Fresh from her landslide win at the polls, Mayor-elect Ellen Zoppo-Sassu on Wednesday juggled a relentless stream of calls, texts and e-mails while trying to sketch out a new course for city government.
Zoppo-Sassu, still six days away from taking command of city government, made a table at the Route 6 Starbucks her office for the morning.
“The inauguration is Monday night, the first council meeting is Tuesday, I want to meet with our department heads — it’s going to be busy,” said Zoppo-Sassu, the Democrat who was elected Tuesday as mayor in this city of 60,000.
Sitting across from council member and friend Mary Fortier, Zoppo-Sassu used a notepad to chart her schedule for the coming few days while texting her transition team about the next steps in establishing a new city administration. She shook hands with the occasional well-wishers who approached the table, answered reporters’ questions and fielded phone calls about the inauguration site.
“I wanted to do this at the Memorial Boulevard School, but there’s a question about the elevator. It’s looking like Bristol Eastern (High School) instead,” she announced after a call.
After Monday night, Zoppo-Sassu will have staff assistants to handle such matters. But for now, she — like all new mayors — must handle the details herself in between conferring about how to give out job appointments and council committee assignments.
Zoppo-Sassu doesn’t come onto the job cold, however. She has deep experience on the city council, where she was known for quickly and extensively researching issues before taking a stance. She also will get plenty of suggestions from former mayors: She talks frequently with Bill Stortz and intends to ask for ideas from Frank Nicastro, Gerard Couture, John Leone and Michael Werner within the first two weeks.
There isn’t likely to be any cheerful get-together with current Mayor Ken Cockayne or his predecessor Art Ward, however. Ward and Zoppo-Sassu have been adversaries since the 2007 mayoral primary, when he defeated her. Her relationship with Cockayne, a Republican, was never good, but has soured even more during the brutal campaign.
Voting results were still coming in Tuesday night when the social media battle that has dogged the election heated up again. Zoppo-Sassu’s supporters cheered their victory and Cockayne’s imminent departure; Cockayne’s allies lambasted her on Facebook as a free-spending, reckless liberal who will ruin the city.
Zoppo-Sassu said she hopes to reduce the local political rancor, vowing that her administration will be transparent and inclusive. But social media messages directed to the mayor’s office will go unanswered if they’re vitriolic, she said.
Zoppo-Sassu is expected to name a city attorney and an administrative assistant in the coming days. She plans to get more details about downtown redevelopment, but doesn’t foresee looking for changes to Bristol Hospital’s development plan there, she said. Instead, she wants to address how the city is marketing land nearby.
Zoppo-Sassu will have a nearly all-Democratic council to work with, but also will be contending with a predominantly Republican state legislative delegation. She said one of her first tasks will be assembling an opioid abuse team, adding that she wants to seek federal aid for the city to help it combat opioid abuse.