O’Leary to seek third term in Waterbury
Mayor makes emotional announcement on his monthly radio broadcast
BY PENELOPE OVERTON AND MIKE PATRICK REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
WATERBURY — In an emotional statement on his monthly radio show, Mayor Neil M. O’Leary announced Thursday he will seek another four years in office.
O’Leary said while he initially intended to end his tenure as mayor at the end of his second two-year term, messages from supporters and well-wishers over the past few days changed his mind.
“I thought it was time to go cut the grass, go fishing; I had some employment opportunities ahead come up over the last couple of months,” O’Leary said on his program on WATR. “At the end of the day I have decided I am running for a third term. I am interested in serving the city of Waterbury for the next four years. I am committed to the city of Waterbury.” A recent change in the city charter extended the mayor’s term from two years to four years.
O’LEARY SAID he had grown “exhausted” by his role as mayor over the past three and a half years, and the death recently of Acting Deputy Police Chief Chris Corbett seemed to solidify his decision not to run again.
”The loss of my dearest, closest friend, Chris Corbett, had a profound impact on me,” O’Leary said, coming to tears, “and I thought that that was the icing on the cake as far as making my decision easier as to discontinue service with the city of Waterbury.”
But O’Leary, who began his message by listing a number of his administration’s successes, said he was encouraged by promising projects the city will continue to be involved in over the coming years.
O’Leary cited the city’s A-plus bond rating, the consolidation of the Board of Education offices into the Chase Municipal Building, the announced privatization of the emergency dispatch center that will free up more police and firefighters, and the implementation of the state’s $12.2 million Waterbury Next housing initiative among his administration’s successful projects.
He also noted his administration’s positive relationships with state and federal government, including U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., with whom he toured the city’s brownfield properties Wednesday.
“It’s an exciting time for Waterbury,” O’Leary said. “As Sen. Murphy said yesterday, we’re ready to launch. We’re ready to launch in a big way.”
O’LEARY WOULD FACE challenges in a third term, including rising employee health care costs that have gouged a hole in the city budget.
As of today, O’Leary faces no official challenger, although both of the city’s minority parties have said they would field candidates for every city office.
Many possible candidates, including would-be city aldermen, have been waiting to see if O’Leary would run again before announcing their plans.
One who has expressed interest is Republican Alderman Jerry Padula.
“Actually, I was a little bit shocked. A lot of the word on the street, so to speak, was that he was kind of tired of the position and maybe he was looking on to new ventures,” Padula said of the radio broadcast Thursday. “I think there was some arm-twisting to get him to run again… I hope he’s up for the task and I wish him well.”
Padula said the next mayor would face some serious budgetary issues because of the use of a special fund to patch the budget this year, calling it “like a giant band aid that covers the fiscal imbalance in the budget” and won’t be available in the next budget cycle.
Republican Board of Education member Jason Van Stone agreed.
“Next year… whoever the mayor is won’t have that one-time trick in their bag,” he said. “The next mayor, whoever it is, will have to deal with some of those accounting games they played with this budget.”
If O’Leary had not run, it would have left Democrats with just five months to raise the money, and promote the name recognition, of a possible successor.
“I will say I think there would have been a lot more people getting into the race had he decided not to run for re-election,” Paul K. Pernerewski Jr., a Democrat and president of the Board of Aldermen, said. “He has done a very good job. He’s very popular in the city, gets a lot of support from the voters, and I think he’s going to do well in the election.”