NORWALK, Conn. — Ed Camacho has been appointed to serve as an at-large Norwalk Common Council member, filling the seat vacated by Dominique Johnson, who resigned after being elected to serve as District 143 State Representative.
Camacho has been on the Board of Estimate and Taxation for the entire time Mayor Harry Rilling has been in office, and chairman for years. He also served as Democratic Town Committee Chairman from 2014 to 2020.
He leaves the Board of Estimate as the City tackles what may be the toughest budget cycle in years. Rilling said that makes two vacancies; Sheri McCready Brown left the BET more than a year ago after winning election to the Board of Education. Rilling said he is working on it and, “I will be filling both very soon.”
Johnson’s open seat required the entire Democratic Town Committee to vote, as she served at large.
District E Chairman Colin Hosten nominated Camacho at Monday’s DTC meeting, noting that he himself knew what it was like to assume a Council seat halfway through the two year term as in late 2018 he was appointed to fill a Council vacancy after then-member Doug Stern won election to Judge of Probate.
“I know from personal experience, that it can be a little difficult to come in and hit the ground running. And I think that if there’s anyone here who can do that easily, it’s Ed Camacho,” Hosten said.
Camacho has worked with just about every DTC member over the years, Hosten said, explaining that he didn’t need to elaborate.
“I think his service on the Council will not only provide a familiar and stable presence, but you know, I think everybody who knows Ed knows that he will bring new ideas, new ways of thinking and curiosity. He’s always thinking outside the box to find a better way to do things,” Hosten said.
The nomination was seconded by DTC Vice Chairwoman Jacquen Jordan-Byron, DTC member Benita Watford and Council member David Heuvelman (D-District A). They offered no further comments.
There being no other nominees, Camacho won the appointment without a formal vote.
Camacho noted that he’s never served in the capacity of an elected official.
“I’m sure I’m going to hear from the public as a member of the Common Council and I hope to learn what the issues are and to roll up my sleeves and along with the other Common Council members do what we can to make people’s lives easier or better in the city,” he said.
DTC Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez said the city’s Latino population will have a representative with Camacho on the Council.
“To be able to speak to someone in their native language on the Council is incredibly important,” she said.
Camacho is an attorney who took a long and circuitous route from New York City to Norwalk, where he has lived since 1987. He was born and raised in the Upper West Side, in Harlem, 125th street and Broadway, in the projects, and attended public elementary school and public middle school before heading to prep school in Manhattan.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts, then got his law degree at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, Ind. Early in his career, he was staff counsel with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., a civil rights litigation firm in New York City, and Phoenix Legal Services, Phoenix, Ariz.
Camacho eventually found working in Albany, N.Y., as an administrative law judge for the New York State Division of Parole.” There he met his future wife, whose parents had moved to Norwalk in the mid-80s. That brought him to the City.
His own parents hailed from Puerto Rico.
“My father never went to school, never had the privilege. Never learned how to read and write,” he said in 2014. “My father was born in 1900 in Puerto Rico – he was 60 when I was born. My mother was much younger. My mother completed second grade in Puerto Rico, but she taught herself how to read and write. Three of her children have gone to college; two are teachers and one is a lawyer. And we were raised in the projects in New York City, in Harlem.”
On Monday, Camacho left the DTC meeting to attend his last BET meeting, where Rilling agreed it can’t serve both as a BET member and a Council member.
BET member Troy Jellerette said it had been an “absolute pleasure” working with Camacho.
Rilling thanked Camacho for his BET leadership and said, “You’ve been a champion for the city budget, and asking all appropriate questions and making sure that we safeguard the funds that our taxpayers contribute to the operations of our city.”
“Ed’s leadership will be missed. I’ve learned a ton from him in my couple years on the board, and I’m going to miss that,” BET member Ed Abrams said.
“I think you’ve done a great job. It’s like herding cats sometimes but I think you have done a phenomenal job,” BET member James Frayer said.
Jellerette asked if it had taken 15 rounds of voting for Camacho to win the seat.
“No, it took actually just one vote, because there were no other nominations,” Camacho replied.
BET member Artie Kassimis cited his experience as a Board of Education member when he said Camacho knows “how to run a meeting very smoothly, and not into the wee hours of midnight.”
Kassimis said, “Thanks for getting things done quickly and keeping things not political. You always had the best of the city of mind at heart.”
Correction, 2:49 p.m.: Camacho has not been BET Chairman for nine years.
Clarification, 12:09 a.m. Friday: Camacho joined the BET in January 2014, two months after Mayor Harry Rilling was sworn in for his first term, along with other BET members.