WALLINGFORD — Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. has announced his intention to run for re-election and his 20th consecutive term.
The announcement, made last Wednesday at a Republican Town Committee meeting at HUBCAP, comes six weeks before the party’s nominating convention scheduled for July 21 at Dag Hammarskjold Middle School.
The Democratic Town Committee is scheduled to hold its nominating convention the same day.
Dickinson, a 38-year incumbent, is the second-longest serving mayor in the state. He trails only Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, also a Republican, who is serving his 22nd term.
Dickinson usually makes his re-election bids in costume.
For this year’s announcement, he dressed in a brown drill instructor-style hat, work apron and work belt with duct tape, hammer, pliers, vise grips — representing “the work that has to be done,” he said Monday.
“Dealing with the day-to-day issues requires a lot of effort, and full involvement in order to provide the services that the community needs,” he said. “You have to be a little bit Boy Scout, a little bit Smokey the Bear and a little bit Marine drill sergeant.”
“When you get right down to it,” he said, “given what we've been going through, the day-to-day issues over what's safe, what isn't, providing services, filling positions that are open, it's just basic labor. Labor kind of work on a daily basis. So that's what gets the job done, and that's what's necessary.”
Dickinson defeated Democratic challenger Jared Liu in the 2019 election by 2,198 votes. Liu also ran against Dickinson in the 2017, losing by a slimmer margin of 1,659 votes.
Dickinson won re-election in 2011, 2013 and 2015 by more than 3,000 votes on average.
Republican Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni and council members Craig Fishbein and Christina Tatta also announced Wednesday they are seeking re-election.
Republican Board of Education member Autumn Allinson said last week she may seek a nomination for Town Council.
BOE members Ray Ross and Tammy Raccio have announced they are seeking re-election.
Rajan Doering, Donna Regan and Jennifer Passaretti have announced they are seeking Republican nominations for school board.
Town Council and Board of Education members are elected at large. All nine seats on both bodies are up for re-election.
Republican Town Councilor Chris Shortell and Democratic school board member Patty Pursell are not seeking re-election.
Pursell was the top Democratic vote-getter in the 2019 municipal election and came in second overall. Shortell was the fifth highest Republican vote-getter in the same election, and came in sixth overall.
Fran LaFrance-Proscino, Democratic Town Committee vice chairperson, said via email Monday that the group was “not surprised” at Dickinson’s announcement or Allinson’s consideration of a bid for Town Council.
“The Wallingford DTC has strong candidates that can stand up to anyone the opposition is running for office,” she said. “Our goals remain the same, to build back better and improve Wallingford. Having opponents in a municipal election is simply what democracy is all about.”
First time Democratic candidate Riley O'Connell is seeking his party’s nomination in the mayoral race.
O'Connell recently helped organize a “Save Our Pool” rally, criticizing what he said was the mayor’s failure to ensure proper maintenance of Community Pool over 40 years. Dickinson vetoed plans to renovate the pool last year.
O'Connell said Monday that while he thinks that everything Dickinson said is “certainly true, my main rebuttal would be that I think actions would speak a lot louder than words.”
He said that the many existing and soon-to-be vacancies among the senior positions in town government has affected the functioning of town services — the day-to-day work Dickinson referenced.
Recently, residents took to Facebook to vent frustrations at animal shelter understaffing since former Animal Control Officer Katie Ehlers’ departure in May after being out on maternity leave.
“It is a really important duty of the mayor to make sure that we are filling our positions in this town with not just the best people, but people, period,” he said. “And I think that's really where we've been lacking lately. I know there has been arguments in the past about saving money by being at minimum staff, but there are a lot of long-term consequences and frankly, from my perspective, it doesn't save money anyway, because of all the overtime you pay.”