When he steps down from the North Haven Board of Selectmen after this week’s election, Steve Fontana will not hold any appointed or elected government office for the first time in 18 years.
Fontana said he is glad to have been able to serve his neighbors in North Haven and nearby Hamden in Hartford and Town Hall in state and local elected positions that he often held simultaneously.
"My first elected office was in 1995, although I had an appointed position two years before that," he said.
Fontana, 48 and a Democrat, started out as an appointed member of the Conservation Commission, but two years later he was elected to the Board of Finance, and remained a member of that board for eight years.
And in the following year, 1996, he was elected as state representative for the 87th Assembly District, which at that time represented North Haven and part of the Mount Carmel section of Hamden. The district was redrawn in the 2002 reapportionment to represent only North Haven.
He said in 1993 he was briefly hospitalized for a minor medical procedure and saw first hand the inadequacies of the American medical care and insurance industries. That moved him to go to the University of Connecticut Law School and specialize in health care law.
"We pay more than twice per person what anyone else pays for health care, yet we have a lot of people without insurance," he said. "There had to be a better way to make the system work better."
Fontana said the national health care reform passed in 2010 was a "good first step," because it eliminates pre-existing conditions and mandates each state set up health insurance exchanges by 2014 to make insurance more affordable. But he said it doesn’t address the cost of medical care, which will force Congress to revisit the issue sometime in the future.
After he got his law degree in 1996, Fontana started a career as a title examiner, performing real estate title searches for home purchasers and mortgage refinancing.
He used his expertise in Hartford by getting a seat on the Real Estate and Insurance Committee, which he co-chaired for several terms. He also held seats on the Appropriations and Commerce committees, and later on the Environment and Transportation committees.
He said he used his Appropriations Committee seat to fight against proposed cuts in North Haven’s Education Cost Sharing grant, and to help set up the Small Town Economic Assistance Program to help North Haven get a bigger share of state economic development grants.
Four years ago, he was elected to the Board of Selectmen as First Selectman Janet McCarty’s running mate. When she lost her re-election bid in 2009, it made him the minority selectman, and he said he doesn’t feel he was as productive in that role.
He also lost the 2010 election to Republican David Yaccarino, and that influenced his decision not to run for re-election this year.
"I think after four years, it’s time to give someone else a chance," Fontana said. He said at age 48, he is exploring other options for the future. He still wants to stay in public service, he said.