Updated, 3:30 p.m. Friday: Barbara Smyth is the third female Council president in Norwalk history. Rev. Phyllis Bolden was Council president in 2008.
NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Common Council leadership changed Tuesday, with the election of At-large Democrat Barbara Smyth as Council President.
Smyth, a Norwalk High School teacher, replaces Council President Tom Livingston.
“Smyth is the second female Council President in Norwalk history, and the first in nearly 50 years, following Patsy Brescia, who served as Council President in 1971-1972,” a press release said.
On Friday, this was revealed as a mistake. “Rev. Phyllis Bolden was selected Council President in 2008. We did not intentionally mean to dismiss Rev. Bolden’s significant work and service to our residents. To Rev. Bolden – we sincerely apologize for our mistake,” Norwalk Communications Manager Joshua Morgan wrote in an email.
So the Council hasn’t been led by a woman in 11 years.
At-large Democrat Greg Burnett was named Majority Leader, and — no surprise here — District D Republican Tom Keegan will serve as Minority Leader.
Keegan is the only Republican on the 15-member Council. He has a caucus room to himself.
“Following Mayor Harry Rilling’s reorganization of City government over the last 18 months, which included the creation of a new Community Services Department, two of the Council Committees were renamed this term to better reflect these duties and responsibilities,” the release said. “These changes include renaming the Health, Welfare, & Public Safety Committee to the Health & Public Safety Committee, and renaming the Personnel Committee to the Community Services & Personnel Committee.”
Committee leadership was named:
- Burnett will lead the Finance & Claims Committee
- Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) will continue leading the (renamed) Health & Public Safety Committee
- Livingston (D-District E) will continue leading the Land Use & Building Management Committee
- Colin Hosten (D-At Large) will lead the Ordinance Committee
- Smyth will continue leading the (renamed) Community Services & Personnel Committee
- John Kydes (D-District C) will continue leading the Planning Committee
- George Tsiranides (D-District D) will lead the Public Works Committee
- Darlene Young (D-District B) will lead the Recreation, Parks, & Cultural Affairs Committee
The Council was sworn in for its two-year term, 2019-2021. Council leadership is for one year, with new assignments announced in late 2020.
Smyth received 8,527 votes in the Nov. 5 election, more than anyone else on the underticket and just 255 votes less than Mayor Harry Rilling. At a West Norwalk candidates forum before the election she said she grew up in Western Pennsylvania and settled here to raise a family, sending three children through Norwalk Public Schools. She ran two years ago because she wanted to serve her community and “because I really thought we needed more women’s voices at the table and every level of government.”
“I think the biggest challenge facing Norwalk is balancing responsible growth with the historic nature and culture of our city, while taking care of our neediest citizens,” she said in a pre-election questionnaire. “… We need the right balance of economic and cultural growth while assuring a good quality of life for all of Norwalk’s citizens.”