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Norwalk Dems endorse Rilling for reelection

Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez, left, applauds as Mayor Harry Rilling, right, is endorsed Monday on Zoom.

The 2021 Election is Nov. 2. A primary would be Sept. 14.

NORWALK, Conn. — Mayor Harry Rilling easily won the Democratic endorsement Monday in his run for reelection, with no competition and a boatload of complements preceding the unanimous vote.

“I’m so humbled and so honored and so proud of what we have done, and excited about what we’re going to do. And I humbly and proudly accept your endorsement,” Rilling said.

Rilling is going for a fifth two-year term. Norwalk Republicans have endorsed South Norwalk banker Jonathan Riddle to run against him.

State Rep. Stephanie Thomas (D-143) nominated Rilling, describing him as someone who was very open to hearing her concerns long before she ran for public office.

“Mayor Rilling led Norwalk through the COVID 19 pandemic, I thought beautifully, spearheading the opening of testing sites and vaccine clinics once the vaccine was available, establishing what I thought was a life changing food distribution site, expanding the Community Services Department and publishing the daily COVID news updates to keep us all informed at a time when information was coming from so many different sources and we needed to know where we stood,” Thomas said.

Rilling hired the City’s first epidemiologist and supported small businesses with a local grant program, she said. Most importantly, conservative budgeting prevented a tax increase yet all “necessary” capital budget items are funded. And the city is moving toward hybrid vehicles while also keeping five tons of food waste out of the dump, via composting.

Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams took the “personal route,” describing Rilling as being extremely supportive when her husband died unexpectedly in January. She’s known him for more than 30 years and “he has been great for Norwalk.”

Third Taxing District Commissioner Pam Parkington also said Rilling had been very attentive when she lost her husband recently.

East Norwalk loves Rilling, Parkington said. “Everybody that I’ve talked to, felt safe. They felt like they were taken care of during the COVID.”

Common Council member Greg Burnett (D-At Large) also lauded the Mayor, saying, “He makes quite a few very difficult decisions each and every day. But they’re all based on how Norwalk citizens can live a better life and enjoy living in Norwalk, and for that, personally I thank him for that.”

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Rilling said. “We’ve accomplished a lot. Now after years of underfunding our students, we’ve championed record investments in the schools, including more money for our the operation side, more money for the capital side. We’re investing in the school infrastructure.”

Last week, Riddle promised to get a new school built in South Norwalk.

“We will overcome the hurdles and finally build a new school in South Norwalk, and I’m proud to say that that process has been started,” Rilling said Monday. “That is a commitment that we’ve made so that young people who live in or around the South Norwalk area to go to school in their neighborhoods, go to school with their friends, have after school programs…. It’s going to be a state of the art facility and students can attend, and be proud of.”

The City is working on a program to embed a social service person in the police department “to help police officers and go on the calls that might not necessarily need a police officer and the follow up on the call to help make sure that the victim or the person needing to help gets this gets the resources that he or she may need,” he said.

Norwalk will have the first Equity And Justice For All Commission in the state, Rilling said.

“We will create a community resources hub with dedicated staff, and community space to serve all members of the public. We don’t want anybody to fall through the cracks,” he said.

He promised environmental studies, a look at the tree canopy and the elimination of paper at City Hall.

“We’ve kept Norwalk running throughout the pandemic government did not miss a beat,” Rilling said. “… As we emerge from the pandemic, I’m focused on addressing other crises facing our community, educational equity housing, racial justice, economic inequality, and climate change.”

6 comments

John O'Neill July 27, 2021 at 11:21 am

I like Harry Rilling..Unlike some other elected officials I know, Mayor Rilling always responds to inquiries/emails. When those like Stephanie Thomas endorse Harry it makes me pause, as she doesn’t always have her facts straight before commenting. Her comments surrounding the Bob Duff affair would be a great example. One that will not be forgotten anytime soon. Maybe we can strike that up to political naivety.
That being said I agree that Harry and Ned Lamont handled the Covid Crisis extremely well. We were lucky to have a Mayor with common sense. I also commend Harry for hiring Henry Dachowitz, who I’d vote for Mayor in a second.
Unlike those commenting above, I’m actually going to think before I blindly vote or back a candidate. It’s funny, my neighbor George Parker just said to me the other day “show me a Democrat in Norwalk who’s actually vetted a candidate before pulling a lever and I’ll show you a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.”

Piberman July 27, 2021 at 2:18 pm

Mayor Rilling, our former long serving Police Chief, served as a real “public servant” during the Covid pandemic. Setting an example we ought well remember.

Tysen Canevari July 27, 2021 at 3:55 pm

Well at least the 90 % of the developers that donated to his campaign are happy. As the apartment buildings rise our downtown looks like a sewer. Great ad for Tyvek though. What was such a great job during Covid? Closing city hall longer than anyone else in the state? He hired an assistant that makes $130,000 a year. Whats he getting paid for then? Mayor Moccia, Mayor Esposito, Mayor Collins, Mayor Knopp. None of them needed a high priced assistant. He has loaded city hall with out of town department heads who have no connection to the people here. Just look at what happened in Parks and Rec. Mike Moccaie was one of the best ever and he pushed him out. The new guy quit after a year. More to mayor then ribbon cutting. Oh, BTW how do you like paying for parking on the streets our taxes pay for to maintain?

Bryan Meek July 27, 2021 at 5:20 pm

@Tysen. Let’s see how his heralded Finance director holds up. By his Linked in, he’s never made it more than 4 years anywhere in his entire career, save the consulting business he still operates while running our city’s finances. Harvard MBAs aren’t a dime a dozen, but I wonder how many managed to only get 2% return on pension assets when the market was up 11% in the same time period. It would also be interesting to hear more about the Finance guy’s experience running Nassau County which has been in and out of state conservatorship for dismal finances. Is this our future? $400k homes with $15k in property tax bills?

Justataxpayer July 27, 2021 at 7:20 pm

Thank you to the leadership especially whoever had a hand in Operation Warp Speed. Our public officials should be sure to give credit where credit is due.

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