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Republican Straniti promises ‘decisive leadership’ in bid to unseat Rilling

Norwalk Republican mayoral candidate Kelly Straniti heads to the lectern Monday to accept the nomination at the Republican Town Committee meeting in the Norwalk Inn.

Norwalk Republican mayoral candidate Kelly Straniti heads to the lectern Monday to accept the nomination at the Republican Town Committee meeting at the Norwalk Inn.

Former Common Councilwoman Kelly Straniti, left, watches as the Republican Town Committee meeting gets underway Monday, with her son, Emerson, at her side in the Norwalk Inn.

Former Common Councilwoman Kelly Straniti, left, watches as the Republican Town Committee meeting gets underway Monday, with her son, Emerson, at her side at the Norwalk Inn.

Updated, 5 p.m., additional video of Kelly Straniti

NORWALK, Conn. – Kelly Straniti said Monday that she’s made good on the promise she made three months ago, delivering a report outlining why she feels Norwalk needs a new mayor – without mentioning Mayor Harry Rilling or concretely slamming him – as she accepted the Republican nomination at the Norwalk Inn.

Straniti promised in April that she’d reach out to Norwalk citizens; now she says she has knocked on hundreds of doors all over Norwalk and gotten a feel for what people want.

(Video of Straniti speech at bottom of story)

“My journey over the last three months has confirmed much of what I already knew, that Norwalk truly is a great city, and what makes our city so great is its people and its diversity,” Straniti said. “… I also learned that Norwalk’s voter is no fool. They know what their government is capable of doing, and they know what is not getting done.”

The candidate made some strong declarative statements:

  • “I will be a mayor who fully and vocally supports our Board of Education and superintendent to create a student-focused culture that motivates, challenges and supports every individual student.”
  • “I will fully support a driving range and educational center at Oak Hills golf course, one of the many wonderful assets in our community, a public golf course that is open to everyone regardless of their economic circumstances.”
  • “From the beginning I have been in favor of the concept of a mall at the 95/7 location.”
  • “I do see value in task forces when they are utilized efficiently. I believe the best use of a task force is to be clear that it has a specific task, that minutes and agendas for all meetings are posted on the city’s website, and that it has a definite start and end date which concludes with the committee issuing a full report with their findings.”

Missing from the speech was any mention of “the stalled development of Wall Street,” although that was part of a Straniti campaign July 2 press release.  State Sen. Bob Duff said last week that POKO Partners was closing on its loan Friday; that didn’t happen, Redevelopment Agency Chairman Felix Serrano said, but papers were signed Monday and it appears imminent.

Instead, there was this comment:

“Norwalk needs leadership and vision in economic development so that we get development projects which complement other redevelopment projects, encourage connectivity and strengthen existing businesses,” Straniti said.

Straniti also made a campaign promise that sounded strangely reminiscent of one made by Rilling two years ago.

“I do still hear over and over that people have difficulties navigating their way through City Hall,” Straniti said. “They find the process confusing… It’s clear that things don’t flow as easily as they can. The transition from department to department can be confusing and frustrating, and I see a system, not people, that has flaws and that needs improvement. As mayor I will provide the vision, guidance, direction that is needed to make Norwalk an easier and better place to do business, for our businesses, our residents, and for everyone.”

As for education, Straniti promised to reach the overall goal of closing the achievement gap by 2020.

The mood in the room was much the same as it was when Rilling accepted the Democratic nomination last week: there were no rousing rounds of applause, cheering or overwhelming enthusiasm, just quiet support.

Common Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) nominated Straniti, making it clear that he was reading a letter from the vacationing Councilman Doug Hempstead (R-At Large), who has known Straniti since they campaigned together in 2003.

Straniti, who served three term on the Council, is someone who works tirelessly and passionately for constituents, who has compassion for seniors and “would honor any and all commitments and carry out all responsibilities,” Hempstead said through Petrini.

“With Kelly Straniti, you will have an informed yet a passionate leader, a listener yet a mover and shaker, an experienced background yet re-energized perspective and, most importantly, you will have decisiveness and the courage to lead as Norwalk’s first female Republican mayor,” Petrini said, reading Hempstead’s letter.

Straniti served Norwalk well as minority and a majority leader and chairwoman of the Ordinance Committee, Olga Arteaga said.

“Kelly demonstrated decisive leadership while on the Council, made hard decisions and everyone knew where Kelly stood,” Arteaga said. “What a breath of fresh air it will be when Kelly takes the office as the new mayor of Norwalk. Kelly will bring experience, leadership and the ability to say what she means and takes a position. These are all the traits we certainly need in our mayor.”

Straniti’s son Emerson also endorsed his mother.

“It’s wild to see her here now, but I have never seen someone put their heart into something so much,” the younger Straniti said. “She’s really goal oriented and determined and when she sets her mind to something she won’t stop going after it. She’s a true go-getter. Every day my mom truly inspires me because she’s up at 5:30 or 6 a.m., immediately gets to work and doesn’t stop until late at night. It’s truly amazing how she can be so great at her job, work on her campaign and be an awesome mom so perfectly all at once. I may be a little biased, but I couldn’t think of a more better person to be mayor of the city of Norwalk.”

