Keep it Local Summit

September 30, 2017
Keeney Memorial Cultural Center, Wethersfield
9:30AM to 4PM


Sheraton Hartford

Local Government is the Best Government!

Local government is often the best government. That is why Yankee Institute is proud to host the 2017 Keep It Local Summit!

The Keep It Local Summit will be a full day event during which local elected officials, activists and potential future elected officials can learn from policy experts, mayors, first selectmen and state lawmakers about the issues that affect towns and cities across Connecticut and how to make a change at both the state and local level.

From education funding to labor agreements to state mandates, local governments – and taxpayers! – feel the trickle-down effect when Connecticut faces a budget crisis. The Keep It Local Summit will help guide local leaders, future candidates and citizen activists in how to best protect and reform their municipalities during these difficult times.

Lunch will feature our keynote speaker, Chuck Reed, former two-term mayor of San Jose, who managed to turn the city of San Jose around through landmark labor reforms.

See the Keep It Local agenda below!

About the Keynote Speaker

Former San Jose Mayor, Chuck Reed

Charles “Chuck” Reed is the former two-term mayor of San Jose, California whose fiscal policies and labor/pension reforms led to him winning a remarkable 77 percent of the vote for his second term in 2010. Born to a working-class family in Kansas, Reed drove bulldozers and tractor-trailer trucks as a young man before entering the United States Air Force Academy during the Vietnam War. Following his service, Reed graduated from both Princeton University and Stamford Law School and became an attorney in San Jose. Reed served on the San Jose city council for two decades before being elected mayor in 2006.

Meet Our Speakers and Panelists

Spencer Sullivan is the Director for Grassroots Engagement for the Leadership Institute. He directs trainings and academies in the United States, in order to equip the next generation of political operatives and activists with the tools they need to win elections.

Spencer began his career on the hill working for a member of congress. He transitioned to the campaign world after realizing he enjoyed the competiveness and fast-paced environment of campaigns. He has managed victorious top tier Federal races and targeted state races. On the campaign trail, Spencer has been involved in every aspect of managing a campaign. He has experience in fundraising, earned media, field operations, paid voter contact, polling, and GOTV operations.

Having been frequently outspent by incumbent campaigns during challenging races, Spencer has learned the importance of running a lean, effective campaign that makes every dollar stretch as far as possible. Spencer specializes in challenger campaigns and has ousted incumbents in back-to-back elections.

Spencer routinely appears on television as a pundit and discusses the news of the day. He also consults for a pharmaceutical company in guiding their messaging.

State Representative Melissa Ziobron is a lifelong resident of the 34th District with an extensive record of community service. During the 2017 Legislative Session she was appointed Assistant Minority Leader and continues her role as Ranking Member of the Legislature’s powerful budget writing Appropriations Committee. Now in her third term, she was reappointed to the Environment Committee and holds a new role on the General Law Committee. She also serves on the Connecticut Legislature Sportsmen Caucus and the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council. She is also Connecticut’s Proxy to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

F. Vincent Vernuccio is a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He served as the Mackinac Center’s director of labor policy between 2012 and 2017.

Vernuccio is a graduate of the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich. Under President George W. Bush he served as special assistant to the assistant secretary for administration and management in the Department of Labor.

Vernuccio has published articles and op-eds in such newspapers and magazines as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Investor’s Business Daily, The Washington Times, National Review, Forbes and The American Spectator. He has been cited in several books, and he is a frequent contributor on national television and radio shows, such as “Your World” with Neil Cavuto and Varney and Company.

Vernuccio is a sought-after voice on labor panels nationally and in Washington, D.C. and as a regular guest on Fox News channels.

He has advised senators and congressmen on a multitude of labor-related issues. He testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and Labor Policy.

Gail Lavielle was first elected in 2010 to represent Connecticut’s 143rd House district, which includes most of Wilton, the eastern part of Norwalk, and part of Westport west of the Saugatuck River. Currently serving as an Assistant Republican Leader, Rep. Lavielle is the House Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, the Transportation Committee, and the School Construction Priority List Review Committee, as well as the House Republican Screening Committee. Previously, she served as Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee and as a member of the Appropriations and Higher Education Committees. She also sits on bipartisan caucuses focused on Manufacturing and services for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.


Keep It Local Agenda

**Speakers to be added**

9:30 – 10 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast

10:00 – 10:30 a.m. Opening Session: “Leadership Through Crisis.”

10:40 – 11:25 a.m.

