You will have to excuse Melissa Ziobron if she is a little busy these days.
Since announcing her candidacy for State Representative of the 34th District in March, the Republican from East Haddam has been bouncing from one event to the next, seeing old friends, making new ones and getting her message across.
Whether attending an art show, visiting the senior center or attending an event at the VFW in East Hampton, Ziobron is enthusiastic about the response she has been getting.
“I’m really hearing a lot of positive stuff,” she said.
From the public and local politicians alike.
Last week, Ziobron received the endorsement of the East Haddam Republican Town Committee.
“I was very happy to be unanimously endorsed by my East Haddam Republicans,” Ziobron said.
That endorsement, together with those from East Haddam First Selectman Mark Walter and Colchester First Selectman Gregg Schuster, has Ziobron feeling good about a campaign that is getting revved up for an election still six months away.
She seems to be making the most of each day.
“Every single day I have multiple events,” Ziobron said of her schedule this week.
Seeking public office wasn’t always an objective for Ziobron. A mom of two, raising her family took center stage, but she still found time to volunteer
Becoming a member of the East Haddam Civic Association and the secretary for the Republican town committee got her started.
Ziobron says she started thinking more about local politics “When I started realizing how people can make a difference in their community through volunteerism.”
A successful run for the East Haddam Board of Education led Ziobron to other opportunities where she could serve the community, including the Middle School Principal Search Committee and the open space and school building committees for grades 4 to 8.
Her star was rising, her energy contagious, and so it was in 2005, during her term on the board of ed, that Ziobron decided to run for first selectman.
“I think I just started recognizing how you could really make a difference,” Ziobron said. “Even just one person, if you join others who are likeminded.
Ziobron lost to incumbent Brad Parker by 140 votes. A frustratingly slim margin, but she has no regrets.
“I did not ever in my mind say ‘What if had done this, what if I had done that.’ At the time, I did everything I could do,” Ziobron said. “I committed myself 110 percent.”
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Hindsight, however, has provided her many things.
“It afforded me the opportunity to go back and get reconnected with other projects in town, spend some time with my family, take a couple months and get right back in it,” Ziobron said. “And that’s what I did.”
Ziobron went on to serve as chairwoman of the Save Our School PAC, which helped get a $10 million referendum passed, continues to serve on the Midstate Regional Planning Agency and was hired by Parker in 2007 as the first Economic Development Coordinator in East Haddam. She also is a member - and former president - of The Friends of Gillette Castle State Park.
Hindsight also taught her.
“I learned that relationships are important and I’ve developed a lot of key relationships with Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “I’m proud of those things.”
With the 34th District being reshaped to include East Hampton, East Haddam and part of Colchester, the timing might be perfect for Ziobron, who was raised in East Hampton before moving to East Haddam and graduating from Hale-Ray High School. Having connections in the two towns that will provide most of the voters, might provide a small edge, but was hardly a consideration for this self-described fiscal conservative.
“I’m passionate about my community,” Ziobron said. “I think state government has been kicking the can on some important issues, especially our fiscal house so to speak, and we need people who are not afraid to speak up.
“The fiscal issues are becoming so immense, I feel that my voice may help. I’m not afraid to speak up on issues and do it in a way where I’ve done my homework, too. You need legislators who are going to be taking the time to get up on the current issues, listen to the community and take action.”
Ziobron, and other candidates for the 34th District, also will benefit by there being no incumbent running. Gail Hamm has already announced she will not seek re-election after serving seven terms. The only other candidate to have officially announced is former East Hampton Town Councilman Chris Goff, a Democrat.
Besides traveling to the four corners of her District, Ziobron also has been using the internet and social media as a means to get her message out. She has her own blog, and uses Facebook and Twitter as well. It has become an important part of her campaign, but not the most important part.
“It’s definitely a part of it. Social media is only as important as you make it,” she said. “If you don’t put any effort into connecting with people there, then you’re not going to get much of a return.”
For Ziobron, it’s part of what she does as a consultant to small businesses.
“There’s a lot of different ways people get their information,” she said, adding that communication is a very large part of her platform. “I go to sleep at night knowing I’ve done my very best to get the information out there.”
If you haven’t run into Ziobron yet, chances are you will at some point. Communication also involves hearing what your community has to say and that is one reason for her hectic schedule.
“I believe the voice is needed in Hartford and we need to be better communicating what’s going on at the local level,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the race.”