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Camacho leaving BET to serve on Norwalk Common Council

Common Council member Ed Camacho (D-At Large), at Monday’s Democratic Town Committee online meeting.

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.

13 comments

Patrick Cooper January 10, 2023 at 2:09 pm

Nothing telegraphs how miserable this coming budget season will be than this chess move by the mayor – who gets whatever he wants – no resistance whatsoever.

So, the ultimate “political swamp creature” of the Norwalk type – the mayors personal fixer, gets to escape the scrutiny of the BET to help Harry navigate what should be the fight of his political life from the council dais.

As for the BET replacements – they are quietly auditioning of course, and you can bet the house they will be loyal DTC members who can deliver lines like “inflation has come to Norwalk” and “it’s happening everywhere” and – wait for it – “climate change costs”- all to mask the moves that got us here – well, it should be entertaining. Sadly – the only thing that is assured is – the middle class taxpayers are going to suffer, and no one will be held accountable.

Mike Mushak January 10, 2023 at 9:02 pm

Congratulations to a dedicated and smart public servant, who always gives his time and energy to make our community a better place and never complains! Thank you for your continuing service!

Nora King January 11, 2023 at 3:04 pm

This is because Rilling is freaking out over the 28 million ask from the BOE. He will need to add close to 2 billion to the grand list to cover that or taxes will need to go up 7 to 8 percent. How will he get re-elected if a city of taxpayers who are already paying to much go up any higher?

David McCarthy January 11, 2023 at 4:26 pm

I find it interesting that the city is obscuring membership in boards….there is no web page for the BET. Camacho has been on the BET as long as Rilling has been mayor, which is likely longer than permitted…so hide that fact.

See nothing here: https://www.norwalkct.org/1017/Board-of-Estimate-and-Taxation

I can’t imagine the inferno that would’ve been any Diane’s hair had this happened when an R was in charge.

Bryan Meek January 12, 2023 at 8:13 am

Not to worry, the rainy day fund has exploded to $83 million or 21% of fy22 budget.

7.5 to 15% is the recommended range. This puts our RDF about $50 million above what’s needed for the low water mark.

At 8% inflation this is a waste of $4 million in taxpayer money in just one year. Compounded over time, this strategy to hoard taxpayers cash has cost us well over $10 million economically.

But who cares? It’s not like it’s their money.

Who cares about repairing lights that get knocked out when you can spend almost a million on a brand new one? Plus that’s state and federal money.

In other news, the pension fund only lost about $80 million last year thanks to an overly aggressive investment strategy of 2/3s equity.

And debt is now north of $300 million with municipal bond rates approaching 5% and we haven’t even put a shovel in the ground on the new NHS nor the Sono school at the scrapyards.

Bryan Meek January 12, 2023 at 8:39 am

@DM. We have a brand new system for that. https://apps.norwalkct.org/meetingboard/committee/5

You know, like everything else, when you can’t figure out how to work and fix the existing system, just buy another one with someone else’s money. Hopefully this one lasts at least 5 years before there is no one around who knows how to maintain it.

And you are absolutely correct about the term limits for the BET.

Unless I’m missing something the mayor illegally appointed him to a 4th term in violation of 1-288 and the council voted to approve it.

I’m backing into this as follows: Mr. Camacho appears as being a member of the BET in the annual report dated 6/30/13, meaning his first term would have ended 11/30/13. His 2nd 11/30/17. His 3rd 11/30/21. Since his 4th was set to expire 11/30/25.

Good catch.

Stephen Keogh January 12, 2023 at 8:35 pm

Harry Rilling was elected Mayor for the first time in November 2013.

The City of Norwalk Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013 lists the members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation at that time:

Erik T. Anderson
John Federici
Michael Kolman
James Feigenbaum
James C. Clark
Friederich N. Wilms

https://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7355

Mr. Camacho was not on the BET at that time.

Mr. Camacho was first appointed and confirmed to the BET at the January 14, 2014 meeting of the Common Council.

https://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/14540
https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/norwalk-council-set-to-vote-on-final-bet-nominees/

He was reappointed and confirmed to his second term on the BET at the December 14, 2017 meeting of the Common Council.

https://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/12796

He was reappointed and confirmed to his third term on the BET at the January 11, 2022 meeting of the Common Council.

https://www.norwalkct.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/18041

Mr. Camacho, then, was/is in his third term as a member of the BET at the time of his resignation to join the Common Council.

The idea that he was serving an illegal fourth term is incorrect.

Bryan Meek January 13, 2023 at 1:15 am

@Steven. Nice try. I have hard copies. It’s not that important. But it’s funny that you come to the rescue for something so unimportant. In any case, it’s good to know your opinion on term limits.

Bryan Meek January 13, 2023 at 1:17 am

FWIW, Ed is just the kind of player needed to gloss over the huge budget shortfalls and help deflect blame.

Bryan Meek January 13, 2023 at 1:26 am

Maybe with all his new found responsibilities he won’t have time to file SEEC complaints about all the Rowayton retirees giving $50 to the Mayor’s opponents. That would be a blessing I’m not counting on.

John O'Neill January 13, 2023 at 8:58 am

Congrats to Ed Camacho — We are on opposite sides of many issues but he does seem to care…HOWEVER, it seems like the Dems are getting very good at the “Bait and Switch” Model of Politics. The “Party” has someone run for a seat and has that person swap out giving the “Party” the ability to appoint an unelected candidate to fill that seat..It seems like something our comrades in Moscow would be good at. Personally, I don’t think that worked out too well with the Board of Ed a couple of years ago.

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