One of the biggest complaints that I have heard from Shrewsbury residents while I’ve been running for selectman is that they don’t truly know the candidates who are asking them for their support. That’s why I made the decision to really put myself out there by providing you with my history. If you decide to read it, you’ll know how I became the person I am today. I should prepare you for the fact that this isn’t a quick summary. It’ll take a few minutes to read it but you'll likely know whether you're going to support me or not once you've finished reading.
To start, it is virtually impossible for you to understand who I am without me first talking about my family and the environment that I grew up in. My family has always been very important to me and being the youngest of five kids, I’ve always felt like I’m made up of a combination of qualities that I picked up from my four siblings. I’ll talk more about them further down in this document. I also have an enormous number of extended relatives who live in Shrewsbury, so unless you’ve moved here in the last few years, you likely know someone in my family or extended family. Over the last 100+ years, this wonderful little town has been home to five generations of my family.
Our family business, Worcester Sand and Gravel, is the oldest year-round business in the town of Shrewsbury and was founded by my grandparents in 1910. After they passed away, the company was left to my father and his many siblings. Only three of the twelve are still alive. The company has played a big role in the development of Shrewsbury, Worcester, and the surrounding towns for over a century and has employed thousands of locals over the years since it began. I worked for the company on and off for several years as well and learned about the inner workings. You don’t grow up with a family business that old without learning a lot about business. Okay, more about my immediate family.
My dad (Mike Trotto) was the President of Worcester Sand until he passed away in 2016. He inspired me in so many ways and that led to my interest in government and being self-employed. I also inherited my love/hate relationship with politics from my father. When I was growing up, he was a town meeting member, a member of the Shrewsbury Housing Authority, a member of the Shrewsbury Finance Committee, and he was a Shrewsbury Selectman…the same position that I am presently running for. While most kids are bored to death by politics, I’ve found politics to be incredibly interesting since I was a little boy. With that being the case, I paid attention. I loved learning all I could about how our town and its many departments are managed…and obviously still do.
Thanks to my mother, Nancy (Culver) Trotto, I’ve always had an overwhelming amount of empathy. At times growing up, she felt like I had almost too much empathy because she worried that I cared for other people so much but not enough about my own needs. I did finally acknowledge that and made some adjustments. I developed my love of volunteering and community from my mother. While raising four sons and one daughter, mom somehow still managed to help our community more than literally anyone else I have ever met. To be honest, I can’t possibly remember all the volunteer work that she has done in her lifetime. Over the years, she was a catechism teacher at St. Anne’s Church where she volunteered at right up until last year. My mother was also a Girl Scout leader and a Cub Scouts den leader so when you added the five of us to the equation, we lived in a madhouse much of the time. Mom served as the president of the Shrewsbury Women’s Club, president of the Friends of Glavin at the then “Glavin Center,” president of the Daughters of Isabella, and is still an active town meeting member. Even with all those responsibilities, she worked at the Shrewsbury town hall and later at Shrewsbury Travel in the center of town.
My oldest brother Michael was like a second father to me growing up…I just didn’t realize it at the time. When my father was busy, which was common, Michael would pick up the slack. He is currently the vice president of Worcester Sand and Gravel. My brother Rick has always been my political twin. We agree on virtually all things political, which has always been extremely helpful to me. He worked at the family business as my dad’s right hand for two decades until my father’s passing. My brother Bruce is the owner of both Dinky’s Diner in Shrewsbury and Trotto Auto Sales in Worcester. He also has an amazing daughter, Stephanie...who is a currently a freshman at Shrewsbury High School. My sister Linda gave our family the most amazing gifts that anyone could ever ask for. She has raised three incredible kids here in town (Bob Walker, Dan Walker, ad Shonna Walker) and now has two adorable grandchildren. (Norah & Alice).Linda is currently living in Webster. Four of the five of us were class officers back in high school. I learned so much from all my siblings and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without their influence.
After my parents took a four-year break from having kids, I “somehow” came along. They never shared any details about that so I’m still in the dark about where I came from. Admittedly, I was a weird little kid. Mr. Rogers was my idol (yes, seriously) and I would always try to treat everyone like he did. When I was little, I used to do things like making sandwiches for anyone working on our street. Whether it was the phone company, electric company, a police officer, or someone doing construction, I would show up with sandwiches, cookies, and something to drink for them. I remember a few of them stopping by our house afterwards just to visit me. Until I became a teenager, I will admit that I was more comfortable with spending time with adults than kids my age. I think it was because I learned more from adults.
I also used to go around the neighborhood and volunteer to mow people’s lawns…not to make money...just to be a good neighbor. Out of all the neighbor’s lawns that I used to mow, I only accepted payment from one couple because they wouldn’t allow me to do it for free. He was a very wealthy state senator anyway, so I was cool with our arrangement. Since business was engrained in me early on, though…I used to sell seashells that I’d find on the beach and fish that I’d catch down the Cape where I spent every summer of my youth. All I’d have to do was take whatever I had down to the docks around the corner where the ferries run out of and tourists would buy shells, eels, bluefish, and blue crabs.