Norwalkers want to feel safe, they want exceptional recreational opportunities and they want their children to get a good education, Kelly Straniti said. They want to be able to live in Norwalk, even if they’ve grown old, she said. They want jobs.

“They expect their government to react to change to take advantage of opportunities to prevent the city from growing stagnant,” Straniti said.

“They know that for the city to move forward they need a hands on mayor, a person who takes charge, brings people together and gets things done,” Straniti said. “They need a mayor who is humble enough to listen, but then strong enough to act. The people I talked to as I have gone door to door tell me they do not believe they have that today and I believe with all my heart and your support I will be the type of mayor that Norwalk needs and deserves.”

9 comments

Joanne Romano July 28, 2015 at 9:05 am

Give her a chance Norwalk! Kelly is a breath of fresh air that is so needed throughout Norwalk, Ct and our country as a whole! Having worked with Kelly I know what she is capable of and I know each decision she makes is carefully thought out, researched and executed in a way that can only be done by someone who has a true compassion for doing what’s right for everyone! All the best to you Kelly…go for the brass ring and never give up your dreams!!

Mr. Ludlow July 28, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Count me among the already jaded.
Someone with years on the Common Council should have one example of showing “decisive leadership”. There has to be one time when she voted against her party’s leaders, right?
I like a good slogan as much as the next voter (or at least as much as the person trying to decide among laundry detergents at Shop Rite). But shouldn’t someone running for mayor have that “vision thing” AND a good personal story.

Sue Haynie July 28, 2015 at 2:56 pm

In error, I posted this under the wrong NON article. So here it is again.

Kelly pays attention to detail and does her homework. These traits allow her to be decisive, and are made all the more powerful by her calm and direct delivery.She’s not afraid to speak the truth. She’s shown commitment to our schools (65%+/- of the City budget) and has stated her support for our new Superintendent-I expect she will be a partner , not just an observer. Kelly has a compelling personal history, an entrepreneurial spirit and strength of character. Add to that, she’s got common sense and a great work ethic.

David McCarthy July 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Many times with the council the tone is set by the leader who brings the issue forward, so it should not be surprising to see a leader like Kelly work an issue through and gain broad support. That being said, without even trying, I can think of a number of issues Kelly voiced her concern about and disagreed with the former mayor and other council people. Specifically, I am speaking about issues related to eminent domain and data privacy with respect to license plate readers, among others.

I think you’re right, the mayor should have the “vision thing” and a good personal story. Kelly has both. She has shown she will make a decision and take the city forward, and hers is a story of great success. Married to her high school sweetheart, with a son in college (who stood up to speak for her before a crowd of 200)…I can’t think of a better example of the American Dream.

Joanne July 28, 2015 at 5:16 pm

It’s not easy making decisions for a city as large as Norwalk.. But perhaps if you are one of the many who attended committee meetings where Kelly was part of the solution you’d understand her vision and determination to do things right! Not just pass things along because others said it should be done, not just taking the word of others but actually going out and meeting people involved in what she was voting on and making sure all parties were aware of her concerns through research on every angle and bringing her findings back to committee and presenting them not only to the committee members but also inviting those directly affected and those who had strong convictions on what was good/bad for the city…if you are looking for visions and decisive leadership, idsY Kelly has more than shown she doesn’t just talk the talk!!

WOW just WOW July 29, 2015 at 12:14 am

Mr. Ludlow
Please give us one example of Rilling’s “decisive leadership”
Actually give me one example of one positive thing Rilling has accomplished. That’s doesn’t mean something that was started during Moccia’s term and just now got finish. As far as I can see Rilling is a do nothing as mayor, the same as he was as chief.

Mr. Ludlow July 30, 2015 at 1:56 am

You can tell how much excitement the Straniti campaign is generating by the overwhelming responses to this entry.

Some people are a little faklempt that there is not universal adoration for the Straniti years on the Common Council. But no one who served with her who’ve posted has given any specifics about her “decisive leadership”.

A few people get confused if you don’t adore their candidates. Their response is to attack who they think you’re supporting. They forget that just because you won’t vote for a marionette, doesn’t mean that you’re going to vote for a sock puppet.

Hobbes the Calvinist July 30, 2015 at 2:46 pm

If you’re a casual observer of Norwalk politics, you know that Romano was relentless in what she did for veterans. You know that McCarthy has been great on public works (school recycling, saving money by outsourcing among the kudos he deserves). McQuaid was known for his efforts to support parks and recreation programs. Hempstead’s been a leader on cutting spending. You might not always agree with them, but you knew what they were willing to fight for.

Nothing comes to mind when I think of Straniti’s time on the Common Council. Don’t get me wrong, it does rival the achievements of the Rilling administration.

Trust me, 2015 will be known as the Great Coin Toss Election.

Kevin Di Mauro July 30, 2015 at 8:54 pm

I’m glad that Kelly Straniti has made the driving range at Oak Hills Park a campaign issue. I totally disagree with her support of this project, and it will be interesting to see how things play out.

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