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Common Council says goodbye to two members 

Two council members
Council members Melissa Murray (left) and Jenn McMurrer (right), photographed on the night they were endorsed, had their last meeting as Common Council members on July 9, 2024.

On Tuesday, Norwalk’s Common Council sent council members Jenn McMurrer and Melissa Murray off with a tearful goodbye and a standing ovation. 

Both council members, who represent District C, submitted their letters of resignation earlier this year

Murray, who said she was leaving due to scheduling conflicts with getting her master’s degree in Family & Health Communications at Fairfield University, thanked her fellow council members for the “time, the mentorship, for the conversations.”

“I’m really excited about some of the things that we’re doing, so I’m excited to see what you do,” she said. 

McMurrer, who is stepping down due to family issues that need attention, fought back tears as she said goodbye to her colleagues. 

“On one hand, I know I’m doing what’s right for my family, and at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters in the world to me,” she said, thanking them for supporting her and allowing her to be away for hours for council business. 

“On the other hand, this is one of the greatest privileges. It’s oftentimes a challenging and thankless job, but it can also be rewarding, knowing that you’re serving your neighbors and your community in a way that not a lot of people can say they have done or will do. I have met and worked with some of the most amazing and dedicated people. I served, knowing in my heart I was doing this job for all the right reasons. I always reminded myself of my why for getting involved, and that was to give back to my community and make it a little bit better than when I started.”

Resident Diana Paladino Christopher also shared her appreciation for McMurrer’s work.

“I’m really proud to call her a friend, but I’ve also been really proud to have her as my council representative,” she said. “She’s truly not a politician. She is a mom and a member of the community. She’s a neighbor. She’s setting up  lemonade stands for our kids on a Sunday morning. She’s a mom you chat with at school pickup—those are the people that we love having represent us.”

All council members praised McMurrer and Murray for their energy, spirit, and passion for the city, particularly McMurrer who had been on the council for an additional term and chaired the Public Safety and General Government Committee. 

“I understand how difficult of a choice this is, but as family comes first, and we always know that, and your beloved family is here right now to support you, and so that speaks volumes about who you are as a person,” Council President Darlene Young said to McMurrer. 

“And we just hope that you stay engaged. You don’t necessarily have to be sitting around this table to be engaged in the city. And to be honest, a lot of the work, the good work that gets done, comes from outside…so I hope that you stay involved.”

Council members praised McMurrer for her efforts in advocating for and supporting the addition of social workers to the police department, as well as the start of a new council newsletter to better inform residents. 

“It’s a lasting achievement that has already shown tremendous benefits to our residents now and into the future,” Council member Josh Goldstein said of adding social workers. “That is a lasting change … it’s working, and it’s genuinely saving lives. So when we talk about legacy and actually making our community better for people who live here, there’s no doubt.”

Council member Greg Burnett told McMurrer to “stay Jenn,” and continue to push and ask the council “common sense questions” that helped them make better decisions. 

Council member Barbara Smyth thanked both of them, citing McMurrer for always bringing her heart and soul to the job. 

“Melissa, it was short—you did come into this with a lot of enthusiasm, and I hope that you’ll take that enthusiasm and, you know, spread it around elsewhere and do good,” Smyth said. 

Council member Nora Niedzielski-Eichner told both of them that she was grateful for their time for a job that is “not easy to do.”

“I also appreciate your love for the city, and I think that your passion for your district also came through,” she said. “I recognize that both of you have made some very hard choices, and I appreciate the ways in which I know both of you will continue to serve the city and serve the people that you care about.”

Council member Nicol Ayers also echoed the long hours and hard work that go into the job, which is particularly hard for parents. 

“This early exit at first irritated me,” Ayers said about McMurrer. “I was like, ‘Where are you going? We got work to do, we got stuff to do.’ But as we begin to have these conversations and we begin to unpack her real life, I supported her decision, and I never wavered, because there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people will never know that we do and we have to endure. Jenn McMurrer is a powerful woman, but she’s also an empowered woman, and that is something very unique for us.”

