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Norwalk Republicans choose Meek to replace Keegan

Norwalk Republican Town Committee member Bryan Meek speaks directly to his competition, Oak Hills Park Authority Vice Chairman Carl Dickens, Tuesday in the Norwalk Inn.

NORWALK, Conn. – Bryan Meek promised Tuesday to “put a fork in the Mayor’s eye,” should he be appointed to replace Tom Keegan on the Common Council in July. Norwalk District D Republicans then did just that, giving Meek the nod over Carl Dickens, who had emphasized the importance of getting along with other people in government in order to get things done.

Matthew Merluzzi had sought the seat but withdrew, saying he loves being on the Conservation Commission and that work is more important to him. The vote in favor of Meek wasn’t close; though Republicans didn’t announce the tally, former Council member Doug Hempstead sat across from NancyOnNorwalk as he put hashmarks on paper while counting the 15 ballots and it was obvious that Meek won by a substantial margin.

Keegan is moving to Florida. He was first elected in 2019 and has been the only Republican on the 15-member Council since then, taking over the unenviable role of sole opposition party member held by Hempstead for the previous two years. In that time, there have also been no Republican Board of Education members. Democratic Mayor Harry Rilling has had a solid Council majority behind him since 2015.

 

Norwalk Republican Town Committee member Bryan Meek speaks directly to his competition, Oak Hills Park Authority Vice Chairman Carl Dickens, Tuesday in the Norwalk Inn.

‘Pause and think’

Meek, who lost his BoE seat in 2019, first requested that Republicans table the vote for two months, as there’s no hurry. District D Chairman John Romano said a new Council member needs to shadow Keegan and the group had a good turnout of 12, plus three votes that had been cast by email.

The district has 20 members able to vote.

Meek began his remarks by saying he’d “like to see somebody on our Council that fights for our interests, our goals,” even if it’s only one vote of 15, and that Republicans need to think about a slate for next year’s municipal election in hopes of getting Republican values back into the city.

“Let’s pause and think about what we want to do,” he said. “Do we want to go up there into the council and talk to the mayor or do you want to stick a fork in his eye? I want to stick a fork in his eye. OK?  Figuratively.”

Meek said he would sit down with reporters he considers to be unbiased and get out the news about the “bodies in the city that need exposure.”

“We’re talking about dumping $200 million into Norwalk High. We can’t even pave West Rocks Road. All right? That’s a $2 million job. Why hasn’t that been done for the last 10 years when it needed to be?” he said. “Those are the things that we need our local people talking about talking to the citizens about.”

If you drive down Flax Hill Road you might lose an axle and, “These are things we need to fix desperately in the city,” he said. “We need people to stand up there and point these issues out.”

He spoke of traffic and apartments and said, “Nobody’s thought about the infrastructure.” Whether or not children are entering the school system because of the apartments, everyone uses a toilet and, “When’s that going to explode?” he asked, alleging that the wastewater treatment plant produces nauseating smells on hot summer days.

“This is a nightmare that’s going to get worse and worse and worse if we don’t have someone sitting up on that Council every day and reminding them that this is not going in the right direction,” he said.

And while the Council is sometimes described as a full-time volunteer job, “you don’t really need to be up there for 30 hours a week, you need to be at the Council meeting,” Meek said. “And you need to be at the finance meeting.”

An accountant, he had said he had just filed about 500 tax returns. Calling the Council role a full-time job discourages potential volunteers from stepping forward, he argued.

Romano characterized the Council seat as “20-plus hours,” because there’s only one Republican on the Council.

 

Oak Hills Park Authority Vice Chairman Carl Dickens addresses Norwalk Republican Town Committee District D members, Tuesday in the Norwalk Inn.

‘Working together’

Dickens began by saying he wasn’t born and raised in Norwalk but chose to live here, committing to four years but staying for 22.

When he ran for Council with Keegan in 2019 he was unknown but got more than 1,600 votes in-district, which he was told was good, he said. Meek is right about communication via the press, and, after being appointed to the Oak Hills Park Authority, he reached out to reporters.

