‘Unorthodox’ Norwalk Dems sharing minority leader position

Norwalk Democratic Common Council members David Watts (District A), left, and Warren Peña (At Large) are taking turns being minority leader this year.

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – Best buddies Warren Peña and David Watts were driving along a Norwalk road together recently when a funny thing happened. Each asked the other to vote for them – the problem being they both wanted the same Common Council leadership position.

So it is that Peña and Watts are sharing the council’s minority leader title this year, according to Watts. Peña will take the first six months, Watts will take the second.

“We came to a consensus,” Watts said. “I said, ‘Why don’t we split the difference?’ He agreed.”

Peña doesn’t think this has been done before and attributes it to their youth. “It does seem our way of approaching things is a little unorthodox or unconventional, but it’s something we came up with,” he said. “It just goes right into the line of what we’ve been doing for a year and that is changing it up, bringing a new perspective to the table, not maintaining the status quo.”

Peña gets the first half of the year because the budget cap will be the major issue. Watts gets the second because it will be election time.

“We felt we have strengths that can play into the leadership role,” Peña said. “In the next six months we’re going to be dealing with the budget. With my financial background and my ability to work with both sides of the aisle last time around to set the cap, we figured it would be good for me to lead the charge and help where I can with that election process. As we get closer to the election, David will do a better job continuing to represent our core Democratic principles.”

Watts agreed with that scenario. The pair are close friends, he said, adding that Peña’s mother cuts his family’s hair.

They discussed it privately and presented it to their caucus members. “We didn’t want to pin our fellow caucus members to vote either way,” Peña said. “Everyone agreed it was a very good compromise.”

“We want to recruit some new members on the council. We want to keep the Democratic message, but at the same time reach out to the other side of the aisle and continue to bring a voice to the voiceless,” Watts said. “There’s very few who go over and beyond to the constituents. A lot of the work load gets shifted over to the councilmen that work hard. That’s across the aisle. Constituents know that, which Democrat or Republican will work hard, so the work load is very demanding.”

Republican Doug Hempstead (At-Large) was re-elected majority leader. The long-term council member answered the phone Wednesday afternoon when NancyonNorwalk called, but said he was busy and would call back. He didn’t.

No word yet on who the council president will be. As Republicans hold the majority, it is essentially their decision.

“I know it’s contested because they pushed it into December,” Watts said. “Believe you me, they’re usually better organized.”



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