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McQuaid: Rilling, Norwalk council will work together

NORWALK, Conn. – It’s going to be a good two years, Norwalk’s town clerk said.

“I think the mix of this group that’s been elected is great,” Rick McQuaid said.

McQuaid, a long-time councilman and council president before winning election as town clerk two years ago, said he does not expect discord between Democratic Mayor-Elect Harry Rilling and the Republican dominated Common Council. He also doesn’t expect wholesale changes at the outset.

McQuaid served under Democratic Mayor Alex Knopp, and Republican Council president Doug Hempstead, so it has experience with this situation.

“It has its points,” he said. “Anybody that is in the majority and mayor is the opposite party are going to always want to have their agenda pushed and there’s still a mayor…. I think that the new people that are coming on should really take some guidance from some of the senior members that have been there.”

Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A) knocked on many, many doors in his successful drive toward re-election. This is what the electorate wanted, he said.

“They were thinking divided government,” he said. “The people of Norwalk want cooperation between the two political parties. That’s what I heard over and over. They want people to work together to solve their problems. That’s what spoke loudest to me, that they wanted us to do, to try to really tackle the problems that are facing Norwalk.”

Rilling has a message on his website, which he posted to Facebook Saturday. People worked hard to get him elected because they senses a need for change, he said,

“Change is what you are about to get, whether in development, education, poverty program oversight or civility, there is change coming down the pike,” he wrote. “The first step in making it happen is to put together our management team, and the wheels on that have already started to turn. It just takes time.

McQuaid said that doesn’t mean an “off with their heads approach” toward department heads right off the bat.

“He’s been around a long time, he knows how the city works and he knows that if you change everything at 12:01 on the 19th at 12:05 on the 19th your job is going to become very difficult because now you’ve changed everything and now what do you do? But, you know what? I wish him well and I think the council is going to doing to well. I really do,” McQuaid said.

Watts said a few weeks before the election that incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia was polling well in District A, seeming less confident than other Democrats of the outcome. That tide shifted, he said.

“Did I see that Harry had momentum? Yeah, I saw it at the last minute,” he said. “Undecided voters tend to break toward the challenger. When voters still haven’t made up their mind it is widely known in political circles that undecided voters at the last minute tend to break toward the challenger. If you’re an incumbent and people are still undecided at the last minute you know that you’re in trouble because those people tend to break away.”

McQuaid had predicted surprises in the election.

“The most surprising thing to me was almost getting 10,000 votes but that’s just me,” he said with a laugh, about the 9,972 votes he got to retain his town clerk job.

What else?

“Surprises? There were a few people that I thought were going to, not do better, but I think the city overall wanted a change but they still wanted it to remain the same,” he said. “It was almost like, you know we like the big city but let’s keep some of our little village structure.”

Emily Wilson ran well, he said, though she fell short when she came in third in the District E council race. It was surprising to see John Kydes get more votes than incumbent Councilwoman Michelle Maggio in the “interesting” District C race. He was also surprised that newcomer Oliva Dardy didn’t make it in the council at large race, he said.

“Something simple like a Deb Goldstein, who won over in Third Taxing District was a surprise to me,” he said. “But you know what it is – you get out there and you work. It’s a different world now. Before you were dependent on a party lever and you don’t have it anymore.”

Goldstein, who has lived in Norwalk for just three years, will be the new TTD commissioner. Knocking on doors helped, McQuaid said.

“The Board of Ed? I couldn’t have wrote that story. There is no way I could have wrote that story,” he said. “I think what we should do next time is just take the 10 names and let them run with no party affiliation or anything and just let them run, let them pick the four because that’s what happened. But twice again there you have working family party. That helped.”

New comers need to go to “grandfather of the council” Doug Hempstead for advice, he said.

“He brings so much knowledge to the table that he can help the new mayor, he can help a lot of people,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot less controversy trying to get things put through. I think that would be my advice to the new people, whichever party side they are on, is to look for Doug for guidance. Not telling them how to vote or how to do things but just how to act as a council person and how to act in the public and how the public’s going to perceive you. A lot of people were looking at the civility thing as being a problem – you have a nice choice of new people being there that can make the change people are requesting.”

That includes Shannon O’Toole, formerly a member of the Oak Hills Park Authority. There’s a new mix coming out of the “overall good election,” he said.

“You have Shannon and Michelle – I think they’re going to be vocal,” he said. “I think they’re going to get things done. I think they bring different ideas. John Kydes, I think that is a voice of reason that is coming because he comes from a total outside of everything perspective. He can bring great things to the table, you know, a new face. A lot of the players are old faces in different positions. But you have John Kydes, Shannon, she’s from Oak Hills. John brings a new view. He doesn’t come from another board, he doesn’t come from another position.”

Newcomers might also go to the town clerk’s office for advice.

“If anybody needs my help my door is wide open,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Comments

6 responses to “McQuaid: Rilling, Norwalk council will work together”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    I think it’s grand that Mr.McQuaid wrote this letter, but to be honest, I’d rather hear from the Mayor Elect himself.

    This is a fine endorsement, but let’s be clear; the acrimony on both sides has been shrill; and the BOE is not a shining example of listening skills nor is it totally bi partisan.

    The BOE has been at the turning point for years now, and they require feedback, instead of waiting for election years for feedback, I would recommend a complete review of the “perception” the BOE holds in the town., Theirs is one of the most important jobs we have, to educate kids.

    We have gone from Jack Chriaramonte wasting time calling Bruce Mellion a liar in public, to the Red Apples influencing the BOE too much.

    Time for those who serve to think on their own, and talk to their fellow members, if they don’t then replace them.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Bruce Kimmel

    Finally able to come up for a little air, having finished a bunch of put-off chores. I agree with Rick, the next two years will probably be productive and exciting. We have a great mix on a closely divided Council, and a divided government.
    .
    Our first major test, of course, will be crafting an expenditures cap for the 2014-15 operating budget. This year will probably be a little more difficult than last, but I’m sure we’ll figure out a good balance between the needs of our schools and the ability of our taxpayers to pay for those needs.
    .
    By the way, I was Council president last time Rick was on the Council and I again look forward to working with him and all the other department heads; even though he’s the town clerk, as the saying goes, we’re all in this together.

  3. M Allen

    Lifer – is it that hard to just accept conciliatory comments and say yeah, that sounds good? You’re right, it would be nice to hear comment from Mayor-elect Rilling on how he views the ability to work with a common council that maintains an opposing majority, but Mr. McQuaid’s comments are positive. It can’t be that hard to simply accept them as such without pushing the BOE talking points. Move on.

  4. Norwalk Lifer

    Actually BOE needs the most help in my opinion, so moving on, includes “Fixing”

  5. M Allen

    Can’t agree with you more. At over 60% of Norwalk’s budget, it is the area everyone should hold most accountable for both spending and results.

  6. RU4REAL

    Will you please let the man get in office!!!

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