Much like business and government, politics have always been in my blood. I still have fond memories of my mother, siblings, a long list of volunteers in town, and I helping my father on his various campaigns. The campaign that I enjoyed working on the most back then was his run for Governor’s Council. My father bought a school bus, painted it white, and had Mike Trotto and "Governor’s Councilor” painted on it. We’d fill the bus up with people of all ages and our small army of volunteers would canvass the neighborhoods and businesses throughout Shrewsbury. I also have memories of some pretty cool guitar playing hippies on the bus with us, so I always thought that our adventures on it had a little bit of a Partridge Family vibe to it. My apologies to millennials for using a reference to a corny TV series that was on before you were even born.
By the time I reached high school, I was already recruiting my friends and classmates to work on various local and statewide campaigns. I was 14 at the time. With some help from my brother Rick and then state representative Roberta Goldman, I spent a lot of time training other youth how to phone bank, canvas, recruit other volunteers, and how to debate important issues with adult voters. I absolutely loved doing it. My introduction to becoming an actual political candidate was just months after recruiting and training other youth when I took out nomination papers to run for class president. I was very excited and turned in my signed papers within a day. Even though I collected more than twice as many signatures as I needed, more than half of the signatures on my nomination papers were invalidated because some of my classmates who signed them either hadn’t paid their class dues or they signed nomination papers for multiple candidates for president. I was told by the school administration that I would not be on the ballot for class president and there was nothing that I could do to change their mind. I was disappointed but I already knew too much about the political process to throw in the towel. I decided to run for class president as a write-in candidate. I was sure to lose in my attempt, but I preferred that instead of simply giving up.
I campaigned hard for several weeks before the election and was also allowed to give a speech on stage with the other four or so candidates. I knew I’d have to deliver a dynamic speech, so I spent many afternoons writing and tweaking it. For whatever crazy reason, I wasn’t nervous giving my speech and I killed it. It was up to my classmates after that. An hour or so before the results were announced, I was told that dozens of votes that were cast for me were discarded because some students wrote in “Steven or Steve Trotto” instead of “Stephen Trotto.” Yes, the school administration was that strict. I was a little heartbroken and prepared myself for a huge loss. An hour later, the principal began to announce the results of the class election to the school over the PA system. After reading the results from the senior and junior class, the next words that came out of his mouth were ”And for president of the class of 1983...Stephen Trotto won by a landslide.” I could hear my friends in different classrooms cheering and that really touched me. I remember having to take a walk to regain my composure. I was shocked that I still won after so many votes were invalidated.
After I was elected, I felt like I was floating on cloud nine but that feeling didn’t last very long. My life was about to fall apart. This is where I really bare my soul to those of you reading this. It’s still quite difficuIt for me to write about all these years later. I came close to removing this entire section several times but ultimately decided to include it because it has had such an impact on my life. A few months after I officially took over as president at the start of my sophomore year, rumors that I was gay suddenly spread like wildfire across Shrewsbury High School...in the early 1980s…when virtually nobody was out of the closet. I became an instant target. All the high fives I had previously been receiving from a lot of students in the hallways and in my classes after I won my race immediately ceased. Instead, many of those same students started tripping me or pushing me into the lockers or down the stairs. It happened daily. The tripping and pushing soon evolved into getting punching and having homophobic slurs shouted at me. It happened daily.
It only got worse from there. I was beaten up on several occasions and never by just one student. I wasn’t a wimpy little kid by any means, but I was always outnumbered. My car was vandalized in the parking lot twice, and even my parent’s car, that I borrowed to go to catechism one night was vandalized at St. Anne’s church. It was a nightmare that I could not wake up from and it affected every facet of my life. I had to plan out different routes to get to every class to avoid other students that were basically hunting for me. I never went to lunch in school again and never took the bus home again after all of this began. Even then, I got beat up by three of my classmates one time in the center of town while I was walking home. Things weren’t great at home at the time either. All but one of my siblings had gone away to college, I rarely saw my brother who was still there, and my mother and father were constantly getting into enormous arguments while I hid out in my room. My mother had filed for divorce at least three times over a six-year period before they worked things out. With all that was going on at school and home, I became really depressed, my grades began to suffer, and I started to get physically sick from the stress.
Seeing that it was back in 1980, I couldn’t and didn’t talk to a soul about what was going on. Remember, there wasn’t a single living celebrity, political leader, sports star, or role model out of the closet at the time…not even Elton John, Freddy Mercury, Cindy Lauper, or Liberace. The only courageous gay person that I was aware of who was out of the closet anywhere near that time was San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, who had a big influence on my life of activism. Unfortunately, he was assassinated in his own office by another City Supervisor two years earlier. Seeing that even his killer only received five years in prison for murdering Milk and the mayor of San Francisco, I was legitimately afraid for my life and felt truly alone. No matter where I was, I felt like I was in the middle of a battlefield with bullets flying over my head.
