Milford’s 1st Mayor defined the word 'independent'
Charles R. Iovino was Milford’s first mayor in 1959, but he didn’t obtain that office in the conventional way. After serving as the city’s first city manager, he wasn’t nominated by either the Republicans or Democrats. So he ran and won as a write-in candidate for the Independent Party. This was a first for the State of Connecticut, and unheard of in the entire country.
Milford was governed until 1947 by a Representative Town Committee (RTC) with, essentially, a board of selectmen form of government. In 1947 it adopted the city manager plan. Iovino’s administrative record was conceded to be good, but growth increased taxes, and some taxpayers blamed the manager's plan.
By the late 1950s support was mustered by political opponents in favor of a strong mayor plus a Board of Aldermen. A mayor would be able to appoint the police and fire commissions, heads of sanitation and public works and other departments, which the city manager could not. The mayor-aldermen plan passed in a referendum in June 1959. The Connecticut General Assembly soon approved the change.
In the first election for Mayor of the now City of Milford, parties nominated Albert Stowe for the Democrats and Henry Foran, brother of long-time school superintendent Joseph Foran (MHOF 2009), for the Republicans as candidates.
Supporters of the nonpartisan approach in municipal administration persuaded Iovino to also run. That Iovino was being soundly vilified by the candidates who felt they could run the city much better may have gotten his dander up a bit as well. He filed a petition to be placed on the ballot. The political parties contended that he had filed late and refused to allow his name on the ballot. Five days before the election, the courts rebuffed his bid and ruled him off the voting machines. Nevertheless, Iovino persisted with a write-in campaign. Legend has it that Iovino passed out pencils with his name on it. This was not true. In an interview late in life he acknowledged that he did hand out a few pencils donated from a supporter but they did not have his name on them.
To vote a write-in ballot, voters had to click open a slot on the voting machine and write in Iovino’s full name. There was a 75 percent voter turnout that day, and clicks were heard all day long.
Iovino received 5,305 write-in votes, plus 258 that were disallowed by moderators because only his last name was written. They said they did not know whether this meant Iovino or his wife, Ann. Stowe garnered 3,975 votes and Foran, 3,088 with Harold Bassett, a persistent government critic of the 1950’s, getting 127.
Under a properly registered Independent slate, Iovino ran for re-election in 1961. His rival Campaigners pointed out that Iovino had to be "paid to come to Milford" while they lived here by choice. Nevertheless, he soundly defeated Arthur Bud Simpson (R) and Louis J Fernoy (D) with the turnout again around 75 percent. In 1963 Iovino declined to run as an Independent and neither party really wanted that uncontrollable fellow. Democrat Alan Jepson was the Democrat nominee and election winner.