, leading the Alliance by providing art opportunities to the community and its members. Other Board members include Secretary Anne Mulligan, Education Director Megan McCool, and members at large Vinny Faggella, Colin Healey, and Margaret Bodell.

In “normal” times, the Arts Alliance hosts monthly member meetings at Sterling House; participates in many high quality juried craft shows; produces International Make Music Day (a town-wide celebration on the summer solstice that happens around the world); makes field trips to museums and plein-air painting locations.

In addition to creative classes and workshops, they sponsor a series of business workshops for artists, in conjunction with SCORE. It also partners with Artists for World Peace, a Middletown based organization that sells donated 6”x6” canvasses from their moving Peace Wall to raise money for humanitarian causes.

Early in 2020, The Alliance officially partnered with Sterling House and renovated the exhibition room into an art gallery, where future shows, music recitals, poetry and play readings can take place. The room historically hosted art shows but in recent years had been used for many purposes, including an annual youth and adult art show in June. The Alliance proposed adding a program of community and member art shows at other times during the year. An advocate of the arts herself, Executive Director Amanda Meeson saw tremendous value in a partnership with the Alliance and it was made official just prior to Covid-19 shutdowns.

In recognition of this partnership and moving activities to Sterling House, The Alliance changed its name again from the Coastal Arts Guild of CT to Arts Alliance of Stratford.

This year, The Alliance, like so many other organizations, pivoted to offer programs online. Figure drawing on Zoom has been very successful. It created additional opportunities to bring in artists and models from all over the country. Make Music Day was presented virtually in June. It hopes to host a virtual visual art show before the end of the year. The Alliance is recruiting teaching artists to offer programming remotely and planning a journalism project with the public high schools.

As a creative partner in the Town of Stratford, Arts Alliance of Stratford, along with the other arts organizations, envisions Stratford as an arts destination. With many natural and creative assets, Stratford has an abundance of talent to share. The Alliance actively supports and advocates to make Stratford a destination for those who enjoy the arts, and to drive economic success.

The Alliance is currently continuing its monthly member meetings over Zoom, on the first Tuesday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00. Included in the meeting is a monthly art challenge to create a piece of visual, written or musical art around a theme and the opportunity to present and critique members’ current work.

For more information please visit


Know Your Town: Probate Court Questions & Answers

by Max Rosenberg
Probate Court Judge

Note: The Stratford Crier will be publishing articles highlighting a department agency, commission, or organization that are integral to the Town of Stratford. We start this series by featuring Stratford Probate Court.  Connecticut is divided into 54 probate districts, each of which is presided over by a Judge of Probate who is elected to office for a four-year term. Our Judge of Probate is the Honorable Max L. Rosenberg.

To submit questions regarding Probate Court to the Honorable Max L. Rosenberg email

I am Max L. Rosenberg, the Judge of Probate Court for Stratford, District 47.  People often ask me what does a Probate Judge do? And after giving a full account of the authorities and responsibilities of the office, I am often left explaining that a large part of our case load is conservatorship files.  This of course triggers the common question: What is a conservator?

What is a conservator? A conservator is a person appointed by the Probate Court to have the authority to manage a conserved person’s finances and/or personal affairs.  While a conserved person obtains this status by the court determining they are unable or incapable of managing their own financial and/or personal affairs, this does not necessarily mean they are elderly, infirmed, or entirely mentally incapacitated.  Recently, the once famous pop-sensation and Mouseketeer Britney Spears was in the news for having been conserved.

Ms. Spears has been conserved for almost twelve years. One might be asking, why does a 38-year-old pop superstar, a multi-millionaire with a string of platinum-selling records, a former “X Factor” judge and a recently reigning queen of Las Vegas residencies still need a guardian looking after her?

There are two avenues toward conservatorship. Often, conservatorships are voluntary, such as when an infirmed person is seeking the assistance and supervision of someone appointed by the court. Other times, it becomes necessary for a medical facility or family member to file a petition for involuntary conservatorship, either because the potentially conserved person is too mentally incapacitated to comprehend the process, and therefore does not have the capacity to agree to it, or the person has the capacity but disagrees with this process, believing that this results in their perceived “loss” of freedom and authority in their own life.