However, Ayers also cautioned the impact of having people like McMurrer step away. 

“We do a lot of things good, but when we lose people of the magnitude and the quality of Jenn McMurrer, even if it’s for family reasons, we’ve got to think of how we’re doing our job, and if we’re doing it the best that we can do it, because we can’t lose too many more good people,” Ayers said. “We have so much work to do in this city.”

Comments

6 responses to “Common Council says goodbye to two members ”

  1. John O’Neill

    Regarding Jenn McMurrer leaving — The good news and bad news about parenting is FAMILY comes First. You only get one shot to be a Great Parent.
    It should never be taking lightly. Life is about making sacrifices. While we appreciated your enthusiasm for your job, there’s a kid sitting at your kitchen table
    that can always use some direction. That should never be taken for granted. IT is my hope that more parents look at your example and put their children before their wants. The world would be a better place.
    Thank you for being an example.
    For those scoring at home, this is another positive comment.

  2. Bryan Meek

    They should be commended for their service.

    Done correctly, it is a near full time job and can demand even more than that at times. Newcomers (myself included) are never really appraised of the commitment during the party recruitment phase and it is a massive awakening on day one.

    The whole setup is antiquated and needs revamping. Maybe a good job for Charter Revision?

    Peer reviewed research published by Harvard shows that the most effective boards are comprised of 7 individuals and that for each additional board member it becomes 10% less effective. As that applies our 15 member CC is 20% as effective as it could be with 7 members.

    Of course you can’t get more work out of fewer people and while 7 might be optimal for a wide range of industries with varied situations, it should be looked at and things need to change with the times. The 1913 model of government when many people didn’t have cars and you needed redundancy in district in case someone’s horse got a flat or it snowed that night and they couldn’t zoom are a little obsolete I would say.

    4 year council terms. 5 in district. 3 at large. The mayor and 3 at larges follow one cycle and in district plus 2 years. Before this is done, the city absolutely needs to be redistricted. The fact that half the city’s residents in D+E get 40% representation is disenfranchisement.

    A modern day wage indexed to inflation for the work required. If you miss too many meetings as chair you can be recalled or lose the chair. I don’t know how much money is too much, but the current $600 a year for W2 employees probably violates some labor laws somewhere . On the other hand it shouldn’t balloon to where we are now with 3x median income jobs and bloated staff with little accountability. A modest wage for the work required that will incentivize more talent to seek office..

    Or keep things the way they are and watch an ever increasing executive function suck every last resource out of the city with little planning or foresight.

  3. Becca Stoll

    Agree with both comments. If a job is too hard to manage with family obligations, it’s not you, it’s the job. Wage increases and clear setting out of responsibilities and expectations is the minimum needed here or we risk recruiting a council whose average age, income, and life experience don’t echo how most current Norwalk residents live.

  4. Drew Todd

    So now we have lost our 2 Representatives in District C, when will we be having the opportunity and fairness of a special elections to elect NEW Representatives? This is the ONLY fair way to the residents of the District. It shouldn’t be up to the 1 party rule which has been the case for a too long of time., We are not being represented fairly and properly should the DTC just pick 2 of its members to sit on the council. If it was one member I can understand things happen. But this is BOTH of our Representatives and the residents should have a say as to whom represents them. We have a lot of NEW STRESS NEW people that have moved into our district and I’m sure would love an opportunity to serve their new home City. What we defiantly don’t need is recycled people who have been there done that again and again like we do on various committees and commissions. This is not the Good Ol’ Boy/Female network any longer. The residents want a say for those that represent us and the ONLY fair way would be a special election! I know this is falling on deaf ears but I am calling on BOTH the RTC and DTC to DEMAND and stand up for what is the right thing to do here!

    1. Bryan Meek

      @Drew. Did you miss it when the mayor said that “single party rule is OK as long as it’s us”. Don’t you worry I’m sure they’ll find two more glasses of water with Ds on them to rubber stamp the agenda of spending our resources into oblivion.

      1. Drew Todd

        Of Course..Why would anyone be surprised?!!?

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