Sacred Heart University is one of the many reasons why Gary Turco ’03 recently won his election bid for state representative of Newington’s 27th District.
Originally from Westchester County, N.Y., Turco started his educational career at SHU in 1999 with the intention of studying business.
“I chose SHU because I felt such a warmth at the school,” said Turco, 37. “It has this family atmosphere, and I felt very comfortable there. I felt like I would get a good education and be supported.”
During his freshman year, Turco took a political science course taught by Gary Rose, professor and chair of the Department of Government. The method in which Rose taught the class motivated Turco. “He inspired me to make a difference,” Turco said.
In Turco’s sophomore year, he took another political science class with Rose, who encouraged him to apply for an internship at the state capitol. Typically, only upperclassmen applied for the position. “He said he saw something in me,” Turco recalled. “I applied and got it.” At the capitol, Turco interned for former State Rep. and Speaker of the House James Amann and later would work for him full-time.
“It was Dr. Rose suggesting the internship and believing in me and thinking I could do well…It really kickstarted my career in politics,” said Turco, who eventually changed his major to political science.
While at SHU, Turco developed his leadership skills in Student Government and guided families and future Pioneers around campus as a student ambassador. He was also a mentor to a child in the community and worked as a tutor for SHU’s Upward Bound program.
After graduation, Turco worked as a SHU admissions counselor for two years, but politics was his true calling. He worked for Amann for several years at the capitol before becoming a policy analyst and adviser. He wrote legislation for the Connecticut House Democratic Caucus for about 10 years before leaving to experience the private sector. “I wanted to see what it was all about,” Turco said.
Eventually, Turco moved to California to work on development for small businesses. He was there for five years, but said he didn’t love it. “I missed policy and politics. I missed being in Connecticut.”
Before moving back east, Turco spent 100 days backpacking through Europe. He then volunteered in Uganda, where he taught English to elementary school students in a small village for a semester. “It was an unbelievable experience,” Turco said. “I was completely immersed in a new culture and got to know so many people.”
It was in Africa that Turco had the idea to run for public office, as he wondered who was going to run against his district’s current Republican state representative. Turco said he wanted to help the Democratic opponent, but no one was stepping up to the challenge. That’s when Turco said, “Well, if no is running when I get home, I will.”
He came back to Connecticut on May 1 and hit the ground running. “I started campaigning right away,” said Turco, who believes he knocked on at least 8,000 doors in his district.
On election night, the results were very close. Turco was behind his challenger, but he didn’t give up hope. At 3 a.m., Turco found out he won. “In the end, I won by 66 votes,” he said. “It was one of the closest races in the state.”
Turco gets sworn in on Jan. 9 and is excited to get to work. He said he’s committed to reducing the cost of living for everyone in the state. “I want to make Connecticut more affordable so we can compete with surrounding states. I want there to be more opportunities for good-paying jobs,” he said.
While Turco works hard to make a difference, he hopes he will have an intern from SHU to assist him along the way.