When Ms. Spears was conserved, it was following a serious mental breakdown in 2007 that resulted in erratic and chaotic behavior, such as shaving her head and attacking an automobile with an umbrella. Her father and her lawyer were appointed co-conservators of her estate. It is unclear if this was voluntary or involuntary; however, Ms. Spears has purportedly not objected. Despite this, her fans, and even celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Rose McGowan, have mounted an online “Free Britney” movement. Ms. Spears, however, is not affiliated with it because the conservatorship helps her. It enables her to focus on her best interests, and her health, while protecting her finances.  It assists her with business decisions and management issues.  Prior to the conservatorship, she had multiple involuntary temporary psychiatric holds.  She lost custody of her children and was roasted in the trade papers.

Now, at least in part due to the conservatorship, she thrives. Though she still suffers from certain mental illnesses, she continues to make best-selling records, tour and appear at awards shows, and she even became the highest paid judge on the X-Factor.  So, while a conservatorship is meant to be a last resort, in the right situation it can be a solution. Like Ocham’s Razor, it is one solution to many problems

This is not meant to paint a rosy picture with no downside, but there is a huge gap between being able to do everything for yourself and nothing. There are dangers and downsides to any procedure where people are involved.  But it is important to remember that in this type of situation there are multiple levels of oversight. While it may not be the best solution in every scenario, it is a process that people should know more about and understand.

Have you Heard of Complete Streets?

by Harold Watson
Member of Complete Streets

Not all of the Covid-19 Pandemic has been negative. Adult recreational bike sales in March ballooned by 121% compared to the same month a year ago, according to Bicycling Retailer and Industry News. Between walkers and cyclists my neighbors make the case for Complete Streets.

It is clear to me as an avid cyclist, as the Chair of the Stratford Planning Commission, and as a member of the Stratford Housatonic Greenway Committee, that a lot of people don’t know what a Complete Street really means. First it’s a worldwide movement to make local networks of transport equal for all modes of transportation, while also enhancing our visual streetscape environment.

In 2016 a Stratford Complete Streets initiative resulted in a plan that lays out the vision for transforming Stratford’s Streets. In 2017, this was adopted as ordinance. Details for both are available on the Stratford Planning Commission webpage.

From the report: “A street can be a place or a connection. A majority of roadways in the United States (including Stratford) have been designed with the primary function of serving as a link for automobile travel. Roadways designed in this fashion typically function as efficient conduits for motor vehicle travel, but are often poor links for other modes of transportation, including walking and biking.  Additionally, roadways have the ability to function as a social space by establishing a relationship to the places where people live, work and play. Treating streets simply as links for automobiles often ignores the other important contexts and functions that streets should address.”

The Complete Streets design philosophy and adopted ordinance of 2017 enhances our current street planning by enabling safe, convenient, and comfortable networks of travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their transportation mode. It is a person-oriented design philosophy that seeks to facilitate safe travel and a sense of place for those walking, bicycling, driving an automobile, or riding public transportation – thus creating a Complete Street for all users and their mode of choice. It will be important to consider both the movement zone and the placemaking zone when designing Stratford Streets as a Complete Street.

Specific to Stratford Complete Streets two projects are now in the design/build stage: The Main Street Project (from Barnum to near Stratford Avenue) aims to improve connectivity between residential and commercial areas, support multiple modes of transportation, increase safety and accessibility, and foster healthy lifestyles. The Town of Stratford has taken several steps including receiving CT DOT funding to promote safe streets and encourage a more vibrant downtown in this Transit Oriented District (TOD.) This will extend the Housatonic Greenway, by connecting Main Street via a new on and off road phase from Elm Street to Short Beach. By focusing on key street corridors in the public right of way, both projects build on past and ongoing initiatives to create a framework for future development that beautifies the public realm; transforms streets into active, healthy corridors for all modes of travel; connects residents and visitors to major destinations; provides a safe, accessible environment for users of all ages and abilities; and helps revitalizes the downtown and will eventually create safe corridors between all our schools and parks with the next future project likely extending to the Paradise Green Business District.

