Taking a glance around Paul Timpanelli’s spacious 14th-floor office at the Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC) headquarters in Bridgeport, one quickly takes note of the framed, strategically placed photographs of him with local and national leaders. Scores of patriotic Uncle Sam figurines of all shapes and sizes crowd a large credenza against a wall near an oval table where there are several chairs.
On this day, Timpanelli is wearing an American flag tie, and it’s evident that this man is dedicated to his country and community. Equally important is his role as president of the BRBC. Timpanelli’s tasks include guiding the overall direction of the BRBC and executing and overseeing project development, including economic development in the Park City – a major focus of its charge.
The BRBC has been a potent force in the area since 1986 when the Bridgeport Chamber merged into a regional organization, and the Stratford and Trumbull chambers became affiliates with their own policy-making boards, but with integrated staff and budgets.
“Back in 1988, when I came to the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, the city had very little vision of economic development,” said Timpanelli, while gazing outside his window overlooking a panoramic view of Long Island Sound. Today, that story is much different, and much improved, thanks to Timpanelli and his long-range plan for the city.
Undoubtedly, the Trumbull native’s long tenure has helped Bridgeport grow by leaps and bounds and shaped its long-term vision. When Timpanelli first arrived at his post, the Park City, by most accounts, was hitting rock bottom – both fiscally and with its sullied reputation of mismanagement where people from neighboring communities feared driving in certain neighborhoods.
Today, Bridgeport has turned into a destination, and it’s a city where there is a bustling downtown that major corporations like RBS call home. The crime rate is lower, and there is a distinct sense of pride among residents. Restaurants and small businesses are popping up, and people once again are proud of the city’s past and are taking part in its modern-day renaissance. The city has a minor league baseball and ice hockey team, two thriving colleges (University of Bridgeport and Housatonic Community College), museums, theaters and a beautiful shoreline.
The city also offers infinite possibilities as it continues to make its resurgence. Timpanelli is proud of the major strides Bridgeport has seen and the many public and private partnerships he helped navigate. These include the $12 million West End Industrial Park, the relocation of Housatonic Community College and the Ferry Terminal and the Intermodal Transportation Center. Timpanelli also uses his position to help mold public policy for the greater good, and the BRBC played a part in the controversial removal of the city’s elected Board of Education. "We believed it was the right thing to get the Bridgeport schools to spend money efficiently and to be a transparent entity," said Timpanelli.
Timpanelli began his career as a teacher nearly three decades ago at St. Teresa’s in his hometown of Trumbull. He got involved in politics and successfully won eight terms as the town’s first selectman. Prior to his long run as Trumbull’s chief executive, Timpanelli served as town clerk.
He said his years at Sacred Heart had a significant impact on him and his life’s course. “I got very involved in the student government, which I think taught me leadership skills. I was a transfer student from Norwalk Community College, and I grew to love Sacred Heart – it had a homey feel to it.”
It’s also where he met his future wife, Carol, who founded and successfully runs the Royal Tea Company. Later on, Timpanelli earned a master's degree in urban sociology from St. John's University.
Timpanelli also praised Sacred Heart’s monumental growth since he first set foot on campus in 1967, and said it’s played an important role in elevating Bridgeport’s stature. “Sacred Heart University, I think, has been vital in helping Bridgeport, given that it’s close by. It makes the city even more appealing with several strong universities in its backyard,” he said.
Timpanelli is involved with several civic and charitable organizations, including serving on the boards of the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, Family Services Woodfield, the Connecticut Metropolitan Chambers Council and Metropool. Timpanelli’s service in politics is also far-reaching – from serving as chair of Trumbull’s Democratic Town Committee and now as a member to working on Gov. Dannel Malloy’s transition team in 2010.
Additionally, Timpanelli is a past member of three corporate boards of directors -- Health Net of the Northeast (2003-07), Lafayette Bank & Trust (1984-89) and Bridgeport Hydraulic, which is now Aquarion.
Outside his life in the public sector, Timpanelli takes center stage in the doo-wop group, “Yester Year," which performs at area venues and events. “It’s a fun thing to do, and it’s much different from what I do every day.”
Unashamedly proud of Bridgeport’s rich history and excited about its promising future, Timpanelli said his mission is to make the Park City a place “where people want to live, work and spend time.”