Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu has been in office for about 17 days, and while she understood the job description before taking office, there were nuances that she didn’t anticipate.
Zoppo-Sassu said every day is an opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of running a city such as Bristol.
Her career in politics, technically, began at the age of 10 when she would accompany her father to city council meetings, as he was a member of the Board of Finance. From there, she began working on campaigns, and went on to receive a degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration, which she feels uniquely trained her for the position. She then garnered real-life experience, serving on the City Council for four terms.
“Coming into this job, I at least knew a little bit about the inner workings, especially for our larger departments,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “But I find that everyday I’m learning something new about what a department does, how it functions, how it serves the public: even this weekend with the snow storm, I thought I knew about snow removal but I actually learned so much about how we prep for storms and everything that goes into it.”
The inner workings of keeping Bristol functional is not the only thing she’s learning about. Zoppo-Sassu underestimated just how much her running for the position would inspire young women throughout the town. She said she was surprised by how many young women were interested in helping with her campaign, and by how many were present on election night, when she was named the first female mayor of Bristol, a role that brings additional pressure to an already demanding job.
Volunteering her time with young women is one way she hopes to show her appreciation, and she and her team have planned a special female empowerment event for early January. “On Jan. 9 before the council meeting we are having a girl power event where my official portrait is being unveiled in the council chambers which will join the wall of all the men who have served as mayor since 1913,” said Zoppo-Sassu. Women of all ages will be welcome at this event.
From there she will be introducing and implementing her first youth cabinet night. “I want young people to get involved in government and to have a vehicle for doing so, if they’re so inclined.”
This program will meet about once a month and allow its members the opportunity to shadow workers in different departments or to audit boards. “There will be an education component with every youth cabinet meeting, and we’ll have some guest speakers to get them [youth cabinet members] comfortable with city hall and to understand all of the different facets of what we do.”
This kind of interpersonal communication is what Zoppo-Sassu said inspired her from a young age to get into politics, and it’s this kind of open communication that seems to be driving her platform and the issues she’s hoping to focus on during this term as mayor.
Of the many issues and platforms she ran upon, including the opioid crisis, the education system, economic development and improving the quality of life, and fiscal discipline, Zoppo-Sassu believes that open communication and an open door policy will help her help the city of Bristol. She and her team will be implementing a ‘help desk’ in order to make information more readily and easily available to the citizens of Bristol.
“Government runs better when there’s a collaborative approach,” said Zoppo-Sassu, and that is why she is encouraging young people as well as individuals throughout Bristol to get involved. “We need new blood on boards and commissions; we need the institutional memory mixed with new ideas.”
Zoppo-Sassu is ready to take on many issues facing Bristol, as she paves the way for young women and young people across the state, to work hard and to shatter the glass ceiling.