Democrat Party Chair Promises to “Make Orange Green”
Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jody Dietch usually takes a back seat at election time, working tirelessly to help her party’s candidate get elected. But this time she’s at the forefront as she announces plans to challenge long time incumbent Jim Zeoli for the town’s top job as First Selectman.
“Timing is everything and the time is right,” said Dietch who has been a member of the DTC for 14 years, four of them as its chairman. “Orange has had only one female First Selectman in its history and there’s never been a First Selectman who is a mom,” she said. This election is also unique as 50 % of the Democratic slate is women. “We are not back seat drivers anymore; we are driving the bus. We can bring a different perspective to town government and that’s bringing a lot of excitement to the election,” Dietch said.
It’s also time, she believes, to bring Orange in a new direction. “Our farming past is not the basis for our future,” she said. “The view of where Orange goes can’t be based on our farming history. We need a view that moves us forward; we can’t stay as we are.” Dietch points out Edison and Marsh Hill Roads and Derby Avenue were once lined with fields of corn but today those properties are home to an upscale senior housing complex and light industrial businesses. Instead she intends to focus on bringing new businesses to town and looking for alternatives to fill the now-empty large big box stores on the east end of town like LA Fitness, Lowe’s and Sam’s Club. “It is time to resurrect the Post Road Study Committee to present new ideas that will help lead us into the next decade with significant economic development and not economic stagnation,” she said.
Dietch has strong ties to the community. An Orange native who went through the Orange school system and graduated from Amity Senior High School, Dietch’s two sons attended the same schools she did. She served as president of the Race Brook PTA while her sons were students there and also served two terms on the Orange Board of Education. Her husband, Jeff, is a mailman in town, and her parents, Harriet and Noel Barstein, are now back in Orange as well, living with Dietch. It’s given Dietch an inside view of senior life and she thinks she can help Orange do better for that population. “I think there are ways Orange can partner with community organizations and volunteer groups to provide services that would enable seniors to get the help they need to stay in their own homes,” she said. And while the lack of affordable senior housing in town is a topic that is raised again and again at election time, Dietch maintains progress remains slow. “It is time to look at meaningful ways to work with our seniors and not just provide them with lip service,” she said.
Making the town more sustainable is also on Dietch’s agenda as she vows to seek ways to make Orange green. One idea is to initiate a solar program, perhaps partnering with companies that could offer special rates for residents who want to install solar panels at their homes.
“Orange is a great town and I think I can make it better,” Dietch said.
Dietch received a BA degree in Journalism from Keene State College and a Master’s Degree in Public Relations from American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington, DC. She is the former owner of the Little White House Learning Center in Milford and for the past 12 years, has been an Executive Director in the non-profit sector. Recently, she became a trained mediator through the Quinnipiac University Law School’s Center on Dispute Resolution.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent