By JEN CARDINES
Joe Aresimowicz represents Southington and Berlin in the 30th district of Connecticut’s General Assembly. The former Majority Leader is preparing for his Jan. 4 start as Connecticut’s Speaker of the House, but he sat down with The Observer last week to discuss his vision for the town, the district, and the state.
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For Connecticut’s newly elected Speaker of the House, politics was never part of the grand plan. Just a concerned parent, Joe Aresimowicz ran for Berlin Town Council in the late nineties and received favorable response at the polls, jump starting his political career.
He served three terms for the Council before taking a seat in the General Assembly’s 30th district (Southington/Berlin) in 2004, which was only the beginning for the lifelong Berlin resident.
“I never envisioned myself being a legislative or political leader, but I just found a lot of opportunities,” Aresimowicz said. “Five years ago, I was out recruiting other candidates to be Majority Leader—people I thought would do a great job—so they looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you run?’”
Almost a direct parallel to his council experience, the reluctant candidate ran for office after some positive persuasion came his way.
In 2013, the Democratic incumbent was named as majority leader in Connecticut’s General Assembly, but Aresimowicz was hesitant to hang a picture on the wall at the term’s start.
“I just figured it’s a short stop, we’ll see how I like it,” he said, recalling his first year in the leadership position. He quickly fell in love with the job and serving the people of Connecticut, Berlin, and Southington.
As majority leader, Aresimowicz accomplished many goals and worked to bring the House together. In Southington alone he played a great role in acquiring state and federal grants for the Calendar House building project, Bread for Life’s new facility, and the water treatment renovation that passed with the referendum.
Entering his seventh legislative term, Aresimowicz holds the highest ranking title in the state house of representatives. The Speaker of the House is elected by the House of Representatives and presides over the House. He also appoints House chairs and committee members.
Aresimowicz knew prior to Election Day that if he won in his district, he would be named the new speaker.
“Typically what happens is the Majority Leader rises up to the Speaker of the House for the next election when the speaker steps down,” said Aresimowicz. “You still have to go out and get the support of your colleagues though. I spent a year talking to my colleagues, talking about what I envision for not only the house Democrats, but also the State of Connecticut, and then I asked for their support.”
The assembly, as a whole, decides and the history has been that, for the speaker votes, the majority caucus elects their speaker and the other side of the aisle also supports the decision.
This is the first time since 1905, when Marcus H. Holcomb held the position, that a Southington representative is serving as Speaker of the House.
“It’s a tremendous asset to have someone in a leadership position representing Southington,” said Democratic Town Committee chair Bob Berkmoes.
“I still represent the 30th district first and foremost,” said Aresimowicz. “Now I have to balance it with the overall needs of the state, but when it comes to ensuring that the voice of the 30th district is heard, it’s a pretty powerful voice. The amount of funding we’ve received over the last four years specifically since I was majority leader and the ideas for the funding I have going forward is going to be a great benefit to the Southington residents.”
The new budget cycle begins when the term starts on Jan. 4, and the current fiscal crisis is a top priority. The speaker-elect said that this is a point in time when Connecticut is having fiscal and identity issues, and that everybody needs to be going in the same direction.
“We can’t have this one party rule,” he said. “We can’t have only the Democrats having good ideas, or only the Republicans…You need to bring everybody to the table.”
When Aresimowicz first served with the House of Representatives under Speaker James Amann there were 114 democratic members and a surplus.
“I’m coming in with 79 members and a deficit, but I think I’m more excited to do it than he was.”
Known as “Coach Joe” to his Berlin constituents, Aresimowicz has been able to balance his family, career, and political life with his position as Berlin’s varsity football coach. He’s an active member in the community and prides himself on his hard work.
“I think I’m a different political leader at a time where it’s needed, and I have a great caucus,” he said. “My members are so focused in on what they need to do, I have a great relationship with Minority Leader Themis Klarides and I can work with the governor, I can work with the senate president, and I think it’ll benefit us in the long run.”