Updated, 12:41 p.m.: Diane Lauricella aded.
NORWALK, Conn. — The experience of Common Council at large candidates runs the gamut.
NancyOnNorwalk solicited biographical information from Democratic and Republican candidates. Here is what we learned:
Richard J. Bonenfant, Republican
Bonenfant, an incumbent, is a self-employed photographer; his wife Maureen is a teacher in Fairfield Public Schools. Their three grown children were educated by Norwalk Public Schools.
Bonenfant graduated from Norwalk Central Catholic High School and earned a Bachelors of Arts from St. Leo University in Florida.
“Having been a Councilman for fourteen out of the last twenty years, I hope to continue to contribute through the experience and knowledge acquired for both the legislative process and the community interaction which is so important if you wish to serve on the Common Council,” Bonenfant wrote. “I always try to put the City’s interest first when the entities come before us and ask for favors or approvals. Whenever there is an agreement struck between the City and a developer, we always produce our end of the bargain but the other party sometimes doesn’t. We need reverter clauses in the contracts to ensure our assets are protected or else the developer can use what we gave them and flip the land for a huge profit or have a failed project now owned by a bank where the City used to own that land.”
His top three issues:
- Plan & Control Development
- Public Safety
“Norwalk has so much going to make us proud to live here, great amenities and thankfully lots of capable people who participate at meetings and forums,” he wrote. “…We must deal with the geography we have including a river running through the middle of our City, and ask how many people do we want living here in Norwalk. Can we handle a population of 100,000, 150, or 200,000 residents? Moving traffic more efficiently just makes it harder to exit a side street onto an artery, and simply moves the congestion to another choke point. More apartments put pressure to build more schools, but do you really want to give up your parks as a solution to finding land? It’s also time for the education community to speak up about some population planning in order to address the root causes of the overcrowded schools.”
Greg Burnett, Democrat
Burnett, a Senior Human Resources Professional, is married with two sons. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Syracuse University and is a veteran city leader:
- A Board of Education member from 2005 – 2009
- Service on the Board of Estimate and Taxation from 2003 to 2005, and from 2014- present (Currently the Chairman)
- Member of the Board of Health from 2009 – 2014
- Norwalk Facilities Construction Commission, 2003 – present
- Water Pollution Control Authority, 2015 – present
His top three issues:
- Minimize the financial and traffic impact to Norwalk citizens and businesses as a result of the DOT Walk Bridge project.
- Partnering with the Board of Education to support the strategic plan of improvement; Special Education offerings, and improving the school infrastructure.
- Keeping taxes down; appropriate spending; and maintaining the city’s top tier AAA bond rating.
In addition, he is:
- A Justice of the Peace
- A Notary Public
- Member of the Norwalk Mentor Advisory Board
- A Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) Mentor at Norwalk High School
- A USATF Certified Track and Field Official
- Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; International Committee Chairman and Life Member
“I have called Norwalk home for over twenty-five years and have been committed to serving Norwalk each day towards making a difference,” Burnett wrote. “I have worked in business for over thirty years in various managerial and technical positions developing an extensive tool kit of skills and expertise. I have served on several boards and commissions which has equipped me with strong team building skills that are crucial in being successful in the Common Council position. I will advocate for all Norwalk citizens in a professional and respectful manner. My service to Norwalk has demonstrated that I am a proven and committed leader and will be instrumental in moving Norwalk forward. My experience and service make me uniquely qualified to represent the interest of all Norwalk citizens on the Common Council.”
Michael Corsello, Democrat
Corsello, an incumbent, is a self-employed attorney. His wife Randy, who is attended college and law school with, works in Bridgeport as a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. Their daughter owns a home here and works in the apparel industry; their son lives in New York and works there as an attorney. A 15-year-old cat spends her time mostly under couches and in closets.
Top Three Issues:
- Maintaining a quality education system in these challenging economic times;
- Keeping residential taxes down by intelligently expanding our commercial tax base;
- The need to modify our ordinances and provide our Departments with the staffing necessary to enforce and remediate violations of zoning and housing code regulations.