His efforts at building relationships as OHPA Chairman paid off as Oak Hills eventually gained City approval to reconfigure its debt, he said.

Then when COVID-19 closed the course, “We got nothing,” he said. “There was no money that they were going to share with us…. So we started working together with other groups and raised money.”

One generous donor provided $30,000 and hardworking employees took pay cuts, he said.

Oak Hills Park Authority Vice Chairman Carl Dickens addresses Norwalk Republican Town Committee District D members, Tuesday in the Norwalk Inn.

“So we clawed, we scratched. I was working seven days a week, 10 hours a day trying to find money to get the place open so. And we did,” Dickens said. “…It took a lot of hard work and keeping some peace within the family of the board and with the city to keep things open and move things forward. And if you haven’t been to Oak Hills, I highly suggest that you do.”

He’s been on Boards with members who didn’t know he hated them, he said. But he disagreed with Meek: “It is a full-time job.”

Although both candidates were told they’d have five minutes to speak, Meek later stood and offered a rebuttal to Dickens. That turned into a back and forth.

While the Council could be “a million hours,” “the more efficient you are doing it, the more things you’re going to cover,” Meek said. “… I’m skilled at doing this. I feel like I can do it.”

Dickens later said his relationship with Keegan is so strong that they “caucus” once a week, and he’s up to speed on City business.

Meek said, “Are you suggesting that there is information that is not known to the public that you guys are acting on?”

Dickens made a reference to watching Council meetings.

“I know where the bathroom is at City Hall. And I know I know Robert’s Rules and I know the Charter,” Meek said.

“This is not necessary,” Dickens said.

“I don’t want to hear that you need to know what’s going on to get involved,” Meek said.

‘Our way back’

Norwalk Republican Town Committee member Bryan Meek, Tuesday in the Norwalk Inn.

The Committee voted to go ahead and choose a Council member, though Meek had argued that perhaps another volunteer would come forward if they waited.

Having won the vote, Meek said he’s not committed to running for the seat next year, but “what I am committed to is getting two Republicans elected to the Council out of District D like we always had.

“This is our way back,” and if Republicans don’t get the two Council seats next year, “The city’s done,” he said.

His goal is to have two Republicans representing District D after the next municipal election and to have as many Republican District D Council at large candidates as possible, he said. “We’re going to ask tough questions out of Council. We’re going to ask the tough questions in front of the press … They can’t ignore us. There’s a lot of crap going on in the city right now that we need to fix.”

15 comments

Roger Shields April 20, 2022 at 8:15 am

Once again the local GOP activists show their colors by selecting a party leader who uses his pointed finger rather than verbal acuity to state his, and thus the party’s, position. Too bad. Anger and blame is not the way forward.

David Muccigrosso April 20, 2022 at 8:55 am

Funny that the party which complains about the dominant Democratic establishment being full of partisan hacks… chooses its own partisan hack to replace the old partisan hack.

It’s almost like the hackery isn’t unique to either party, but rather a feature of the way our election system (1) forces us to vote for one of two parties, and (2) helps those parties enforce internal discipline (AKA “hackery”) through closed primaries.

But nooo, it’s GOT to be that Harry and the DTC are just uniquely hack-ish, right?

DrewT April 20, 2022 at 9:11 am

District D put up 2 great candidates and either one would have been a great choice. Congratulations Bryan! We know you will an fantastic job representing your district and the people of this City! The Rubber Stamp Council needs your voice and knowledge and the fact you present facts and truthful information while they choose to turn blind eyes will be refreshing. I also like to welcome Carl back into the fold now that his health issues are under control. He is a major asset to our party and this City! Great Things for the Norwalk RTC are coming! We have a great candidates, more attendance at in person meetings and our membership is growing!

Fred Wilms April 20, 2022 at 11:04 am

Congratulations to Bryan on his selection to the Common Council! With his extensive city government experience and knowledge of Norwalk, Bryan will be ready on Day 1. Norwalk needs someone with his informed alternative perspectives, given the Council’s endless rubber stamping of whatever the Mayor proposes.

I also want to thank Carl Dickens for stepping forward and for his many contributions to Norwalk.

