OPINION: Waiting for a surprise in the Wallingford mayoral race

I’m expecting a surprise in the Wallingford mayoral race. I know that statement is a contradiction. How can you expect a surprise? But you can, at times, as on your birthday when everyone yells “surprise!” even though it’s no surprise to you.

But what I mean is that so far the race simply isn’t interesting enough for Wallingford. This is a town, after all, that has turned ARPA funding into a struggle for the soul of the community, or something similar.

In case you missed it, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. says he’s not going to run again. That’s the first time that’s happened since Dickinson first became mayor in 1984. Among other points of interest, that was a good year for popular music. Prince, Madonna and the late Tina Turner all had hits. Apple was up to its clever ways with the introduction of the Mac computer, launching a tech revolution that may have changed everyone’s lives but not Dickinson’s status as mayor.

We have the lazy and hopefully not too hazy days of summer ahead and maybe don’t want to think about this too much until we’ve gathered up the beach blankets. But there is room for development in the electoral contest.

Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni is the Republican heir apparent of sorts. He’s been on the council since 2010. In a story about mayoral candidates a month ago by the R-J’s Kate Ramunni, he had this to say: “Maintaining financial stability is crucial. Maintaining what is good about Wallingford is crucial and having plans to look forward for the challenges in the coming years is also crucial.”

See anything controversial there? We can expect a more critical approach from the Democratic side, where two candidates who tried and failed to unseat Dickinson may have a clearer opportunity now that he is no longer in the way.

Town Councilor Vincent Testa is a teacher, a major plus as far as I’m concerned, particularly since one of the issues involves the question of whether there should be one or two public high schools in town. “I have a long-term vision for the community that addresses our infrastructure, economic development, operations and public safety needs while remaining cognizant of the fiscal realities of our residents,” he said, as quoted by the R-J.

Despite objections, Riley O’Connell persists in remaining young. He’s also lost to Dickinson, but managed to come pretty close last time around, earning status as what I guess you could describe as the best loser. After an opinion piece in the R-J by Lorraine Connelly highlighted O’Connell’s experience in Army boot camp, a couple of letters to the editor expressed the opinion of not being impressed. So, at least for some in Wallingford, the accomplished O’Connell, who has worked for the Department of Justice, remains in a position familiar to the young job candidate: How do you get experience when no one will hire you?

What he does have is political savvy, as displayed in this quote from Ramunni’s story: “I wish him well, but I think voters are more concerned with the fact that this Republican administration just proposed a substantial tax increase for the 18th year in a row, and Chairman Cervoni has voted in favor of these increases every year he's been on the Council.”

Maybe the surprise will be that there is no surprise. Or, maybe Dickinson will change his mind. That would be interesting.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.


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