January 25, 2022

Miller’s Record is a Big Factor in Needleman’s Race for Essex First Selectman

Norman Needleman is Phil Miller's candidate for First Selectman, that's for sure

In some ways it feels like Norman Needleman is running as an incumbent. Of course that is not the case; because Phil Miller has been Essex’s First Selectman for the past eight years.

Still there is a strong sense of continuum in Needleman’s run for Essex’s top spot. Reflecting this, Needleman says that, if elected, his first priority would be “to continue the quality of life and character of the Town of Essex,” as it has been under Miller.

Furthermore, as if both he and Miller were responsible, Needleman says, “I am very proud that over the years we have produced, reasonable, fiscally responsible budgets for our town that have allowed us to maintain the quality of life and reasonable tax burden that we have come to expect in Essex.”

Also, Needleman goes out of his way to praise Miller for his success in getting over $2 million dollars in special capital grants for the town, which among other things have paid for new streets and sidewalks and funded the installation of new boat ramps to the Connecticut River.

Norman Needlman and running mate, Stacia Rice-Libby, with the "silent policeman" at the Essex roundabout

Broadening the continuum theme, Needleman says that he wants to preserve “the spirit of volunteerism that makes Essex so great,” and that he wants to work “in a bipartisan and collaborative manner, when addressing challenges that may occur,” all part of Miller’s legacy.

However, not everything would be the same, if Needleman follows Miller as First Selectman. For example, Needleman characterizes himself as “fiscally conservative and socially progressive,” and that his “top area of focus in leading the town will be to balance the ongoing need for fiscal responsibility with the need to provide an appropriate level of services for all residents.”

Whereas Miller’s passion for preserving the environment will no doubt continue in his work as State Representative, Needleman’s emphasis for the town will be more directed towards fiscal responsibility.

A unique element in Norman Needleman’s candidacy is whether or not he intends to continue, at least to some degree, in growing the business of the private company that he founded some 30 years ago, Tower Laboratories, if he is elected First Selectman.  Tower has its headquarters in Essex’s Industrial Park, and it employs over 100 people in Essex.

On her own, Rice-Libby checks out the new sweet shop on Essex Main Street

Initially Needleman was hinting that he would still be involved in managing his company, even while serving as First Selectman. He was saying such things as, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person;” and “I have always been able to juggle a number of responsibilities, and the role of First Selectman will certainly be on the top of my priority list.”

But now he has changed his tune, stating flatly that if elected, he would be a “full-time First Selectman.”  As regards his private business, Needleman says, “I have been able to remove myself from the day-to-day operation of the business.”

In addition to this pledge to be a full time First Selectman, Needleman brings to his candidacy an impressive record of investing in projects that benefit the town. For example, he and a partner bought the abandoned Centerbrook Meeting House, saving it from decay, or the wrecker’s ball. According to Needleman the purchase price for the Meeting House was $555,000, and restoration costs are in the neighborhood of $200,000.

Similarly, Needleman stepped up and purchased the fraying Doanes Airport for $750,000, and to date he has spent $200,000 in upgrading the facility. Asked why he did so, he says that he wanted “to preserve the airport, and I did not want someone else doing something crazy.”

Finally, in the category of good works, in partnership with Jacqueline Hubbard, whom he terms his “better half,” Needleman is behind the restoration of a signature town landmark, the Ivoryton Playhouse. Officially, Needleman serves as Treasurer of the Playhouse Foundation, and he was responsible for getting a $600,000 loan from the federal government’s Rural Development Fund to upgrade the venue.

In addition to his past service as a Selectman, Needleman has served as a member of the Essex Economic Development Commission and the Essex Zoning Board. Also, he has received a number of civic awards, including the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen Award and the Middlesex County United Way CEO Leadership Award.

Needleman has two adult sons, Mathew and Daniel, and two stepdaughters, Kate and Rosie Hubbard.

Summing it all up, Needleman says, “A lot of people have told me that I’m crazy for wanting the job of First Selectman, but the facts of the matter are that I know what it takes to run the town. I love this town, and I am committed to maintaining our position as one of America’s best small towns.”