I encourage you to look at the plans for the town-wide Stratford Housatonic Greenway that includes off and on-road trails.  If you ride, there is a Facebook page of the same name that welcomes your participation.

by Harold Watson
Member of Complete Streets
Chairman of Planning Commission
Member of Greenway Committee
Stratford Housing Partnership

Superintendent Janet Robinson Wants 4 Day Week in School for Students

During the Stratford Board of Education meeting Monday, October 26th , community members spoke against the school district’s plan to bring elementary students back to the classroom four days a week.

Last week the school board made plans to vote on the proposal Monday, but when the day of the expected vote came, Chair Allison DelBene said it was up to the superintendent to decide the amount of time elementary schoolers spend learning in- person, and that the board would not vote on the matter.

Board member Janice Cupee questioned why the board was no longer voting on the district’s four-day plan. “I don’t know why this should go through without our input,” she said. DelBene responded that the decision was up to Superintendent Janet Robinson.

“This, right now, is just a plan to reopen,” board member Robert DeLorenzo said. “It gives everyone a date, but can anyone predict the dates with COVID? … Everyone is doing the best they can to be fair.”

Superintendent Janet Robinson intends to increase the number of days students are in the classroom. Robinson’s plan would see kindergarteners, first-graders and English learners shift to four days a week in-person Nov. 16, with all elementary students making the switch by the end of November. Members of the public Monday questioned the timing of the plan, citing rising coronavirus case numbers.

“Why now?” asked Stratford Education Association President Michael Fiorello. “It’s not the metrics, it’s not the projections and it’s certainly not the teachers on the front lines driving the decision.”

Multiple speakers referenced an email sent Friday by Robinson to the district community that said children were not succeeding with online learning, a statement that education association Elementary Vice President Robin Julian called, “a slap in the face to all of the hard work elementary teachers have been doing.”

Robin Julian also expressed concern about a lack of classroom materials, insufficient cleaning in schools and the use of supplementary learning areas for classes with student overflow, a topic with which several speakers took issue. Five or fewer classrooms are expected to require the supplementary areas, according to Harold Greist, STEM coordinator for grades seven through 12. Board member Karen Rodia brought up the large number of school community members — more than 100 — who have had to quarantine in recent weeks due to virus exposure, but Vice Chair Amy Wiltsie said the quarantines were “overly cautious.”

“I feel very confident that the safest place for my children right now is in school,” she said. Robinson noted that only four district students had contracted the virus so far, later adding that students face other risks. School officials are alerted when students visit dangerous websites, and have received many recent notifications about students researching suicide, according to Robinson. “Our job is to protect those kids,” she said.

“I’m really emotional about this because I am concerned.” Other issues raised by Robinson included inequitability in online learning and a reduction of reports to the Department of Children and Families. “The reporters, who are us, are not in contact with kids,” she said.

Stratford Farmers Market Season Ends Soon: Winter Market Being Considered

by Tom Dillon

The summer may be over, but the Stratford Farmers Market is still going strong!

Every Monday afternoon an incredible collection of people, goods and services gather at Paradise Green for all to enjoy. If you have been a regular at the market you already know the friendly faces and wonderful products that make up the market.  But if you have not, there is still time to come out and see for yourself.

You’ll find fresh locally grown produce from two local farms who have worked all year long to bring the fruits and vegetables of their labor to the people of Stratford. Gazy Brothers Farms and Plasko’s Farm and Creamery bring truckloads of fresh produce right to the center of town for everyone’s convenience.

Gazy Brothers Farm is a 4th generation family farm founded in 1918.  Produce is picked from 25 acres in Oxford and brought to farmer’s markets throughout the state.  The Plasko Farm team adds fresh baked goods so you can find your dessert as well a wide variety of fresh produce grown right here in Connecticut.

If veggies and treats just aren’t enough for you how about a surf and turf dinner?

You can put clams casino on the table in 2 quick stops.  Head over to Laurie and Dave Popadic’s Clam truck.  Fresh from the mouth of the Housatonic River, Laurie and Dave have been bringing in the best of Long Island Sound clams for decades.  A little bacon from Eaglewood Farms’ Connecticut grown pork completes the recipe.

