Rilling introduces new economic development director

Norwalk's new economic development director, Elizabeth Stocker,
Norwalk’s new economic development director, Elizabeth Stocker, right, is introduced to the media by Mayor Harry Rilling, center, Tuesday in City Hall.

Original verion posted at 5:24 p.m.  July 15. Final rewrite to add quotes, more detail, 1:54 a.m. July 16.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk finally has its new economic development director.

Mayor Harry Rilling and the Redevelopment Agency announced in an afternoon press conference at City Hall that Elizabeth Stocker of Milford has been chosen to fill the new position, which replaces the director of marketing and business development, a position held by Tad Diesel in the previous administration.

“This is a position that is critical to the future of Norwalk,” Rilling said. “We are poised to move forward in a way not seen in Norwalk’s past – we have lots of development projects that are just starting to move forward, we have others that people are expressing an interest in. It was important to me to make sure that we did our due diligence and get the right person into that job. We believe that Miss Stocker is that person.”

Stocker, who has held similar positions in Newtown for the past 14 years, was an assistant planner in Norwalk from 1985 to 1990. She has a master’s degree in urban planning from New York University and a degree in natural resources conservation from the University of Connecticut. She is president of the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS), according to her resume, which is attached below.

Stocker was unanimously approved by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency shortly after being introduced. Rilling said her salary is not set yet. “After tonight that will be discussed,” he said.

The salary range for the position was originally announced at between $80,0000 and $90,000 (see job description attached below).

The role of Norwalk’s top economic development advocate has been left vacant since Diesel retired shortly after his boss, Richard Moccia, failed in his bid for a fifth term as mayor. Rilling took office in November, and, in late January, formed a Business Advisory Council and charged it with finding the best candidates for the job. The deadline for applicants was March 31, and more than 50 people were interviewed. According to a prepared statement, applications from as far away as Texas, Colorado and Nevada. Rilling personally interviewed the final six candidates, the statement said.

“It did take quite a while, Rilling said. “There were some challenges, lots of discussions, lots of meetings. The reason it took so long is because this is such a very important position and we had over 50 resumes to look through and review. … This is a very important position and we wanted to make sure that we did everything we could to make sure we had the right person. If you look at the time from the time of advertising and making the final selection I don’t think that six months, six and a half months, is really all that long when you are talking about a position that is so important to the future of the city of Norwalk.”

“It’s really 90 days in terms of getting through the process of determining who we were going with,” Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan said. “I think that at the end of the day we held out for the best candidate. That takes time.”

The new position will be part of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, but will report directly to the mayor. Stocker will work in the mayor’s office, in the office formerly occupied by Diesel.

Rilling said Stocker will hopefully begin work in the first week of August.

“I want to do a lot of networking to try to find out what the climate is here, what is available here, so I have a lot of catching up to do to find out what our assets are,” Stocker said.

Asked how Stocker’s role would differ from that of Diesel’s, Rilling said, “Just from the interview, Miss Stocker is proactive; she is going to take a very proactive approach. The experience that she has and the education that she has, she knows what has to be done in order to attract people to come to Norwalk.”

He spoke of using a “different methodology” and the Internet. Stocker will work with him to learn what the priorities are.

“We expect an aggressive outreach to people that might show an interest in Norwalk and come into Norwalk for development and investment purposes,” Rilling said. “But again, smart growth and development, which I spoke about during the campaign ad nauseum, just smart development to make sure that it doesn’t get out of control, get out of hand, and we want to make sure that we grow in the right direction.”

“I think Norwalk is positioned well geographically,” Stocker said. “I think that it has a lot going for it in terms of the community’s population. It is very diverse and we have several different businesses here already. We have opportunities ahead of us that are going to be looked on moving forward and I think that, between the transportation network, and, I think I mentioned it during our interview, there is a new port authority that is going to be appointed in the state of Connecticut. We have a good position to take advantage of that aspect. We don’t know what it is going to be, but we certainly will be keeping our eyes open for that. But I think that, as a community that has been built up, and we see a lot of redevelopment now, there’s an extreme amount of opportunity here.”

Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce Vice President Brian Griffin expressed confidence in Stocker. “Considering who made the selection … we know you are the right person,” he said.

He said he has a friend involved in economic development in Newtown. “I have heard many great things about you already,” he said.

Rilling said Stocker was “head and shoulders above” the other candidates. Business Advisory Council Chairman Harry Carey agreed.
“We had a large group of applicants, and what was important to us was someone who had, obviously, a lot of experience, but a clear indication of both marketing skills, communication skills, planning skills,” Carey said. “It was really the combination that set this candidate apart from the others that were in the process.

Economic Development Job Description

Elizabeth Stocker resume





25 responses to “Rilling introduces new economic development director”

  1. Notaffiliated

    Too bad a Norwalk person couldn’t have been hired for this role.

