MERIDEN — The makeup of the City Council will hardly change with only one new face coming on board following last week’s election, but there will be some leadership changes on the council in the coming weeks.
At least one position will likely change since the newly elected mayor, Manny Santos, has the power to appoint a deputy mayor. Santos, a Republican, said he has been fielding inquiries about the deputy position, as well as the mayor’s only official appointed position of constituent caseworker.
“Oh, yeah, there’s been some interest,” Santos admitted, not wanting to get into specifics. “There’s still a lot of things to think about and people to talk to that I haven’t yet.”
The new member of the council will be Lenny Rich, a Republican, which means, for the first time since the council downsized to 12 members in 1989, there will be five minority party council members. With a 7-5 split, current Minority Leader Dan Brunet said the council is in uncharted territory. Though there has been talk about who will fill his role, the role of deputy minority leader and deputy mayor, the main focus has been on council committees.
“It should be fair and equitable,” Brunet said. “With a 7-5 (breakdown) and Republican mayor, it should be somewhat distributed equally.”
Brunet would not comment on whether he’s interested in the deputy mayor position, but said he’s been happy as minority leader.
Historically, because the Democrats have dominated the council, they have controlled the chairman and vice chairman roles on each of the five council committees. It was only in the past year that We the People Party member Bob Williams was able to earn a vice chairmanship on the Health and Human Services Committee and fellow We the People member Walter A. Shamock Jr. has been inserted as vice chairman of the Finance Committee. Both appointments were the result of other councilors leaving the council.
Democratic Majority Leader Brian Daniels said he understands that there is a 7-5 breakdown and that everything will be re-examined, just as it is every two years. In addition to committee assignments, there are also liaison positions and the two deputy majority leader positions to consider, in addition to his own role.
“We will have to figure out where the best talents and resources should be placed for various committee and liaison assignments,” he said. “There’s a process every two years. My take is that it’s largely a clean slate now, given that it’s post-election.”
Daniels added that he thinks “turnover is a good thing” and there has been a significant amount of it in the last few years. Other than Shamock and Deputy Mayor Matthew C. Dominello, no councilor will have two full terms of council experience.
Deputy Majority Leader Cathy Battista said leadership roles are still in the discussion phase and there “will be decisions that we have to make.” Battista added that she is “looking forward to everything.”
Williams was in agreement with Brunet, saying he hopes to take on the position of chairman of the Public Safety Committee and has had the support of many fire and police officials.
“Personally, I’d like to believe that the majority will work with the mayor and the council as a whole to have both minority and majority parties with individual chairmanships,” Williams said. “I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
All committee assignments are expected to be on the council’s agenda Dec. 2, when Santos and Rich will be sworn in and a new deputy mayor will be officially appointed.
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