Press Release: Life Experiences Connect One to Constituents
Press Release: 8/30/2020
TO: Hartford Courant Manchester, EH The Gazette, Journal Inquirer
FROM: Elect Hopperstad 2020 Campaign
Cathy Hopperstad, Republican Candidate for State Representative, 9th District
Linda J. Shapiro, Treasurer
860-468-4040 (campaign -public) or 860-249-6079 (personal - private)
Life Experiences Connect One to Constituents
By Cathy Hopperstad, Republican Candidate for State Representative, 9th District
My name is Cathy Hopperstad and I am the Republican and Independent candidate for State Representative for the 9th District, which encompasses the southeast corner of East Hartford and the southwest corner of Manchester. So if your polling place is Keeney, Verplanck, Mayberry, or St. Christopher’s School, I am your candidate!
I, like you, am an ordinary citizen with a variety of life and career experiences who is tired of being taxed at every turn - from the local, state, and federal governments. I remember when Connecticut was income-tax free and an affordable place for all of her citizens. That is not the case anymore and that is why I chose to run. I have never run for or held public office but I have been in the public sector my entire life, and my varied life experiences allow me to connect and understand my future constituents.
I am a life-long resident who has lived in various parts of the state. I was born in New Haven, grew up in North Haven, had my first apartment in Hamden, and when I returned from my service in the army, I lived in Rocky Hill, Manchester, and then settled in Coventry where I raised my son, Sam. I moved back to Manchester in 2009. When I was in my twenties, I spent many Saturdays traveling through Fairfield County on I-95 or Metro North on my way to a Broadway show. Lately, I have traveled to the Northwest Corner to take in a show at Infinity Hall in Norfolk or to have the best French onion soup at the Village Green in Litchfield. As a volunteer for the Bob Stefanowski campaign, I loved driving throughout the state delivering signs. Therefore, I have traveled to every corner and on every highway in this state and love it. A state representative should know his or her district but also the state as a whole for every decision a legislator makes affects us all. I know and love my state.
My first career was in municipal recreation. I graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Education with a minor in Environmental Studies. I had Representative Mary Mushinsky as one of my professors! There are a lot of jokes about my major, and yes, I did have to take basket weaving, but I petitioned to drop it and take accounting instead. At age 20 and during my internship at the North Haven Parks and Recreation Department, both recreation supervisors left and I took control of the recreation division of the department. At age 21, I was hired as the Assistant Director of Recreation. At 22, I was acting Director during the budget process and the first selectman recognized the outstanding job I did in the development, presentation and implementation of a zero-based budget for the department. At the same time, I started my masters in Public Administration at the University of New Haven but due to the demands of the job, I could not continue after a semester; however, I was able to put to practice what I learned in Public Finance and COBOL programming. Our state is in a fiscal crisis, which no one wants to address or resolve. As a state representative one needs to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money and do the least amount of harm. I will be that representative.
But I was still young and I wanted to see the world and it was 1984 and I wanted to fight communism; therefore, after three years as an administrator, I enlisted in the United States Army as an Electronic Warfare/Signals Intelligence Analyst with a Russian language trailer (Mission Impossible was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid). My MOS or job required a Top Secret Special Compartmented Information Background Clearance. This was an intense 9-month process. The investigators start at your elementary school and work their way up to the current day. So I have been thoroughly vetted! Soviet dissidents trained me in their language and Vietnam Veterans were my senior NCOs throughout my career. I hold those men in high esteem and still do. They didn’t have a connection to get them out of the draft or money to go to college and didn’t flee to Canada. They served as the poor and minorities always do. I spent four years active and five years in the reserves. The men and women I served with are my best friends still today and they funded the start of my campaign. If you want free college, join the military. It is the most equal opportunity employer and definitely a way to get one established, receive top-notch training, learn discipline and attention to detail. I had to work, live, and interact with people from all walks of life and I lived in California and Texas for a year and Germany for two years. I’ve experienced numerous cultures and customs. As a state representative, one must represent all people in one’s district and not be afraid to reach out to them. I will be that representative.