  2. Bill

    Exactly what Norwalk needs. Someone making $150,000+ who will take credit for bringing minimum wage jobs like Loew’s and BJ’s to Norwalk. We don’t need an Business Development burecrat if you offer a low tax environment. We tax the hell out of everyone then pay someone $150,000+ to bribe companies to come or at least stay. It worked for Malloy, right?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Bill

      Afraid you are way off on the salary. It’s around $90,000, or just a touch above, at the top of the range stated in February.

  3. sofaman

    What an impressive resume. Great selection.

  4. LWitherspoon

    Will Ms. Stocker relocate to Norwalk or commute from Milford?

    1. @LWitherspoon
      She did not say. I got the impression she would commute.

  5. piberman

    Mayor Rilling took 9 months to hire a candidate with a background in Newtown with a population of just 27,500 to “pitch” Norwalk to savvy businessmen well aware of Norwalk’s shortcomings. Stamford recently hired a similar position with a very different background more suitable.

    Here was another lost opportunity for our new mayor to make a “real difference”. Rather than a “pitchman” Norwalk could really use an experienced individual who could assist our residents starting new businesses. Especially as our City undergoes unprecedented demographic change. For a Mayor who identifies with our new residents here was an opportunity to make a “real difference.”

    Fear not faithful residents. We now have two “pitchmen” here in Norwalk. One hired by the mall developers. Another hired by our Mayor. Lets hope they’re equally successful. Elsewhere.

    At day’s end yet another demonstration that prior experience really does matter when electing public officials. If we’re interested in meaningful improvement in our circumstances. And avoiding Bridgeport.

  6. Molly Henry

    The most telling item in this prolonged hire is the amateur press release written by the Mayor’s “city clerk/press secretary. It’s a shame that this new person has to have her full home address and personal phone number attached to what looks like a press document. I know the city clerk’s plate is full with all of the endeavors she dips into while on the clock, but she easily could have extracted some pertinent biographical bullet points, included it in the press release and protected this persons’ personal information better.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Molly Henry

      Let’s not tar Donna King for this. As is the custom, the new hire’s resume was handed out to the media — it is a public document — and Nancy scanned it with her phone at the press conference, emailed it to me and I put it online with a note that we would put up a better copy tonight. We will redact the address and phone number when we do, but, again, it is part of document available to anyone with an FOI request.

  7. One and Done

    Kudos to the mayor for hiring the best fit instead of some politically connected misfit who felt entitled to be mayor with a resume short of qualifying for dog catcher.

  8. Suzanne

    I think I am missing something. It seems as though this person is very well qualified in business and economic development. But, it feels like putting the cart before the horse. Shouldn’t there be an overall vision as to what we want Norwalk to be, to look like, to develop into as an identifiable and unique place to live, work, etc.
    In that respect, business and economic development would then fall into the puzzle with pieces already in place to form the entire picture, not be the odd forms stuck here and there because there is a piece of land here, an office building there, oh, and by the way, let’s put another school here, at random.
    This position, then, is not the top of the pyramid but, I hope, a part of a team with some perspective about how Norwalk could move forward to an attractive, well thought through urban PLAN.

  9. spanner

    Doesn’t Elizabeth Stocker own a house in Vineyard Haven and if she does who cares what she owns and where? She has worked in Ct yet owns houses other places.Norwalk has had a great connection with the Island over the years with other Norwalkers are we suppose to pre judge someone for residence?

    Now if our politicians Start going to the Vineyard and stay at a rental by a woman with the same name is it hers and could that be a problem?

    Back to basics and I agree with Suzanne what does Norwalk want to be when it grows up.

    She does sound like a busy woman,hope she has time for Norwalk.

    The new position will be part of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency but will report directly to the mayor I like this the Redevelopment Agency has spent a lot of money on crap that seems to be questionable.Maybe they hired her to blow whistles would that be a hoot.

    So far Duff isn’t involved that in itself is a good indication she may not have a M O or a Larry behind her.

  10. anon

    As head of Newtown economic and community development for 25 years, how does that connect to urban, 4-times-the-size Norwalk. 25 years-her resume is short on results.

  11. Don’t Panic

    Ms. Stocker’s first meetings should be with as many neighborhood associations as possible, without staff or politicos in the room. She should get an unvarnished sense of what the community wants for itself before she starts soliciting unpopular proposals based upon what has been done in the past.
    it is time to break the bad habits.

  12. One and Done

    Suzanne. I believe what you are describing is the position of mayor. One would think the person occupying this spot for two years would have a vision and lead on it out in front, not from behind. Besides an oversized out of place mosque, the goals are very fuzzy 8 months plus into it. Instead it’s just tick tock pension clock.