During my junior and senior years, I finally came out to some of my (mostly newer) friends in school and none of them were even slightly fazed by my news. They all completely supported me and it’s hard to explain just how courageous I thought they were for being there for me. I continue to love them all to death to this day because they were my lifeline. After high school, I was still fairly traumatized by the years of bullying to head right to college. I desperately needed a break, so I moved to our house in Hyannis with a friend for a couple of years. We both worked at the then Dunfey’s Resort just a mile away and our friendship soon evolved into my first real relationship. We met a lot of wonderful people through work and through some of my old friends in the neighborhood and I was actually happy for the first time in years. I didn’t have to keep looking over my shoulder anymore.
While we were working at the resort, my coworkers and I couldn’t help but notice how popular limousines were becoming. Before that time, stretch limousines were used solely for funerals or by the super-rich. It was because limousines had become more affordable for many working-class people to rent. We started to see limousines at the resort practically every day. Around that same time, my first relationship ended and I was heartbroken. When I was 20, I moved back to Shrewsbury. Over the next few months while I was working for our family business, I was also working on a business plan so I could open my own business. That same year, I started my first company...American Presidential Limousine Service .I loved managing my business and learned so much more over the six years that I owned the company than I would have had I gone straight to college.
Owning my own business was not the only thing that I had set my sights on at the time. I would have done anything to prevent other kids from going through the hell that I went through in high school. Ten months after starting my first company, I founded the Supporters of Worcester Area GLBTQ Youth...a Worcester County youth group for LGBTQ and bullied youth. Without the existence of the internet or any LGBT alliances in schools at that point, it was extremely difficult to promote. It was the only resource for LGBTQ youth under 21 in central Massachusetts...and it was a godsend for those kids. I am delighted to say that SWAGLY has now been around for 32 years and is not only still going strong, it is expanding. It has been a lifeline for thousands of young people over the years and has prevented more youth suicides than I could have ever imagined or hoped for when I started it.
Little did I know, another enormous challenge was waiting for me around the corner. Just a few months after I started my company, I became incredibly sick and ended up in the hospital for two weeks. I had gone from 150 lbs. to 128 lbs. in six weeks and lost every bit of energy that I had. I was soon diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and suffered some major setbacks with my business because of it. Crohn’s negatively impacted my life for thirty years until I was prescribed a new medication that turned things around. Unfortunately, the steroids that I was prescribed for Crohn’s for decades before destroyed many of my joints. Tests revealed that I would have to have my knees, hips, and right shoulder replaced. I also had to have cataract surgery in both eyes in my mid-30s. After my first surgery to replace my right hip, I gained more that eighty pounds and was soon diagnosed with Diabetes. I have since lost that weight but have permanent nerve damage in both feet from the disease.
In 1990, I met and started dating Bob Wiggin, who is now my partner of twenty-nine years. Two years after we met, we moved to Scottsdale, AZ after getting a little tired of New England winters. Even though we love Arizona, we were curious about what it would be like to live in other states. Over the next several years, we lived in south Florida and southern California before moving back to Arizona for a couple more years. When my father began to have health issues, we moved back to Shrewsbury and have been here ever since. Other than working as an executive assistant at Worcester Sand & Gravel, a project supervisor at American Express, and as the acting registrar at Florida Atlantic University for a handful of years, I have been an entrepreneur my entire adult life.
In total, I have owned and operated four businesses in three different states since I was twenty. One of the benefits of working at the college was that I could take any class I wanted free of charge, so I was able to take many of the business and political science classes that I thought I’d benefit from. After founding SWAGLY here, I went on to start similar LGBTQ and anti-bullying youth groups across Arizona, Florida, and California. I also founded a group in California that helped find housing and jobs for homeless youth and families. I can tell you that working with the homeless is life changing. If you have a job, a roof over your head, food in your belly, a car, and you can afford to travel…you’re incredibly fortunate in comparison to most Americans.
Going full circle, I now live right back on North Street in Shrewsbury with my partner Bob and our little dog Boo. We live fifty feet from the house I grew up in. At times, living in the neighborhood that I grew up after living elsewhere feels somewhat surreal. This area of Shrewsbury is a lot different than it used to be. The never-ending fields and apple orchards are all gone. In their place, there are over a dozen new neighborhoods off North Street with hundreds of giant, new homes. Some of our old neighbors are still living here, and there are, of course, a lot of new faces. I didn’t know many of them but since we have knocked on 400 or so doors in the area over the last two months since I started running for selectman, I’ve met so many wonderful people who were excited to talk about the town and local politics.
Seeing that I am currently the primary administrator for the Shrewsbury Community Forum (a Facebook group with over 12,000 members...which is about half of the town's adult population), I listen to and communicate with a large portion of our town population on a daily-basis. I’m in touch with more town residents than most of our elected officials. I utilize the group to aid residents in a variety of ways and I spend a lot of time helping them find the resources and answers that they’re looking for. When there is new news in town, it usually hits our group before it's even in the local newspapers. If you're not in the group, you should definitely consider joining. That, my friends...is the end of my story. Well, for now anyway. Have a wonderful day,