Dave Finn raises the pigs in Barkhamsted.  Each pig is raised until they weigh 240 pounds!  The good news is that you don’t have to buy the whole thing.  They have a wide variety of cuts and styles.  If you don’t find Dave at the stand you’ll meet Kevin who can fill you in on all the details on each cut of meat.

Eaglewood Farms also provides fresh chicken and duck eggs in a variety of sizes.  Bacon and eggs for breakfast anyone?

Wanke’s Yankee, run by none other than Dave Wanke, provides an amazing collection of hot sauces, jams, and spiced peanuts that will please and delight.  While all the products specialize in hot peppers each product is available in a variety of flavors and intensities.

If you need a little boost to give you the energy to carry all that good stuff you can get a coffee or a refreshing tea at Rob Vitale and Shama Khan’s Yellow King Brews.  Hot or cold, they have something delicious for you.  Several food trucks also have been available so you can even get something delicious if you can’t wait to eat until you get

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner – the market has you covered and that is not even half the story.

Need inspiration? Got that.  Need advice?  You bet!  Need a friend who never complains and won’t eat you out of house and home.  The Stratford Farmers Market has it all.

Meet Jennifer Csedrik, a Main Street resident and owner of Inspire Attire, who produces beautiful clothing right here in town.  “Every item has a word, a message and a meaning,” Jen explained. She will greet you with an infectious spirit and bright eyes.  “I am all about self-care and self-love!”  Each item is printed at her barn/studio.  Her truly positive nature shines through each piece from tank tops to t-shirts to hoodies and blankets.

If you need advice about your financial future you can find Kathy Figgis at the Flagship Financial Partners table.  Kathy is a long time Stratford resident and is active with the Stratford Sister Cities Choir.

And for those who want a companion to take home with them – try out Nancy Moore’s herbs, succulents and plants.  She has been in the business of growing a wide variety of plants for more than 50 years.  Long lasting and easy to take care of, Nancy’s beautiful little plants may not be as fun as a puppy, but they will never make a move on that bacon you got from Eaglewood Farms!

There is still plenty of time left and other crafters, vendors and to meet in person. The Market will be running throughout the month of October every Monday afternoon from 2 to 6.  Masks are required and a hand sanitizing station is available at the entrance of the market.  Special thanks should be paid to all involved in making the market possible in this trying year. Market Master Laurie Popadic has put incredible energy and a ton of time into bringing this wonderful resource to Stratford year over year.

The Day That Was…

On September 11th Stratford Police Sargent Jamie “Javi” Rivera posted on Facebook (see screen shot of post below) which was then widely shared and condemned on social media. In his post Sargent Rivera claimed “Black lives matter is a terrorist organization!!!! They call for the killing of cops. No matter what color.”

The post went viral, resulting in a statement published by Mayor Laura Hoydick and the Rev. D. Stanley Lord, President of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP, following a meeting between Rev. Lord and Police Chief Joseph McNeil. Additional statements were also issued by Town organizations condemning Sgt. Rivera’s post.

During the Town Council meeting on September 14th Stratford residents spoke during the Public Forum on the recent Facebook post by Sgt. Rivera

Rev. Lord, Greater Bridgeport NAACP
Dr. Tina Manus
Yolanda Mitchell
Donald Goodson
Sonya Huber
Stacey Tavaras
Linda Fernandes
Kimberly Rice
Stephanie Philips


All speakers called for police accountability for the incident, including (but not limited to) a police review board, education and training. Mr. Goodson noted that every crisis presents an opportunity, and hoped that Stratford would take this incident to work with the NAACP and well as members of C.A.R.E ((Citizens Addressing Racial Equity). There was also calls for an investigation into Sgt. Rivera’s post, as apparently there is a Code of Conduct for the police department that might have been violated.

The Stratford Crier made an editorial decision to post all of the statements for reader information with no comment or opinion. Before posting this article a call was placed to Mayor Hoydick and Police Chief McNeil for comment. Their offices did not respond.