His community activities:
- Fire Commission- Chairman (Former)
- Oak Hills Commission- Chairman
- Oak Hills Park Authority
- Fair Rent Commission
- Charter Revision Commission
- Connecticut Counseling Centers- Board of Directors
- Norwalk YMCA- Board of Directors
- Fraternal Order of Eagles
- Member of Statewide Grievance Committee (2006-2016)
- Member, Chief Justice’s Panel to Study the Jury Selection System
- Temple Shalom Exchange Club
- St. Ann’s Club
- Sons of Italy
“My lifelong residence in this community provides me with knowledge of its people, problems and potential,” he wrote. “My Children and I attended Norwalk’s Public Schools. The curriculum allowed us to pursue higher education and being part of its diverse student body prepared us well for life…. For the past 35 years I’ve operated a law practice in Norwalk. I’ve advocated on behalf of individuals from all walks of life and every area of this City facing a variety of legal issues. I have resolved their problems and protected their rights. My training and experience have made advocacy part of my persona.”
William (Bill) Dunne, Republican
Dunne, the self-employed proprietor of BDCreative, is married with two grown children and two grandchildren.
He holds a Bachelor’s in economics from Fordham University.
His top three issues:
- the rising cost of living in Norwalk
- Continued improvements in our schools, in the curriculum as well as physical plant
- Protection of home values
Dunne ran for state senate in 2014, unsuccessfully challenging State Sen. Bob Duff.
“Norwalk faces its greatest challenge in dealing with the bad policies coming from the Malloy Administration in Hartford -– policies that threaten to drag down Norwalk (as well as other Connecticut towns) regardless of how well our local government might perform; policies that encourage our young people to seek careers elsewhere; policies that force older, long-time residence to move out,” Dunne wrote. “The Common Council needs to build closer relationships with Norwalk-area legislators, to be sure they faithfully represent Norwalk’s interests in Hartford and not those of Governor Malloy. If elected I will be the Council’s watchdog on anything that threatens to add to our cost.”
Diane Lauricella, Democrat
Lauricella is a self-employed Environmental and Government Management Consultant. She has studied Environmental Science at UMass Amherst and is working on completing her undergraduate degree and earning a Masters in Public Health. She is formerly licensed in Hazardous Materials Management, Lead and Asbestos Abatement
She is a former president, Norwalk League of Women Voters; former Chair, Fairfield County Sierra Club; and former founding President, Norwalk River Watershed Association.
If elected, her priorities will be:
- Create a much more proactive, transparent and user-friendly governing process and structure that avoids reactionary projects resulting in wasted money on lawsuits and a discouraged citizenry.
- Review and reform unfair tax and enforcement policies that hurt our neighborhoods and destroy the quality of life on a Department-by-Department and Commission-by-Commission basis.
- Integrate user-friendly, green and sustainable practices, such as building design/construction, into every level of government and life in Norwalk as a way to save major public and private money, improve public health outcomes and educate our youth to create real 21st century jobs.
“I have 30 years of experience speaking truth to power and showing other citizens about how government can work more effectively. I believe that we must reopen the Charter for reform, but first have listening session for citizens to offer their ideas. I am one of the Norwalk’s thought leaders about environmental health and green energy and business practices who is willing to revitalize interest in this subject. I conduct very thorough due diligence before I make a recommendation,” Lauricella wrote.
Other community involvement includes 15-plus-years as mentor to NCC Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Annual Norwalk River Cleanups; 15-year Board Member Norwalk Land Trust, a couple as Chair of the Land Management Committee; Mentor in Norwalk Schools; Chair(c. 1990) of Norwalk Local Emergency Preparedness Committee; Helped create the Mayor’s Energy and Environment Committee (c. 2014); Helped create and organize the Cranbury Preservation Association as well as the South Norwalk Citizens for Justice(SNC4J); Helped create Hands Across the Sound events to educate about Long Island Sound; Steering Committee Member Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations (CNNA); League of Women Voters, former President and Chair of Environment Committee and initiated a Shine the Light on Democracy Campaign to open up public participation and civility.
Nick Sacchinelli, Democrat
Sacchinelli, an incumbent, is also endorsed by the Working Families Party.
He is a Channel Sales Executive at Datto and got married in October, 2015, one month before being elected to the Council for the first time. He is a graduate of Norwalk Public Schools and attended UCONN focusing on Political Sciences.