The Needleman - Rice-Libby team make a stop at the popular Aggies restaurant in Ivoryton

Bruce MacMillian, Republican Candidate for First Selectman, to Address “Blight” Problem in Essex


MacMillian in front of North Main Street "blight" house

Bruce MacMillian, Republican candidate for First Selectman in Essex promises to solve the town’s blight problem, if he is elected this coming November. MacMillian, a retired, senior executive of the Travelers Insurance Group, recently made a tour of three of Essex’s “blight spots.”

MacMillian across from old Sunoco station

The three were: (1) the sign-splattered former Sonoco gas station at the south end of Main Street in Centerbrook; (2) a rock-piled property of L.C. Doane across the street from the old Sunco station; and (3) the  “blight” house at the corner of North Main Street and New City Street in downtown Essex.

MacMillian points out that presently he can do nothing about the blight problem, because he “does not have the authority” that he would have, if he were the First Selectman. Still, he is very clear as to what he would do about the problem, if elected to the town’s top job.

First and foremost MacMillian says he would “personally contact” the respective owners of all the town’s blighted properties. He would then “use the powers of my office to pressure and partner with the property owner to put their property in presentable order.” (MacMilliam is adamant in his preference of speaking personally with the property owners; he says that speaking with the real estate agents of the properties would be a waste of time.)
MacMillian would also invite the blight property owners to come into town “to visit their eyesores.”

MacMillian by L.C. Doane rock pile

“To put pressure on the property owner, I would tell them that the town is considering adopting a blight ordinance which will include a blight tax,” he said. This “blight tax” would be imposed on properties deemed to be blight, and so designated, a fine of 10 times the property’s current tax rate would be levied. This fine would remain in effect “until the property is made respectable.

“I would stress to the owner that the adoption of this ordinance can be avoided, if the owner voluntarily and immediately cleans up the property. I would partner with the owner by offering town assistance in the clean up. This assistance would vary depending on each situation.

“If this pressure/partnership approach doesn’t work, then I would propose that a blight ordinance be drafted, discussed and adopted,” MacMillian says.

The number one campaign issue

Speaking about his campaign, MacMillian feels that “the number one issue is that the town needs a full time First Selectman.” Underscoring this need he says, “You can see how hard it is for Phil Miller, who is now both First Selectman and State Representative, to juggle two jobs at the same time.”

MacMillian notes that First Selectman Phil Miller once publicly expressed his gratitude to him. As reported in the Hartford Courant, dated October 6, Miller said of MacMilian that he was “grateful for the really stellar service he has given to the town and the residents of Essex Court.”

Miller was referring to MacMillian’s work as the acting Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Essex Housing Authority in connection with the then troubled Essex Court, the town’s 36 unit facility for the elderly.

At the time Essex Court “was in shambles” MacMillian’s said, and under his leadership “the outstanding lawsuits were settled, a management company was hired to run the complex, and grant money was received to improve the facility.” It was these steps that garnered the praise of First Selectman Miller.

MacMillian’s business background

As for his business background, MacMillian was President of the International Operation of the Travelers Insurance Group, running a $400 million revenue generating business operation, in 41 countries with a staff of over 2,500. Since his retirement from Travelers, MacMillian has created two small start-up businesses’ One of them developed software to run an ambulatory surgery center, and the other was an online provider of continuing education in the insurance field. Both have now been sold.

As for his current race for First Selectman of Essex he says, “This is the toughest job interview that I have ever had.” He says he campaigns door to door almost every night.

The candidate also says that he is “used to making things happen,” and that he is working very hard to make his election “happen.” Also, he says that he makes it a practice to answer every e-mail and telephone call that he receives.

MacMillian defines himself as “very customer service focused which helped with my business success, and an approach that I would follow as First Selectman.” “My goal for Essex is to be a comfortable, affordable, business friendly, educational minded town which promotes a free exchange of ideas.”

With a fondness for old cars, MacMillian’s official campaign vehicle is a 1925 Ford Model T, Depot Hack, which these days should be a common site around the town.

By the Motel T (left to right) Bruce MacMillian, Republican candidate for Essex First Selectman; Susie Beckman, Secretary, Essex Republican Town Committee; Ed Cook, Chairman, Essex Republican Town Committee, and Essex Selectman Joel Marzi, who is running for re-election.