  13. piberman

    No “big city” experience with this appointee. Or major development accomplishments. But this is Norwalk where expectations are always modest. Together with accomplishments. Stamford had a different perspective on qualifications.

  14. piberman

    When it comes to “economic development” City officials continue to ignore Stamford’s splendid example where it became within a few decades CT’s far and away leading City with impressive Grand List growth and home to major firms offering high quality employment to surrounding residents (including Norwalk.)
    Second, City officials continue to avoid employing individuals lacking “big city” economic development expertise. How can expertise with Newtown – a modest town way up in the hills – possibly provide a suitable background for Norwalk in lower Fairfield County.

    Third, City officials after decades and decades still can’t decide or seek competent consultants on how to best develop the “Big Hole” along I95. No other CT City has such an obvious redevelopment failure.

    Sad to say but there’s little prospects here for positive development change. One doesn’t expect incoming mayors to be knowledgeable about economic development. But it does seem reasonable that they secure competent consultants in an advisory capacity, appoint well qualified citizens to planning and zoning boards and hire ecoomic deveopment staff with a major league track record of accomplishment. Anyone who thinks experience is Newtown is relevant to Norwalk is just blowing smoke. A major opportunity to hire major league talent has been lost. Then again if the job is only worth 90k in a world where 150k City administrators are a dime a dozen the mayor isn’t looking for major talent. That’s the real story here. Its just not an important job for Norwalk. That’s why the mayor took 9 months to fill the position. Not high on his agenda. Or the City’s .

  15. Bea Fare

    The negativity of many of these comments does not show Norwalk in the most favorable light. By the way, for those concerned about “no big-city experience” the new economic development director’s resume does reflect a five-year stint as a planner in Norwalk. Let’s give the new hire a chance to prove herself. In addition, the remark regarding the city clerk was uncalled-for. Lest you think I’m partisan, I didn’t like personal attacks on the last administration and I don’t like them now. It all just makes Norwalk look bad; we can do better.

  16. EveT

    All commenters who think Stocker’s Newtown and Norwalk background is too “small town,” please name a big city that you admire. And not Stamford, thank you — you have noticed the huge hole in the ground next to the Stamford Town Center mall that’s been there for umpteen years, haven’t you? I bet if Norwalk had chosen someone from Bridgeport or New Haven or Hartford, you’d be yelling about corruption. From what big city would you have wanted this position to be filled?

  17. piberman

    To Eve:

    Everyone agrees Stamford is CT’s most successful city and an outstanding role model. Across the country there are hundreds and hundreds of cities larger than Norwalk with successful redevelopment histories. Anyone who considers development experience in a small country toen like Newtown relevant to Norwalk’s needs a wake up call. You wouldn’t consider a school Supt or Police Chief from Newtown suitable for Norwalk. So why a development employee ? Ignorance in City needs is not a blessing. Even when done by a mayor.

  18. Bill

    Hopefully she doesn’t agree with all the geniuses on this blog who are against the mall because they want more office buildings despite a 27% office vacancy rate. Hopefully this woman is good at math and seeks out businesses that are needed not more office building construction or dreams of them.

  19. piberman

    After a 9 month search we have a better understanding of the consequences of NOT using a professional search committee. It would be inconceivable that a professional search team would recommend small town experience as a desirable background in handling successfully any administrative role for a city. We now have a better understanding of why a search girm was not used. And sad to say a better understanding of why the former Bd Chair of The egregiously mismanaged NEON was appointed early on to the important BET. Our Mayor is failing the litmus test of successful managaers – appoint the best and most qualified people one can find to key positions. This new appointment is another disappointment and as citizens we should speak up.

  20. EveT

    Perhaps some of these critics are peeved because they weren’t the one hired.

  21. piberman

    No Eve I doubt that any of those making critical comments applied for the job. The Mayor has made a very poor hiring judgment. Norwalk needs “big city” skills and accomplishments for its administrators, not “small town” skills. Any search firm would have told that to the Mayor. But he spent 9 months looking.
    And found the best person available from Newtown ? Even the tooth fairy would have hard time believing that. Looking back over many decades its hard to find a similarly poor hire made by a Norwalk mayor. It calls to mind a similarly poor judging appointing the Board Chairman of the failed NEON to the BET made early in his term.
    Strong hires so far are not the trademark of our new mayor.

  22. rburnett

    Berman: You seem to have the answer for EVERYTHING!! Norwalk needs your knowledge, expertise, and skills. If we had you, we would not need anyone else. We could save tons of money by firing all department heads. PLEASE help us!!! Please save our sinking ship!! Please make Norwalk the best city in the world!! PLEASE run for Mayor!! Maybe we’ll give you our vote this time around.

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