NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Common Council at large candidates introduced themselves to the West Norwalk Association on Thursday.
This led to a bit of comedy as most struggled to keep to the three-minute time limit, but also illustrated Norwalk’s divide, with some supporting growth and others decrying it. One said he wouldn’t be here except for being part of the “transient” population, as he came here for a job a few years ago but then bought a home.
The event was held in the Oak Hills Park restaurant, the Clubhouse Grill.
Here’s your chance to learn more about the candidates, ahead of the League of Women Voters of Norwalk’s candidate forum Monday:
Rich Bonenfant, Republican
Richard Bonenfant said he’s served on the Council for “seven terms, on and off for like 25 years,” and been on every Council committee. As chairman of Land Use and Building Management in his last go round, he led the annexation of two pieces of parkland behind the Oak Hills second hole, so that it would be preserved.
Voters need to pay attention to the City-wide Master Plan, or Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), because it encourages accessory apartments, he said.
Greg Burnett, Democratic incumbent
“Serving on the Common Council is one of the most rewarding leadership positions, because it allows me to almost virtually every week while in office make a positive difference for our community,” Greg Burnett said.
“In 2018, I retired from the IBM Corporation after 36 years of service. And then I started my second act,” he said, mentioning service on the Norwalk Mentor Advisory Board, the Norwalk Salvation Army Advisory Board and as a mentor to a Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) student.
“Each of these experiences that prepared me to assess information and make value and decisions,” he said.
Artie Kassimis, Republican
The Rev. Artie Kassimis couldn’t attend because his father is ill, Bob Stepanowski said.
Isabelle Hargrove read a statement from Kassimis:
“As the 35-year resident of Norwalk, I have seen many changes in our city. Some of these changes have been the good, like the program improvements in our schools. Other changes I am told by many Norwalk residents have impacted their quality of life and enjoyment of all our city has to offer. I know the city and I know how to bring people together to find solutions that are financially sound and actually work. The road ahead will not be an easy one. It will require leaders in city government to make tough decisions. However, I am excited for what the future holds. And I know we can accomplish a lot when we work together and stay focused on our goal.”
Manny Langella, Democrat
Ron Palladino, an indistrict candidate, had alleged that Norwalk is becoming a transient city.
“I was one of those transients,” Manny Langella said. “So I moved here in 2012 … for my job, and no pun intended, I fell in love…. when I had the choice to relocate to Manhattan, I chose to buy here in Norwalk. And I did that because Norwalk is unlike anything else that I’ve ever seen before.”
Langella said he has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and has “always been very passionate about community involvement.”
“My job and my day-to-day is all about strategy, working cross functionally, project management, taking a step back, like how we can actually implement things and look at them,” he said.
“Change isn’t easy,” he said. “And what’s important for Norwalk is how we stay relevant and how we stay innovative in the future. Right and, and those are tough conversations and tough decisions that we have to make.”
Glenn Iannacone, Republican
Glenn Iannacone said he’s a second generation native Norwalker who spent 31 years with the Norwalk Fire Department, the last 13 as fire marshal. He’s currently an emergency preparedness coordinator for the Health Department and a member and past president of many nonprofit organizations, as well as a former Board of Education member and a former Council member.
“I’m running for council at large so that we can have a balanced government,” he said. “I don’t believe that one party rule is helpful for any government.”
“One thing I really believe in is that all city departments should have a strategic plan in place to help with efficiencies,” Iannacone said. “Working with the Health Department, I’m able to see firsthand the benefits of having a strategic plan each week, supervisors reports, parts of the plan that affects the vision. There’s an item that needs to be corrected.”
Nick Sacchinelli, Democrat
Nick Sacchinelli said he’s been in Norwalk his whole life and works for Datto in the Merritt Seven complex. “I lead a team of strategists there.”
He was first elected two years ago and has learned “what you can do, what you can’t do, what the obstacles are, where there’s tons of red tape,” he said. “You go nimble, you adapt.” He had promised in 2017 to conduct himself with “respect, stability and integrity” and “anybody who came out of my meetings, I think you can attest to the fact that you had time to speak.”
He had promised to bring in experts and he’s done that, he said, praising recently hired Norwalk Chief of Operations and Public Works Anthony Robert Carr as being key in addressing flood issues. Plus, after learning the rules, he was able to bring flooding to the Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee, to “address it from multiple facets… We were effective.”
Barbara Smyth, Democratic incumbent
Barbara Smyth 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. And I think if you look around at the faces of the candidates tonight, you would agree with me, there’s just three of us here. And so I think it’s important that we have equal representation.”
She worked in radio for 15 years before becoming a teacher, first at Ponus Ridge Middle School and now at Norwalk High School.
“Working with our are diverse population … (has) really given me a great compassion and an understanding and acceptance for our diverse community. We have a lot of beautiful kids in our schools, and I’m just I feel so honored to work every day,” she said.
Colin Hosten, Democratic incumbent
Colin Hosten said he’s lived in Norwalk for 11 years, in Brookside for three years and for the last 3.5 years, in Village Creek. He was appointed last year to fill a vacancy on the Council.
“I’m an educator, I’m the son of the son of two retired teachers and I believe in the power of public education,” he said. “We’ve said it a lot, we understand how a strong public school system is important for our home values. It’s important for economic opportunities important for safety. And it’s important for equality and closing the opportunity gap that’s still exists and Norwalk. And I’m very proud to have been endorsed, along with Barbara and the Mayor, by the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut.”
He’s also been endorsed by the Working Families Party, he said.
“I want Norwalk to grow, and I want our character to remain intact,” Hosten said. “I want to attract new residents like I was 11 years ago, when I fell in love with the city. But I also want to make sure that our existing residents also feel welcome and are able to stay. And part of that economic growth involves another passion of mine, it should be one of all of ours, which is thinking about environments, environmental sustainability.”
Also running but not present for the West Norwalk event are Republicans Patrick Murphy and Darnell Crosland.