Racial Equity Subject of Zoom Talks “Conversations” Begin November 5

A series of six Conversations on Racial Equity is set for the Zoom platform beginning Thursday, November 5 at 7:30 pm. The new series is presented by Stratford CARE (Citizens Addressing Racial Equity) and sponsored by the Town of Stratford, the Stratford Clergy Association and the Stratford Library. The program is free and open to the public.

Led by trained facilitators from Raising the BAR, a program of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, the goal of the program is to make people come together to make Stratford stronger and healthier for all. Thought-provoking videos, articles and podcasts about how racism has shaped our environment will be discussed and participants will also work in small groups to discuss how to unite to take action, heal divides and make a difference in Stratford.

The series begins on November 5 with “Starting Point: Implicit Bias” held on Zoom from 7:30-8:45 pm. The remaining programs in the series include: “Housing Disparities” on December 3, “Health Disparities” (January 7, 2021) “Educational Disparities” (February 4), “Employment Disparities” (March 4) and “Criminal Justice Disparities” (April 1). It is not necessary to attend every session in order to take part in the series.

To register for the free conversation series visit:

Statement from the Stratford Republican Party

Lou Decilio, Chairman of the Stratford Republican Party

This is being handled by the administration, Chief of Police, the NAACP, and CARES.
Everyone is in communications and I’m confident it will be settled.


Statement from the Stratford Democrats

By Steve Taccogna, Chairman of the Stratford Democrats

The Stratford Democratic Town Committee strongly condemns the irresponsible, offensive, and erroneous comments made by Sgt. Jaime Rivera of the Stratford Police Department about the Black Lives Matter movement.

These comments are unacceptable and reprehensible. They are aimed at movements to end systemic police brutality against black men, women, and children and to silence those calling for such reform. This act of bad faith calls into serious question the suitability of the officers who stand against this goal.

It is vital that we hold people accountable for their words and deeds, especially those in whom we have placed our trust and our safety. It is also imperative that those who do not share the values of routing out racism in our law enforcement system and in our communities be investigated and assessed on whether they can conduct their jobs without bias or malice.

We await the Stratford Police Department’s plan to address this individual incident, to prevent similar situations in the future, and to rout out in its own department the underlying sentiments that lead to behaviors such as those exhibited by Sgt. Rivera.

How We Open in Stratford

by the Stratford Board of Education

Stratford students returned to the classroom part-time on September 9th. The district’s plan is to have students back in school two days a week despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of a full-time in-school schedule, students will be separated into two groups. Cohort A will attend school in-person Monday and Tuesday, while Cohort B will be in the classroom Thursday and Friday. During the remaining three days, the students will learn remotely, with Chromebooks available to all. School buildings will close Wednesday for deep cleaning.

The hybrid model will allow for smaller in-person class sizes of about 10 to 13 students per room. High schoolers will move from class to class throughout the day, but middle schoolers will not, with most teachers coming to them. Music and art teachers will also travel to cohort classrooms, and gym will be outdoors when possible.

Strict safety protocols have been put in place. Face masks will be required, with outdoor mask breaks. The district will give each student two cloth masks. Students will be required to use hand sanitizer whenever they enter or exit a classroom. Hand washing and social distancing will be prioritized, and extra crews will clean the schools throughout the day.

If a student shows symptoms, they will be isolated at the school nurse’s office, sent home and asked to get tested. Their classmates and teacher may be required to quarantine for up to two weeks.

If there are no local coronavirus spikes after schools reopen, the district may return to full-time in-person education. If cases do increase significantly, students will revert to the distance-learning-only approach that was introduced early in the pandemic. Either potential change is most likely to happen in October.

The entire protocol may be found here.

Editor’s Note: To date (October 21st ) Wooster had about 85 students and two teachers in quarantine. Community members at Bunnell and Stratford high schools, Flood Middle School and Lordship Elementary School have also tested positive for the virus.

Know Your Town: What Does Planning and Zoning Do?

by Jay Habansky, AICP
Planning and Zoning Administrator
Stratford Office of Planning and Zoning

Q: What does the Office of Planning & Zoning do?

