Updated, 6:18 p.m.: Comment from Mayor Harry Rilling; updated 5:15 p.m.: Comment from James Cahn; deadline for signatures.
NORWALK, Conn. – Lisa Thomson’s Norwalk mayoral campaign will “focus on protecting neighborhoods, growing the grand list, and professionalizing city government.”
“A firm believer that partisanship is getting in the way of governance, she will petition onto the November ballot as an unaffiliated candidate,” a Tuesday morning press release said, announcing that “18 Year Civic Leader Lisa Brinton Thomson” is running for mayor.
“We have been aware of her intentions for quite some time so this is not surprising,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in an email. “Norwalk is a city on the move. People throughout the state and beyond are talking about the positive changes in our community from our economic development, to our growing grand list and our historically low tax increases. I believe the citizens of Norwalk are pleased with the progress we have made during the last four years.”
Thomson formed an exploratory committee several weeks ago; her candidacy for mayor was confirmed last week by the Secretary of State’s office after Thomson obtained petitions to get on the ballot.
“She has until 4 p.m. on August 9 to obtain 133 signatures,” Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State Tina Prakash said last week. Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said Tuesday that Thomson has not yet brought in filled out petitions.
“We plan on turning in out signatures soon and don’t foresee any issues qualifying,” said James Cahn, Thomson’s campaign manager.
Thomson would join an already crowded mayoral contest, with Republican Town Committee Chairman Andy Conroy up for an endorsement from his party, and State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) promising to challenge Rilling in a Democratic primary.
There’s also a rumor that the Scott Merrell, a.k.a. the Rowayton Cowboy, is going to throw his Western-style hat in the ring. McQuaid said no papers have been filed.
Thomson is widely known as an education reform advocate, the co-founder of the group Red Apples. Recently she switched her attention to Zoning regulation reform. Last fall, Thomson, Goldstein and activist Diane Cece formed a Political Action Committee, Norwalk First, in a successful drive to oppose two of the four charter revision questions on the ballot.
The press release put Thomson’s biography and mayoral ambitions this way:
“For the past decade, Lisa has been a leader in efforts to reform planning & zoning and public education. Last fall, she drove the Norwalk First campaign advocating for real charter revision. She specifically targeted controversial land use issues and repeated litigation with taxpayer money.
“Over time, she has noticed the City’s inability to keep pace with the increasing financial burdens imposed by the local, state, and federal governments. ‘I am convinced that Norwalk is not leveraging its many strengths effectively, and that changes are needed.’
“A self-described pragmatist, her campaign will be based on her desire not to hope for miracles, but to face the economic reality of situations and to use the city’s best efforts to control those things that it can.
“She said, ‘I am excited to be able to roll out activities over the coming months to introduce myself to the citizens and neighborhoods of Norwalk, to listen to their concerns, and let them know that help is on the way in the form of affordable, effective changes to the way the city is run.’
“Though much of Norwalk knows her as Lisa Thomson, Lisa will be running under her maiden name—Brinton, because that is the name that appears on the voter rolls.
“Brinton Thomson’s professional career began over 25 years ago and includes 20 years in various executive positions with AT&T/Lucent Technologies, working in both the US and abroad and as an independent management and communications consultant working with Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations.
“After moving to Norwalk and starting a family, Lisa initiated an 18- year career in civic engagement by becoming active in education, including becoming a co-founder of Red Apples. In addition to her efforts outlined on her Lisa For Norwalk website, she currently runs her own tutoring and after school program, Student Newshounds, aimed at increasing writing proficiency and more recently, the debating skills of students in the Greater Norwalk area. Her attendees have included students from most Norwalk schools.
“She feels that her long residency in Norwalk, her understanding and promotion of its potential, as well as her initiative and drive to take on challenging tasks, make her a well-qualified candidate to address the City’s issues.
“Lisa has lived with her two sons in Norwalk for almost 20 years. Both boys graduated from Brien McMahon High School. More information is available on her website, lisafornorwalk.org.
Thomson’s team is bipartisan.
Cahn ran unsuccessfully for Common Council in 2015 as a Republican and was slated to become a Zoning Commissioner in 2016 before Democratic Mayor Harry Rilling withdrew the appointment. Rich Sanders is her campaign communications director. Third Taxing District Commissioner Deb Goldstein is Thomson’s treasurer; Goldstein switched her party affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated on June 16, according to Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells.
“I support Lisa’s run for Mayor because she’s my good friend,” Cahn said in a text message. “As a voter, though, I support Lisa because she’s a serious, professional, thoughtful candidate. She really sees the potential in Norwalk and is frustrated that our existing, aimless status quo prevents us from being all that we could be. She wants to change that and I believe she can. She’s non-partisan, trustworthy, and can be counted on to be accountable.”
Lisa Thomson is a former Board member of Chapman Hyperlocal Media Inc.