Lenz to Challenge Zeoli For Top Seat

Economic development, affordable senior housing options and a dog park in town top Democratic First Selectman Candidate Ken Lenz’s priorities if elected.{{more}}

The Orange Times sat down with Lenz recently to learn more about the man who hopes to replace Republican First Selectman Jim Zeoli.

Zeoli is expected to announce he will seek a fifth term although he declined to comment when asked.

Several vehicles in town already sport a “Z ‘13” bumper sticker.

“I am thrilled to have Ken leading the Democratic ticket and anticipate his enthusiastic endorsement at our party caucus in July. Ken is an accomplished professional, tireless community servant and has a clear vision of how to make Orange a stronger community and one that better serves our residents,” Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Trish Pearson said.

Selectman Joseph Blake, who is stepping down from the Board of Selectmen after 34 years echoed Pearson’s enthusiasm.

“He is a very capable candidate with a strong background. It’s very difficult going up against an incumbent. He will have his work cut out for him,” Blake said.

Lenz received his law degree from Western New England College School of Law where he helped found and manage the first Consumer Action Center, a volunteer law clinic in Springfield, MA. Following graduation, he practiced in Massachusetts, serving as an assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Bureau.

He has lived in town since 1981 and has been practicing law in the area ever since. He worked in a firm for 15 years, serving as head of litigation until 1995, and subsequently opened his own practice.

When the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Tribe threatened Orange homeowners with land claim cases, Lenz assisted their defense by forming “Homeowners Held Hostage.”

“Ken Lenz is a great candidate who is well-established and a well-known attorney in town. His years of service to our community with the Orange Players, the Orange Lions Club, and the Orange Soccer Association have allowed him to know and understand many different groups of residents.

Ken’s legal expertise was instrumental in protecting many “Homeowners Held Hostage” and over 100 acres of Orange land from the Golden Hill Paugusset Indian’s land claims. His leadership and vast knowledge of Orange and its residents will make Ken Lenz an excellent First Selectman,” Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt said.

Pearson said the BOS candidates, were very experienced.

“We are also fortunate to have such a strong group of individuals who will seek the endorsement for Board of Selectman in July. John Ciffarelli and Jody Dietch bring a wealth of leadership experience from the Boards of Finance and Education, and combined with Mitch Goldblatt’s government experience they are truly the “dream team,” Pearson said.

When asked what motivated him to seek the top office in town Lenz said he wanted to serve his community.

“I love Orange. I have lived here the majority of my life. I have a vision of Orange that it can be even better (than it is) and would like to pursue it,” he said.

Lenz said the commercial district needs to be more attractive to businesses.

“The development of the commercial area has been slow at best it took 50 years to get Edison Road completed. I am glad to see development finally underway,” he said.

Lenz was referring to the recent announcement that Edison Road will be open over the next few months.

Another area of concern to Lenz is the town’s senior population.

“Orange has one of the oldest populations in the area. There is very little affordable housing for seniors,” he said.

“I will propose a public/private partnership for development of affordable senior housing. I prefer rentals to purchase,” Lenz said.

“We will scope out feasible areas in town. If it’s town owned property we will seek a developer if not town owned an investor,” Lenz said.

“I will judge our success if we had a six month wait list instead of five years that we now have,” he said.

Lenz, an admitted animal lover, said it was time the town had its own dog park.

Lenz said he believes the park could be funded without using town funds.

He referenced a playground at Mary L. Tracy School that was built through fundraising efforts.

“It was a real community event and a dog park doesn’t require nearly as much time,” Lenz said.

Lenz has served the town in many capacities. As a member of the Town’s Long Range Planning Committee, he assisted in developing a plan for High Plains Community Center. He has also been active in a number of local community groups including the Orange Players, where he twice served as president and many times as show producer; the Orange Community Nursery School; the Turkey Hill Parent Teachers Association; the Orange Soccer Association where he served as its president and board member for several terms, and referee. He was active at Holy Infant Church where he sang in the adult choir.

“Over the next six months our candidates will bring their case to the people so that come November, the voters will clearly see the value that this group will bring to them and the town of Orange,” Pearson said.