The Office of Planning and Zoning oversees land-use for the Town of Stratford. In
addition to the development and implementation of long-range town planning initiatives, the Office ensures zoning code compliance, administers the receipt of applications for zoning/building permits and various land-use boards and commissions. Our staff conducts site plan reviews, conducts inspections ensuring compliance with the Zoning Regulations, staffs and facilitates land use public hearings for the Architectural Review Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Commission and Zoning Commission (and other subcommittees), and guides people through the development process. The Office of Planning and Zoning is committed to the preservation of health, safety, quality of life and general welfare for the residents of Stratford.

Q: What is Planning and Zoning?

Generally speaking, zoning is the division of town, city or county by legislative
regulations into areas, or zones, which specify allowable uses for real property and size
restrictions for buildings within these areas. For example, Stratford is comprised of a
mix of zones that are residential, multi-family residential, commercial, industrial and
special overlay zones. When an application is submitted to our office, we ensure the
proposed use is allowed and that the project complies with the parking, landscaping and other requirements. To put it simply, zoning tells you what uses can go in what
neighborhoods, where structures can be located on a property and at what level of
intensity a property can be developed.

City/Town planning is a process, procedure or method for setting goals, identifying and assessing options and developing strategies for achieving desired outcomes. The goal of planning is to maximize the health, safety, and economic well-being of residents in ways that reflect the unique needs, desires, and culture of those who live and work within the community. The primary function of the Office of Planning & Zoning is the drafting, adoption and implementation of the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). Additionally, Planning staff develop and implement planning
strategies that support goals identified in the POCD, such as developing a Complete
Streets/Greenway Network, Coastal Resiliency Plan, Housing Plans, Parking Inventory
Studies, Placemaking projects and much more. Planning programs overlap into nearly
every municipal department, from public policy, to transportation infrastructure, to open space preservation, and health and wellness initiatives. Simply put, planning allows residents and businesses to have choices. Do you want to live in a single family home, apartment or condominium? Do you drive, walk, bicycle or take a bus or train? Are there any parks or open spaces near you? Are there any restaurants or coffee shops near you? As planners, we help to provide a diverse mix of choices when it comes to offering a balanced urban/suburban life, such as living accommodations, mobility or
entertainment nearby.

Q: Do you have experienced staff?

The Office Planning & Zoning has four full-time staff members. Both the Town Planner, Susmitha Attota, and myself are licensed urban planners through the American
Planning Association’s (APA): American Institute for Certified Planners (AICP). The APA considers “AICP” as shorthand for education, experience, breadth of knowledge, ethical practice, and commitment to the planning profession. To maintain AICP membership, rigorous testing and extensive continued education must be reported every two years related to changes in land use law, ethical planning practice, community outreach and other innovative best practice planning methods. AICP accreditation is not required to be a practicing planner, although it is highly desired by employers. The AICP certification is the only nationwide, independent verification of a planners’ qualifications.

Both the Town Planner and I are highly trained facilitators and have extensive
experience in conducting meaningful public outreach and communicating often complex issues in a clear and concise manner. With nearly 30 years of planning experience between us, Susmitha and I are regularly asked to speak at planning and policy seminars as panelists and we hold leadership roles with outside agencies such as the Governor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, Regional Transportation Technical
Advisory Committee, Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation and more. We are both proud advocates and representatives for Stratford. I have also been fortunate to have had opportunities as a private consultant, working on climate
adaptation planning, transportation planning and urban design projects domestically and in several countries in South America. The Town of Stratford has wisely invested in its future-oriented decision making ability by having two highly experienced AICP planners on staff.

Additionally, the office’s Administrative Clerk, Eva “Tiny” Jowers and Zoning Enforcement Officer, John Rusatsky, share an incredible 68 years of municipal zoning experience between them, specializing in permitting, code compliance, land use law and requirements governed by the Connecticut General Statutes. Both Tiny and John have incredible historical knowledge of Stratford and are indispensable members of the Planning & Zoning team. Friendly and compassionate customer service is a priority of all staff members. If you have a question, let us know how we can help you!

