By Foster Steinbeck
Hector Arzeno Prioritizes Public Education In Campaign
For House District 151 Democratic candidate Hector Arzeno, given America’s tense political climate, the upcoming elections across the nation will put candidates’ values, rather than specific policy ideas, on the ballot box.
However, he also believes what’s right and wrong doesn’t run down party lines, and admires soon-retiring Incumbent Republican State Rep Livvy Floren (D-149), calling her a role model of a legislator.
“I think that we have to learn to work more in collaboration and supporting what is right, despite the political party it comes from,” Arzeno said, referencing his support of First Selectman Fred Camillo’s decision to close local parks and beaches in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After serving as an Representative Town Meeting District 8 Representative and volunteering around Greenwich in various capacities, Arzeno said he wants to take commitment to community service — fostered in him from his childhood Jesuit education in Argentina — and strong support of public education to Hartford this November.
Arzeno will face Incumbent Republican Rep. Harry Arora this November, who assumed the office earlier this year following Camillo vacating the seat to serve as First Selectman.
“I will definitely, if elected, work tirelessly to improve the governance of the state of Connecticut. I will be defending and protecting the priorities of my district in Hartford,” Arzeno said. “I want to contribute to the improvements in any negotiation process of the state budget.”
If elected …
A banker by trade, Arzeno said he wants to use his financial background to help set the state’s budget. Arzeno said he will work to increase funding to Greenwich’s low-income housing efforts and to its public education system.
Arzeno opposed Greenwich’s Board of Estimate and Taxation’s local education funding decreases in the county’s budget this summer, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Arzeno said the $3 million cut could have been compensated by the county’s significant reserves in its rainy day fund.
Arzeno said he believes public education is the backbone of the country. He volunteers as a bilingual tour guide at Greenwich High School, where all of his children received their high school diplomas.
“I will do my best to make sure that in Hartford we have access to all possible funds coming from the state or federal funding to try to cope with the needs of public schools have for COVID-19,” Arzeno said.
Born in Buenos Aries in 1947, Arzeno graduated from the Catholic University of Argentina with a Licentiate in Business Administration, later becoming an international banker for several prominent banks. He served as Banesto’s executive vice president of corporate and international banking for three years in the late 1980s, and as Banco Galicia’s executive vice president of its international division a decade later.
Before rising to the more senior position, Banco Galicia’s corporate ladder, he set-up and grow the Banco Galicia’s New York branch for seven years, starting in 1990, with his colleague, Dean Curry. Curry said Arzeno was easy to work with and very knowledgeable about the industry.
“He’s not sitting there, doing what everyone has done for the past 50 years,” he elaborated further. “Hector is playing chess, he’s playing two or three moves ahead of what is going on.”
As a representative, Arzeno said he will support common-sense gun regulation, such as the creation of a permanent commission designed to implement programs and strategies to reduce gun violence, and work to strengthen environmental regulations. Arzeno said he supports state legislation which requires more public input when permitting energy facilities which produce pollution.
He has also served on the Greenwich County Day School Sustainability Committee.
Arzeno worked to reduce and improve the management of municipal solid waste on the RTM. He was elected to the RTM last November, and serves as a finance committee delegate and an alternate on the claims committee.
Since becoming active in the Greenwich community in the late 1980s, he has also been a member of the Parent-Teacher Association, volunteered as a youth soccer coach and at Greenwich’s conservation department monitoring program for the Mianus Pond Fish Ladder. He retired from his professional career in 2013.
“I believe in good governance. I think I should give back for what I have received from the country and the community,” Arzeno said. “And that’s why I decided to start [my career] from the bottom up.”
Working on Saturdays
After graduating from college, Arzeno started his first job out of college working in 1970 for Morgan Guarantee Trust (now called J.P. Morgan Chase). In 1974, Arzeno moved to America to enroll in a one-year company training program.
Arzeno said the program has helped instill in him a financial “sixth sense” — the ability to differentiate important factors from superficial ones — which has helped him make business decisions throughout his career.
“The sixth sense of a banker is that sometimes you have to make decisions without all the facts,” Arzeno said. “Sometimes you have all of the facts and everything looks good, but you have that sense that you don’t feel comfortable with that decision.”
Arzeno first came to America in 1970 on a college-sponsored trip with other students and visited Boston, Washington D.C. and New York City. He said he was impressed by America’s political system and the Civil Rights Movement.
Arzeno said America taught him to work on Saturdays, as he remembers learning to come into the office over the weekend to spend a few hours filing recaps of last week’s activities and preparing for the coming week.
Arzeno also said working in America taught him the value of teamwork.
Gloria Palomino worked as vice president of human resources at Banco Galicia’s New York Branch and said she remembers Hector’s energetic personality and decisive nature. The pair have continued to keep in touch for the past four decades. To Palomino, Arzeno’s strongest trait is his desire to help people.
“Whatever you need, whatever problem you have, he will try to solve it,” Palomino said. “That was one of the things that I liked most about him in the bank.”
In past presidential elections, Arzeno has voted for Republican candidates like George H.W. Bush but started voting consistently for Democrats in 2004. However, despite the party switch, Arzeno’s core values, such as supporting public education, have not budged.
To him, some issues are too important to politically compromise on.
“We owe to our constituents clarity in where we stand. We shouldn’t be vague, we shouldn’t try to compromise on both sides of the questions,” Arzeno said, referencing his recent support of increasing voter access to absentee ballots. “[If] I say one thing a month ago, I will say exactly the same thing today, and I will say exactly the same thing in two months.”