Oct 14, 2023
Norman Sauer, the Republican challenger for first selectman in Litchfield, comments during Thursday night’s debate with First Selectman Denise Raap. John McKenna Republican-American
LITCHFIELD — It was a cold winter day in 2016 when Litchfield’s architectural beauty and small-town charm captured the attention of Norman Sauer, a Republican aiming to unseat Democratic First Selectman Denise Raap in the Nov. 7 election.
At the time, Sauer and his husband, Stephan Krucker, were scouring Litchfield County for a home that would allow them to escape New York City, where Sauer had established a successful career in the fashion industry.
“We were driving down Route 63 and I had no idea where we were, but it was obvious it was a place of amazing beauty and one we quickly knew we wanted to be part of.”
After looking at real estate in town, the couple bought a house on Beecher Lane in the Litchfield Historic District and renovated it. Several months later, in 2017, Sauer and Krucker moved in and immersed themselves in the community. Sauer was elected to the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2021 and appointed to the Borough of Litchfield Historic District Commission. Krucker became chairman of the Republican Town Committee and a member of the Borough of Litchfield Board of Warden and Burgesses.
In May, Sauer and Krucker adopted an infant son, Maximilian, and settled into family life. Comfortable with fatherhood and in his career as a business consultant in the fashion industry, Sauer then made a decision that thrust him into the public spotlight.
“I was approached by the Republican Town Committee’s candidate committee and asked if I would be interested in running for first selectman,” he said. “I took a couple of days to think about it because it’s a big job and a thankless job, but after some thought the idea felt right to me.”
RAAP IS IN PURSUIT of a third term and to earn it is banking on a history of overseeing tax cuts, improving government efficiency, and meeting the increasing needs of senior citizens and the underserved.
“I’ve dedicated the time I have been in office to making the community more safe, vibrant and sustainable,” she said. “I’ve made sure our tax dollars aren’t being wasted and for four years I think I’ve delivered.”
First elected in 2019, Raap is the first town leader in memory to take on the issue of traffic congestion. It was after a bicyclist was struck by a car in a crosswalk on West Street in the fall of 2020 that she established a traffic safety community action group.
“I’m 100% committed to making the center of town and all of our roads safer,” she said. “We have four major highways in town and I’m concerned about safety on all of them.”
The TSCAG, chaired by Selectman Jodiann Tenney, is working with the state Department of Transportation on a plan to alleviate congestion on Route 202 and in the center of town. Raap last summer managed to lure state DOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto to her Town Hall office for a traffic summit.
“I can’t imagine not having (Raap) as our first selectman for another two years because we are in the middle of some really big things,” Tenney said, citing the traffic plan, pending merger of Litchfield and Region 6 schools, and the future of the Town Hall Annex in Bantam. “She’s detail-oriented, fiscally responsible and she takes an active role in managing our employees.”
SINCE EARNING the GOP nomination in July, Sauer has made his candidacy a full-time pursuit, poring over town meeting minutes and budgets, knocking on doors, and publicizing a platform focusing on fiscal restraint, public safety and support for volunteers.
Sauer, who ran a successful apparel business, Norman Ambrose, in New York for 15 years, believes he has the skills to do the job of first selectman and do it well.
“I’ve managed people, overseen an annual budget of $10 million, dealt with unions, raised capital and done financial planning,” he said. “I think all those things will translate well when I’m elected first selectman.”
John Bongiorno, one of Sauer’s Republican running mates for the Board of Selectmen, believes Sauer is well-positioned to lead the town after watching his campaign.
“The time he has taken to study the issues, his ability to gather information and make decisions, his demeanor, it’s all what a first selectman needs to be successful,” he said. “His work ethic is second to none. And as a first-time candidate running against an incumbent, he doesn’t get flustered and maintains his cool, which is not easy to do.”
RAAP IS PROUD to tout four successive years of tax cuts that have dropped the tax rate from 28.2 to 26.7 mills, down 5%.
She also cites more than $1 million in state grants the town has received to offset costs, a recycling center that has operated at a profit for four straight years, and her discovery of the theft of thousands of dollars worth of equipment by a public works employee.
In addition, Raap points to cutting about $300,000 in municipal solid waste costs by having commercial accounts pay their fair share for waste removal and restructuring the social services office to improve efficiency.
IF ELECTED, SAUER VOWS to control municipal spending, which is up by $1 million since 2019, and re-evaluate the board’s decision not to replace two retiring police constables in 2022 and instead go with two resident troopers.
“People are telling me they don’t feel safe,” Sauer said. “We need to take another look at our policing and seek input from the people. The selectmen made their decision without asking our residents.”
The decision not to replace the constables and rely on two troopers saved $100,000 and improved police coverage, Raap said.
“The job of first selectman is 24/7, it’s an important job and I’m motivated to do it,” she said. “I’m doing the best I can for the community and I look forward to doing it for another two years.”
Though he is facing an incumbent with much support, Sauer believes his hard work of the past few months and the way he’s reached out to the public gives him a chance Nov. 7.
“I’m at this every day, knocking on doors, and I feel optimistic,” he said. “I offer what people need and want, and I have the willingness and ability to address the issues facing our town.”