NORWALK, Conn. – Evidence of a Norwalk mayoral candidate’s party affiliation was nowhere to be found Monday in the City Hall basement, but evidence of thrifty ingenuity was in abundance.
Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells could not find former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling’s voter registration from 27 years ago among the files and cards stored in the cavernous space down below. So he turned to talking about the new signs and PVC pipe devices stored near the door of the storage area.
The signs, which will help direct voters in the next election, were bought last fall. Wells said he and Deputy Registrar Bob Sodaro made posts to put the signs on, using bases they already had and less than $7 of plumbing supplies per post. They also made stands for signs, using small pieces of wood and bamboo barbecue skewers, because the bamboo is skinny enough to slip into the holes in the corrugated plastic signs.
Saved the city money, he said.
“I haven’t had so much fun since shop in eighth grade,” he said.
One of the results of his effort will be a sign that tells voters where to stop and wait so they are not making other voters feel crowded or spied upon as they cast their ballots.
Wells had taken NancyOnNorwalk down to the basement to look for evidence that Rilling was a Democrat in 1986, which is when Wells said the last card would be from, although he said several times, “Tish Gibbs and (former Mayor) Bill Collins vouch for him.”
The first step in that process was to call Rilling. Wells got his address from 1986, as the files are stored by address. Then he guessed which district that had been in at the time.
He did not find the card, and said he couldn’t locate things that are older.
“You got to remember, it’s a time before Karen and I were ever here,” he said, referring to Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons. “It’s 30 years ago — what do you want?”
Collins said in May that he remembered Rilling being a Democrat way back then.
“When I was first elected to council in 1983, I knew him to be a registered Democrat in that time,” he said. “As mayor I think it was entirely appropriate for him to register as unaffiliated (when he began rising through the police department ranks).”
That meant he wasn’t behaving in a partisan way, he said.
“He absolutely did the right thing,” he said. “… That’s how everybody should act.”