Q: What do you like best about being the head of the Office of Planning & Zoning?

The best part of what we do is helping people. Growing up in neighboring Bridgeport, I
was raised to value the importance of community service and investment in our
communities. Being able to improve the quality of life of residents and business owners
by solving small or large problems everyday is a large part of why I pursued municipal
planning as opposed to the more lucrative private sector. While it’s not always easy to resolve every problem or make everyone happy, it’s this challenge that makes our line of work so interesting.

I also enjoy the variety that land use planning offers on a daily basis. In the morning we could be collaborating with US State Senators in Washington DC for grant funding in Stratford, in the afternoon we are working on regional infrastructure projects with CTDOT and at the end of the day we are fielding complaints about roosters and chickens. Every day presents new and interesting challenges and I love that variety. This job always keeps you on your toes!

Lastly, I am proud to be able to use my education and experiences to help places like
Stratford continue to be a wonderful place to live, work and play. I consider myself
fortunate to work for Mayor Hoydick and the residents of Stratford, and I am excited for the years ahead.

Contact Information: 

Jay Habansky, AICP
Planning & Zoning Administrator
Office of Planning & Zoning
(203) 385-4017

Passages Back

The Unique Nature of Stratford’s Suffrage History

By David Wright,
Editor of The Cupheag Corner

As we enter a year of remembrance celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, a look at how women’s suffrage originated, and evolved, in Stratford seems most noteworthy. Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, has established a Connecticut Suffrage Centennial website which you may view at Many towns are marking the centennial with special events and observances which are, or will be, posted to this website. In order to celebrate the centennial in Stratford, it’s important to recognize just how differently Stratford experienced the suffrage movement.

Unlike many other towns in the state and the nation, there is no sign of visible opposition to the suffrage movement in Stratford. There was no organized “anti” suffrage movement in town. The most prominent, powerful, politically connected, and wealthy women in Stratford all affiliated with the Stratford suffrage movement. It’s very possible, in the face of such powerful women suffrage supporters, that anti-suffrage women, if they existed, found it impossible to challenge the Stratford suffrage leaders.

Stratford’s suffrage movement also appears to have been supported by, or, at a minimum, not opposed by, the powerful men of the town. Businessmen, doctors, lawyers, political leaders, and land owners all had wives, sisters, and/or daughters active in Stratford’s suffrage movement.

Stratford’s first suffrage organizational meeting was held in Red Men’s Hall on October 16th , 1912. The Red Men’s Club (or tribe) was comprised of the most influential, powerful, and wealthy men in Stratford. The “Red Men’s” organization in America has a long history as a post-Revolutionary War successor to the original Sons of Liberty. Stratford’s Red Men’s club was founded in 1889. Red Men’s Hall was located on Church Street, behind the Congregational Church, and sat, basically, where I-95 crosses Church Street.

The first suffrage conference of Fairfield County was also held at Red Men’s Hall in
June 1916. (Red Men’s Hall played a pivotal role in suffrage activities in Stratford. As a side note of interest, Red Men’s Hall became the Polka Dot Playhouse in 1954). Stratford suffrage leaders were well-known throughout the county, state, and nation which would have been one compelling reason for the Fairfield County suffrage association to conduct its first meeting in Stratford.

It seems ironic that the suffrage movement in Stratford would have been drawn to a meeting location so infused with “maleness” and, ordinarily, opposed to suffrage activities. In order for the suffragettes to feel comfortable at Red Men’s Hall, it would have required the tacit, if not implicit, support of the leading men of Stratford. The Stratford women frequently invited Stratford men to their monthly suffrage meetings as speakers and as participants.

Lastly, once women obtained the vote in 1920 in Stratford, they stood fairly united in voting to change Stratford’s form of government (in 1921) to a Manager-Council form. Without the support of the Stratford women, the vote to change government forms would have failed.

Stratford’s suffrage movement was indeed unique. Through the coming months, we’ll periodically revisit this topic by spotlighting Stratford suffrage leaders. In their stories resides the explanation as to why Stratford’s suffrage experience defied state and national trends. Once again, Stratford’s history proves to be a Connecticut standout.