His top three issues:
- Public Safety – I am ever concerned of threats facing our city. I have specific concerns regarding the recent rash of opioid related deaths impacting the city and state and I feel we have room for improvement in proactively addressing it at a local level.
- Cyber security is a passion of mine. I have a background in business continuity due to my role with Datto. I am reminded of the cybercrime epidemic daily. This is a big issue and a Cyber security breach at a municipal level would impact every citizen. This is something that needs to be an ever evolving plan for our city.
- Responsible Progress – I think Norwalk has taken great strides over the past couple years. We are building schools, we have previously stalled projects flourishing, we are embracing technology. It is a great time to live in Norwalk, but I do believe we need to remain vigilant. Change is good, but too much change too quickly is something that needs to be monitored closely.
“I feel that all the candidates that are running this year have something special to offer,” he wrote. “I have learned to appreciate every one of them for different reasons and I feel that they could all do a very good job if they are elected. However, one thing I have been sure to emphasize at every public appearance is the fact that although we all bring different skills to the table, often the issues the city faces are not always in line with those skills. I feel what made me an effective Councilor in my first term, is what will make me effective if I was to be elected again. I communicate, I do the work, I research, I reach out to experts, and most importantly I listen to the citizens. At the end of the day, no matter what the candidates background and ability, it must be front of mind that we are there for the people we represent. I conduct myself with a foundation of respect, civility, and integrity and I never forget why I am there. I never forget that being a Common Councilor for the City of Norwalk is an honor, and when I vote on an issue be confident that it is for the right reason.”
Barbara Smyth, Democrat
Smyth, an English teacher at Norwalk Public Schools, has been married for 23 years and has two grown children, plus one attending Norwalk High. She also has a grandchild and another on the way.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Pittsburgh in 1979 and a Master of Arts in Secondary Education and English Curriculum from Fairfield University in 2008.
Top three issues:
- Responsibly revitalize Wall Street and improve parking
- Unifying our city and celebrating our diversity
- A good quality of life for all of Norwalk’s people
“I’m a strong leader who cares about Norwalk and its people and believe I can be an important voice in moving our city forward at a time when we need more women in government,” she wrote. “I am proud to serve our city as a public school teacher. After a long career in radio, I was called to teaching when a family crisis inspired me to want make a difference in kids’ lives. I have been fortunate to spend nine of my ten years of teaching in Norwalk; first at Ponus Ridge Middle School and now at Norwalk High. My time in the classroom gives me a perspective that may be a helpful bridge between the Board of Education, Common Council, and our families.”
“I have a lifetime of experience that will make me an excellent member of Norwalk’s Common Council,” she wrote. “I am skilled at community organizing, and bringing people together. I am a wife, mother, and grandmother, who has raised three children in Norwalk: a teacher, a writer, and a budding musician. I believe my life experience is leading me toward what I am now meant to do, and that is to serve the people of the city I love.”
Mark Richard Suda Jr., Republican
Suda, a Norwalk Police officer for 24 years, has been married for 23 years and has two children, both attending Norwalk High School.
He would like to:
- Develop a tax reform for first time home buyers so they will stay or choose to live in
- Norwalk. Continue and improve our senior tax reform. Add a Veterans tax credit.
- Address our youths’ concerns and safety for the future and propose a youth center or
- Boys and Girls Club for them to use and to develop their skills for the future.
- Engage with our small business owners to hear their concerns and seek solutions to their issues.
“What’s sets me apart is simply this,” Suda wrote. “I’m a homegrown Norwalk kid who wants to serve the public in a different light as a councilman. I have seen Norwalk in both some very dark times and some very glorious times and everything in between. I feel I can make this City the American dream for the citizens and families of this great City. I possess a level head and the ability of great decision making that will make sure the spending of our hard earned tax dollars will be spent accordingly and what is really needed for Norwalk and wanted by our great citizens! I truly have a vested interest and love this great City! I plan on giving back my salary and placing it into our school system with a few different ideas involving our principals, students and School Resource Officers coming together as one ad learning about this great City!”
NON requested information from all at-large Council candidates. We did not receive information from Doug Stern, Enrique Santiago, Peter Halladay, and Sharon Stewart.