The executive assistant to Mayor Daryl Finizio is about to take on a second role as a legislative lobbyist for the City of New London.
Finizio announced Tuesday that Zak Leavy will be appointed to the position while retaining his duties as executive assistant. Finizio pitched the legislative lobbyist position during his mayoral campaign as one he felt would be beneficial to the city.
“By appointing a city staffer, at no additional cost to taxpayers, to serve as our lobbyist adds an additional layer of support to the city’s efforts to secure assistance from the state in numerous areas,” Finizio said. “We are fortunate that Zak Leavy is willing to take on these responsibilities with no new compensation, and that he has valuable experience in this area to bring to this effort.”
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Leavy said he is not receiving any increase in salary or other compensation for the added duties. He said he will be paying out of pocket for expenses incurred in traveling between New London and Hartford. He said he expects to be at the Capitol for two or two and a half days each week, with the schedule varying based on how busy the Connecticut General Assembly is, and that will bring a computer and work phone to keep up with his work as an executive assistant.
Leavy said the lobbyist role will support the Connecticut delegation in advocating for issues affecting New London, such as municipal aid and the proposed expansion of Shore Line East service.
“I want to thank Mayor Finizio for this opportunity and look forward to working with the New London delegation to represent our community during this tough economic time for the city and the state,” he said.
Leavy was a temporary executive assistant during Finizio's transition period and later appointed to the position full time. He was a former lobbying intern assisting the State Vocational Technical Schools and American Federation of Teachers. Leavy graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in political science and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in labor relations at the University of Rhode Island.
“Zak was able to coordinate testimony and educate legislators on the importance of our system during a difficult budget year and I am certain that he will be invaluable in working for the people of New London,” said Jan Hochadel, president of the State Vocational Technical Schools Union, in a statement.
During his campaign, Finizio supported the creation of a legislative lobbyist position and grants coordinator position with the goal of acquiring additional state and federal revenue for the city. At his initial budget proposal for the 2013 fiscal year, he said he would forgo the positions for the budget year due to financial difficulties in the city.
The proposed positions brought some criticism from Finizio’s opponents in the mayoral race, who said they would involve extra costs to the city and that the mayor’s office should undertake the duties of the proposed positions. In the announcement of Leavy’s appointment, Finizio said he also plans to make trips to Hartford during the legislative session to advocate for the city.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, a lobbying group representing Connecticut municipalities, said last month that the state is underfunding local education mandates to the tune of $763 million. The group has also questioned Gov. Dannel Malloy’s order to cut $4.7 million in state aid to towns.
The state’s regular legislative session will convene on Jan. 9 and adjourn on June 5. The New London legislation includes State Reps. Ernest Hewett and Elissa Wright and State Senator Andrea Stillman.