McCoy shares thoughts on his two terms as mayor

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Thu., Nov. 10, 2011
Mayor Jason McCoy spent most of his last few weeks in office dealing with the town's storm power outages and clean-up efforts. Photo by Steve Smith.
Mayor Jason McCoy spent most of his last few weeks in office dealing with the town's storm power outages and clean-up efforts. Photo by Steve Smith.

On Election Day, the ReminderNews spoke with outgoing Vernon Mayor Jason McCoy (R) about his two terms in office, the mark he has left on Vernon, and vice versa.

One of the things McCoy said he's most proud of is the town's reduction of fuel costs – from an average of 201,974 gallons per year between 2003-2007 to 142,863 gallons in 2010.

“Basically, we were looking for a 5-percent per year reduction, and we've achieved that,” he said. “In my mind, it was a pretty cool goal. I think it's big.”

He added while some of those savings were through the purchase of hybrid vehicles, it was also through “cracking the whip” with town employees, as he said, by implementing discipline if standards of energy savings were not met, including limits on idling of town vehicles.

“If I sit in my car at home and want to run it and waste gas, that's my choice,” he said, adding that unfortunately, that was happening with town vehicles. “The people that do it here would never do that at home,” he said. “This is taxpayers’ money.”

Guarding that money is another thing McCoy said his administration did, while lowering town taxes and maintaining services.

“I think the contracts we've renegotiated have allowed us to provide services at the same level and made the municipality more stable,” he said. “Some things have changed a little bit, so there may be cases where things are a bit less, but the point is to provide the service to the individual.”

McCoy was not without his critics, which he said was sometimes unfounded, but often informative.

“It depends on who it's coming from,” he said. “When there has been a real criticism of something, [I] always tried to remedy it. I'm kind of a fixer. So, I try to put something in place to fix it. It's a customer-service business. Citizens Forum [when residents speak at Town Council meetings] is one of the most humbling experiences. Some of it isn't true, but then you try to decipher when people are just trying to target you, or when people are really needing something and you are the focus of their irritation and you might actually be able to help them. A lot of those people have come around and thanked me later on, for figuring out what their problem is.”

McCoy said he plans to continue to pursue a bid for the U.S. Senate. He said the fundraising he was doing was derailed by tropical storm Irene and the recent nor'easter, and he will be getting back to that.

“The fundraising for it is difficult when you aren't devoting most of your time to it,” he said. “I'll do the best I can, and see how the fundraising goes for the next few months. You have a year, but really, that isn't very long.”

When asked if going from mayor of Vernon to representing all of Connecticut at the nation's capitol was a big jump, McCoy said the opposite is true.

“I think if you were a U.S. Senator, and became a mayor, that would be a big jump,” he said, adding that he believes the amount of administrative work to run a town is more than that of representing constituents in a legislative session.

“Linda McMahon might be able to do it, because she runs a big company,” he said. “Budgeting and finance... these people in the U.S. Senate would find it hard to stay within a budget and tell employees no.”

McCoy is also hoping to concentrate more on his law practice - something that was made difficult while in office, for a variety of reasons.

“This past year has been the worst,” he said. “Every one of these natural disasters has set my practice back months.”

McCoy said he has also found the media interesting, and some of that criticism has also affected his law practice when jurors read articles that paint him in a negative light.

“It's interesting how people can make you look, depending on how they write a story,” he said. “I always knew there was media bias, but I didn't know how much somebody can affect your reputation when they aren't willing to be a true journalist and write about what happens. When [a newspaper] starts editorializing and building a story off of a quote that wasn't fact-checked, that can hurt your reputation.”

McCoy said his experience as mayor has opened his eyes to a lot of things, including how government operates and how a diverse population like Vernon's is affected by decisions at the town level.

“Vernon is diverse, socio-economically,” he said. “Some people really need services like the school milk program or the summer lunch program. You don't think about how it affects them when school isn't open. People don't think about how those kids become better students in school. I knew about these things, but I didn't understand [before].”

For Vernon's future, McCoy said he hopes the town keeps control of spending, short- and long-term, and maintains a good relationship between the Town Council and Board of Education.

“Before I was mayor,” he said, “they couldn't be in the same room. They couldn't put budgets together. Now everybody works together. At least when there are crossover things they can put it together.”

McCoy said he plans to stay involved with Vernon politics, but hasn't had time to determine in what capacity.

“I'm hoping we keep moving forward,” he said, “and keep things more concise. We didn't do anything for a long time here, due to people saying why you couldn't do something. There was always a conundrum between the services the people want and what they need.”

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