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.”