BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — As a former truant officer for local schools, Mayor Frank Nicastro knows what makes teens tick.
But his re-election platform includes only a few ideas to help students even though he said government “can’t do enough for the teens of the city.”
Nicastro said he would push for city support for the Miss Bristol pageant, continue funding alcohol and drug-free graduation parties and support the proposed downtown transformation that includes entertainment options for young people.
He sidestepped the question of whether there should be a youth center, saying only that “the more that we can do to keep our teens active in a proper setting,” the better it is for the community.
Five years ago, the city’s Board of Finance shot down a proposal backed by Nicastro to create a youth center in Forestville. The idea hasn’t come up again.
The mayor commended local students for the way they have dealt with lengthy construction projects at both high schools.
“I really do applaud you kids for the sacrifices you’ve made,” Nicastro said.
The three-term Democrat said he would also like to see more young people involved in government. He said he wished more teens would walk through his door.
Nicastro, who faces Republican Mike Werner in the Nov. 2 election, said his plan for city support for the pageant “deserves courtesy and it deserves merit.”
“Miss Bristol represents the city,” he said. “She is our ambassador.”
“I believe that what the city should do is take a look at the whole process and come up with some guidelines to see if there is merit there,” Nicastro said.
Nicastro said he “would like to see teens more involved in government, attend council meetings, become more involved in the process in every respect.”
He added that teens should “become objective not subjective. You get a better pulse on things.”
Additionally, Nicastro said that Bristol can “improve” in its provisions for “proper” teen entertainment.
“No matter what we do, we can’t do enough for the teens of the city. As far as I’m concerned, we can improve,” Nicastro said.
Nicastro said he applauds students “for having the patience for putting up with renovations because this should have been done years ago.”
He said the “Bristol school system has undergone some huge changes,” but it can always improve its programs.
The high schools aren’t the only things undergoing a transformation, the mayor said.
Besides continuing with his regular agenda, Nicastro said he has big plans for the city that include an entire downtown revitalization, spreading from the central downtown to the west and the north ends.
“It would be nothing short of a major grand slam for Bristol,” Nicastro said.
Proposed ideas for the plan include mall reconstruction, bringing in large retail businesses, an ice-skating rink, a hotel with conference rooms and a parking garage, which will “be built into the facade so that you don’t even know it’s a parking garage,” said Nicastro.
After the project has been approved and official plans are set, the completion will take two years, Nicastro said.
The goal is to bring “the old flavor of downtown back, which was lost many years ago,” Nicastro said.
The mayor also plans to keep his basic current policies, such as his “open door policy.”
Nicastro said that when someone comes to him “with a request, to turn a deaf ear is wrong.”
“I think the mayor would be acting poorly if he didn’t take a good hard look at things,” he said. “I have a responsibility to look into something.”
The “open door policy” is his reason for requesting the city to research getting involved with the Miss Bristol pageant, Nicastro said.
In his six years in office, Nicastro said his administration has been proactive — and successful.
“That’s because everyone worked together as a team, no one person does it,” the mayor said.
As evidence of his success, Nicastro said that he froze property taxes for four years in a row and then delivered a tax cut this year to 95 percent of homeowners.
He touted his creation of the Mid-Connecticut Workforce Development Board, which combined 20 towns to compete effectively with big cities like Bridgeport for federal job training money.
Before winning the mayor’s office in 1993, Nicastro served as the school system’s attendance officer for 17 years. He remains on leave from the position.
“I helped literally hundreds of children,” the mayor said.
Nicastro said the mayor’s position has “grown enormously” since he took it over. He said he chairs many boards and the job “requires dedication, it requires sacrifice, it requires the ability to think of the future.”
“A mayor must think of the future, not just for his reign, but for future mayors so they don’t get so strapped, like I did,” Nicastro said.
“I truly enjoy serving the city of Bristol because there’s no better feeling in the world then to see projects pass and know you had something to do with it,” Nicastro said.
“If you’re gonna be the mayor, be the mayor.”
Merissa Mastropiero is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.