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Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Lots of starts, a couple stops

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Then Norwalk Mayor-elect Harry Rilling and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy turn to face the crowd at Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:

A dash of this, a dash of that

Tuesday seemed to be a whirlwind for Harry Rilling, beginning with a meeting with his former colleagues on the Norwalk Police Department, progressing to visits to Norwalk business leaders and Norwalk schools, and finally transitioning from mayor-elect to mayor as he was sworn in by the governor. There were meetings in the afternoon, and, finally, two meetings to preside over with minutes of each other, in rooms that are adjacent on City Hall’s third floor.

The whirlwind at that point looked crazy. Rilling conferred with Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons, made a brief speech to the Board of Ed, and left, only to get pulled back to preside over a brief meeting with a lot of undercurrents.

Rilling then dashed to the room next door to say the Pledge of Allegiance for the second time in 20 minutes and then swear in 15 council members one by one, so that family members could take photos of them one by one, turning back and forth as they came from alternating sides of the chamber, repeating the oath 15 times.

He went on to repeat “Are there any nominations” over and over again, and then sit as a lot of camera flashes went off.

What was the first day like?

“Exciting, exhilarating, making me enthusiastic to looking forward to getting things done, working with the council, working together with the Common Council in a bi-partisan manner where we can best serve the interests of the community,” he said. “We’re going to disagree with certain things but right now everything seems amicable and I have no reason to think it will not remain that way. We will have some disagreements, but overall our goal is to serve all of the citizens of the city of Norwalk. Serve them equally, without regard for differences, and just make sure that we do the best thing that we can for Norwalk.”

Why did Rilling leave that Board of Ed meeting?

“It’s not that I didn’t have time. It was that I was told that I didn’t have to preside,” Rilling said. “Well, this is my first (meeting), and I said OK, that will be fine because I have a Common Council meeting to start. So then they apparently took exception to the process going forward without me and I was called back. Since then, (Lyons) has forwarded language to me via email that shows he did have authority to run the meeting, but I don’t have any regrets that I ran the meeting.”

No regrets for Republican, either

Republican Town Committee member Pete Torrano, a retired Norwalk Police officer, is no longer on the Police Commission, but he said that’s fine with him.

“Twenty eight years on the police department, eight years on the Police Commission,” he said. “I’m not disappointed.”

Dems pat themselves on the back

At the Democratic Town Committee meeting Monday, Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells got up to speak right after Common Councilman John Kydes (D-District C) thanked everybody who had helped him.

“Mr. Kydes is too humble to point it out but … (he had the) highest vote total of anyone that is running in District C this century – short century though it may be.”

Peña will continue to “serve”

Former Common Councilman Warren Peña addresses the Democratic Town Committee Monday.
Former Common Councilman Warren Peña addresses the Democratic Town Committee Monday.

Warren Peña fell short of re-election to the Common Council, but he’s promising he’ll still be around.

“I would just like to thank everybody for their support,” he said to the DTC. “Things obviously didn’t turn out the way that I expected it to. I’m really excited for the entire ticket. As I told Eloisa (Melendez) up front, I told Harry and everybody else on that ticket or on the minority caucus, if you will, that I will be the 16th council person if you guys need me to be. I’ll show up and do my thing in the first three minutes. Please just know that you can count on me for anything. I have dived into this role for the past two years, as a lot of you know. I learned a ton and I’m willing to help whenever I possibly can.”

Watts a great door knocker

Common Councilwoman Eloisa Melendez (D-District A), says Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A) has something of a magic touch – he converted her mother, formerly a died-in-the-wool Republican, to voting for some Democrats.

Watts knocked on their door as he was campaigning in 2011 and spoke to her mother.

“I have no idea what he said to her, but she voted for him,” she said. “And Warren, too. The rest was all Republican.”

Lessons learned growing up in Norwalk

Melendez said she learned many things growing up in Norwalk, including how to get along with a diverse set of people.

She now knows how important that is, because most of her friends have left Norwalk to go to college and have come back with classmates who don’t know how to deal with people who are different.

“Living in Norwalk I have friends all over,” she said, “every single part of Norwalk — the best parts, the worst parts. That’s just how it is, you deal with all different types of people in school and that’s the way it was. There is no, ‘Oh, we don’t hang out with those people because they are from that part of Norwalk. ‘… It was interesting meeting people who didn’t have that before. They had no idea of how to hang out or interact with people who aren’t like them.”

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