Piberman April 20, 2022 at 11:19 am

A Norwalk candidate with a financial background. Could this be a harbinger of a new era in Norwalk ? Elected officials with financial backgrounds ? Lets hope so. Our surrounding well governed towns routinely elect officials with strong financial and management backgrounds. Norwalk chose a different path. Why be concerned with spending hundreds of millions on new schools when our grads can’t meet CT Edu requirements ?

Kenneth Werner April 20, 2022 at 11:24 am

Bryan, I drive on Flax Hill Road several times a week and I haven’t lost an axle yet. Where exactly is this axle-breaker?

Patrick Cooper April 20, 2022 at 1:25 pm

Carl is a fine gentleman, and an outstanding contributor to a number of civic enterprises that makes Norwalk a better place to live. But the District D RTC got this one right – Bryan is the guy.

Now I’ll chuckle at the teeth gnashing and condemnation the pious & virtuous DTC faithful will hurl at Mr. Meek for his initial combative words directed at their emperor. But he was standing before the lion’s, and they wanted red meat. Chalk it up to knowing your audience – just as Harry did when he proclaimed “One party rule is great – if it’s us”. I see no distinction.

Hopefully, as Bryan takes his place on the council, he will deliver as promised – the greatest gift taxpayers of any political affiliation could ask for, and that’s transparency. Call a problem a problem – call a win a win. Undermine the “distractions” – and point to where no one is looking.

Lastly, it is of interest, that the role of the local media was challenged by Bryan. For too long now, the distinctions between opinion & fact, truth & narrative – have become a bit blurry, if not downright erased by national, state, and local media’s. Internet, print, TV, radio, all of them. I will watch Bryan work among the DTC sycophants with interest, but I will also observe – carefully – how the local media treats him.

Good luck Bryan.

Bobby Lamb April 20, 2022 at 4:26 pm

The GOP is making their own bed. Read the room – the dwindling numbers of republicans in this town will continue to abandon you party as long as you put up candidates that are so divisive and full of vitriol. The fact this group picked “stick a fork in the mayors eye” over civil debate on issues tells you everything you need to know.

Lisa Brinton April 20, 2022 at 5:38 pm

Bobby Lamb: Pretty rich criticism considering the ‘fork’ was a figure of speech; especially given what the mayor and minions like yourself & Mushak have said about me and/or the outright attacks waged on the District E women who dared challenged the mayor’s inner circle – wife, consiglieri, voter registrar and registrar’s wife, etc. Allot of Democrats saw first hand the appalling behavior and tens of thousands spent on a district primary distilling lies about a bunch of Democrat PTA moms. Bryan’s financial acumen as a CPA will certainly call attention to the millions pilfered to Norwalk’s own ‘oligarchs’ at the expense of the maintenance of our roads, schools, sidewalks and parks. Maybe he can get some on the council to sprout a conscious.

DrewT April 20, 2022 at 8:25 pm

@bobby actually you’re not correct at all. Republicans have been increasing and more people are tired of the 1 party rule. We have also had an increase in RTC Membership and In Person Meetings! And you should re-read Lisa’s post she is spot on. The Democrats have been put on notice.

Jo Bennett April 20, 2022 at 8:59 pm

Bryan, thank you. Now, let’s move past the partisanship, and get some good action rolling.

Mitch Adis April 20, 2022 at 9:05 pm

@Kenneth Werner if you’re looking for a road to test your suspension, try West Rocks Road. Many roads in Norwalk are almost impassable. Roads that have been paved are dug up in less than a year. When contractors do patch their work, it is poorly done. Makes you wonder who is inspecting their work. All are symptoms of poor management. We need accountability in Norwalk.

Tysen Canevari April 20, 2022 at 11:30 pm

COngratulations Bryan. Harry has no comment. He will have to appoint a new “Chief of Inspection” to come up with a response. Sometimes I think Bobby Lamb’s middle name is actually Rilling.

Ron April 21, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Congratulations Bryan, you will do great things for the council as you did on the BOE. Your continued desire to work for the people of Norwalk says it all.

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