Yet, I haven’t been immumed to trauma and challenges. My grandfather owned his own business, a tool and die shop in New Haven. My parents worked for him and my grandmother raised my older sister, brother and me. My parents worked six days a week, never took a sick day and they only had federal holidays off. We took one, two-week family vacation to visit my father’s family out west. I understand the demands of small business owners and I do not envy their success but support and admire it. Unfortunately, my grandmother died suddenly when I was 11 and I had to take care of myself after school and during the summers. My father died suddenly five years later, and my grandfather four years after that. My mom is 95 years old and is still in our home and refuses to leave. For the past 40 years it has been a struggle to care for her for many reasons. After the fiasco in the nursing homes during COVID and seeing the Medicaid costs ($20,000 a month for a family friend) for such care, we as a society should do everything in our power to keep our seniors at home. Resources are limited and the government cannot care for everyone, but as a state representative our priority should be to protect the most vulnerable in our society and that is those who have no family to care for them and maybe DCF needs to be decentralized and those funds be sent to communities directly to address the mire of social and emotional issues our citizens face.
After my active duty service in the Army, I was accepted to UCONN on a full scholarship to study International Relations/Russian and go to Officer Candidate School. My plan was to go back on active duty or apply to the foreign service, but I became pregnant. An unexpected pregnancy is difficult. My son’s father’s answer was an abortion, and I could not do that. I opted for adoption and went to Catholic Family Services and the Burgdorf Clinic in Hartford. My son was born at Mt Sinai Hospital and I had a week to decide. It is an extremely difficult decision. I told my family I did not want to go on welfare nor force my son’s father to pay child support. My family decided to assist me but the burden fell upon my best friend, Kelly who has helped me the past 32 years. For a year I went on Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, and Care4Kids, but was able to get full-time employment and I filed for child support. I received excellent care at Burgdorf and later at Generations Health Center. I do not know why people say healthcare for the poor is substandard. It was not, but what I did witness is the culture of young people - as young as 15, having children that they can neither afford or adequately care for. I was a college educated 28-year-old and I found it difficult! It has been quite a journey these past 32 years and it has not always been positive. My son and I have our issues and continue to work on them, but he is a college graduate, married, and a homeowner who has learned how to save and manage his finances, and yes, he has paid off his portion of student loans. I am a fan of Star Parker’s Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) and I agree with the premise that we should support working two-parent families, education, job and career development. As a state representative one must look to uplift people out of poverty and into the middle class, not provide economic incentives to do the opposite.
In 1989 I was hired by the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department and stayed there for eight years. I was the Recreation Supervisor of Leisure Programs and I administered that section of the department . My programs were to be self-sustaining but in administering the extensive summer camp program and required to offer scholarships, the program needed town funding; therefore, we merged the playground and camp programs. I was proud of the work I did in Manchester and was awarded Employee of the Year in 1992. Nike Tykes Preschool, Summer Camps and Summer Food Program, and Special Events were the highlights of my career but I was spending more time at work than at home . Consequently, in 1997, I left my job to stay home. During that time, I received my teaching certificate and have been a public school teacher in Middletown for the past twenty years. I taught sixth and eighth grade and now I am at Adult Education. I have witnessed many changes in education and not all for the best. Teachers in urban areas are one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I know. Every profession has “bad apples” but to label schools as failing and the teachers responsible is a negative narrative. There is much that needs to change and the focus needs to be on students’ needs, not data driven instruction, pushing college material down to elementary school (hyperbole - maybe), testing, testing, testing. Parents, teachers and students are stressed out and that is not healthy. School buildings are not healthy. As a teacher and a former municipal employee, there is nothing more infuriating than the state legislature passing laws that impact our profession without any first hand knowledge of such. I left my union in 2018 when I was able due to the amount of money our union donated to candidates I do not support. Unions do not always have the best interest of their members at heart and the money funnel between all public unions and politicians needs to end. A state representative needs to insure that education is actively servicing students based upon their abilities and interests and prepare them for either work, a career or college. I have the world and life time experience as an educator, veteran, municipal administrator and mother to make that happen.
I can go on and on but I think you get the point. I speak from personal experience and not from an ideology in a textbook or from a special interest group. As your state representative I will listen to YOU, my constituents and small business owners in my district to change CT’s course and improve the lives in our district.