Candidate Skills Track conducted by The Leadership Institute | “Are You Ready to Run”
What You Should Expect * What the Public Expects of You * Candidate Intellectual Property, Disclosers, & Protection

Capitol Matters & Our Town Tracks | “Money Matters: State Budget, Local Option Taxation, and Municipal Aid”
Fiscal policy at the state and local level are fundamentally intertwined in Connecticut. Learn how changes at the state level impact your town, and what solutions are out there to potentially resolve both current and structural budgeting issues. Confirmed speaker: Melissa Ziobron, State Representative, R-East Haddam.

11:35 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Candidate Skills Track conducted by The Leadership Institute | “Campaign Strategy”
Keys to a Winning Plan * Setting a Strategic Goal * Working through strategic concerns * Developing a strategic plan

Capitol Matters Track | “Regionalism and Local Control: A Discussion”
What amount, and type, of government is best for the people of Connecticut? What does regionalism mean to you? Our panelists discuss municipal self-governance and best practices for a productive relationship between state and local government. Confirmed speakers: Jon Russell, Director of the American City County Exchange.

Our Town Track | “The Future of Connecticut Cities”
Like the state, many of Connecticut’s cities face a turning point. Hartford, New Haven, and other cities have rich traditions and potential advantages waiting to be leveraged. A forward-looking panel will discuss the challenges faced by our state’s largest population centers but also offer up solutions aimed at revitalization, reform, and renewal. Luke Bronin, Mayor D-Hartford; Steve Eide, Manhattan Institute Scholar; Johnathan Warton, Professor, Southern Connecticut State University.

12:25 – 1:25 p.m. Lunch & Keynote Address with Chuck Reed, former Democratic Mayor of San Jose, CA

1:35 – 2:15 p.m.

Candidate Skills Track conducted by The Leadership Institute | “Communication Strategy”
Developing a Communications Strategy * Themes, narratives, issues, contrasts, and disqualify * Types of communication strategies for different campaigns.

Capitol Matters Track | “The Cost of Education Policy: From the Funding Formula to the Results”
Education is a fundamental responsibility of local government, but the state remains highly involved. How does state policy impact our children, and in the world of education funding, what does “good” look like? Individuals with state, local, and personal experience share their thoughts on how to get all of Connecticut’s students to thrive. Confirmed speakers: Gail Lavielle, State Representative, R-Wilton; Jayme Stevenson, Darien First Selectman; Helen Taylor, Co-Founder of the Western Connecticut Autism Speaks Walk, CT FEAT Board president.

Our Town Track | “It’s the Economy! How to Foster Growth and a Healthy Relationship with the Private Sector”
Some towns seem to be inherently good at attracting businesses, as well as the jobs that come with them. Is it regulations? Zoning? Property taxes? Panelists will explore the many ways to ensure a city or town has a strong relationship with its business community.

2:25 – 3:10 p.m.

Candidate Skills Track conducted by The Leadership Institute | “Grassroots Lobbying”
Understanding the Legislative Process * Educating Legislators and Communicating with the Public

Capitol Matters & Our Town Tracks | “Labor of Love: Managing Labor Policy and Practices for Your Town”
What impact does the state have on labor policy in your town? What are the ins and outs of managing local labor policy? The panel examines and gauges the need for reform and recommends some potential cost-saving avenues. Confirmed speaker: F. Vincent Vernuccio, Labor Attorney & Mackinaw Senior Fellow, former G.W. Bush appointee.

3:20 – 4:00 p.m. Closing Session | “Stump the Experts”—Open Q&A with many of the day’s panelists and speakers.

4:10 – 5:30 p.m. “Pursuit of Happiness Hour”—Cocktails and networking.

Attend the Summit


The highlight of our KEEP IT LOCAL campaign is a summit on Sept. 30 to celebrate and connect local leaders.

If you are a current local official, a candidate for local office, the member of a taxpayer group or an active local citizen, we hope you’ll join us. The full-day event offers skills training for candidates, discussions of local issues, and updates on relevant state policies. We’ll talk about the whole range of local government from general government to education to land use. Throughout the day you’ll get to pick the topics most relevant to you.

Our keynote speaker at lunch is former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who successfully reformed pensions in the 10th largest U.S. city. “Protecting local services – and taxpayers – through pension reform”

Special thanks to our event partners.

Event Sponsor: Atlas Network

Sponsors: Retirement Security Initiative, Jack Field

Partners: Leadership Institute


Attend the Summit

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