Herald: “Hard hittin’ Erin” sworn in for second term

by Robert Storace
November 10, 2015

NEW BRITAIN — It was a day for pomp and circumstance and looking forward Tuesday as Republican Mayor Erin Stewart gave her inauguration speech saying “everything we have accomplished has been done in a spirit of civility and mutual respect.”

With the city’s elected officials, her parents and two grandmothers sitting behind her as she spoke in front of City Hall, Stewart repeated a common theme during her first two years in office: working with Democrats, economic development and fiscal stability.

“Is the pride back, New Britain?” asked Stewart, who was interrupted 16 times for applause by the more than 250 people in attendance.

The city’s 40th mayor — who was the state’s youngest mayor when she was elected two years at age 26 — said New Britain had turned the corner for the better.

“Our schools were being used as a punchline. And, most notably, the pride we all once felt in our “Hard Hittin’” city appeared gone,” said Stewart, as she fought to finish her speech before the rain came down. “We were broken… but we were far from beaten. Over the past two years, we have come together as citizens, as leaders, and as employees to tackle these challenges head-on.”

With regard to the city’s fiscal health, the mayor said in her 1,835-word speech, “Financially, we reduced spending by nearly $16 million and produced two consecutive budgets that were honest and structurally balanced. Yes, we were also forced to raise revenues, but it was bitter medicine that this city sorely needed and I’m happy to say that because of the tough decisions we made two years ago, we were able to finish this past fiscal year with a multi-million dollar surplus — not a slush fund — a surplus in our rainy day fund.”

Stewart read off a list of economic development progress — from Frisbie’s Dairy Barn opening to the old Landers, Frary and Clark factory which will soon undergo a $35 million transformation into luxury condominiums.

“This list goes on and on of private developments, and I didn’t even mention Costco,” she said. “I have said over the last two years that people want to invest in cities that are investing in themselves, and we are doing just that.”

The mayor also promised to work with “members of the Democratic caucus. I truly look forward to continuing to work with you.” The Democratic caucus shrunk considerably from nine to three following last week’s election.

Stewart also touched on the city’s new baseball team and the negotiations she spearheaded to bring it here; education; and the homeless.

“Addressing the needs of our homeless community is something that was very close to my heart,” Stewart said, adding, “We created “Building Hope Together: New Britain’s Permanent Workplan to end Homelessness” to build on the initial success of Mayor Timothy Stewart’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.” Tim Stewart is the mayor’s father.

Joining Erin and Tim Stewart at the inauguration were former Democratic mayors Don DeFronzo, Lucian J. Pawlak and Bill McNamara. Former Democratic Mayor Timothy O’Brien did not attend.

Nancy Rodriguez, master of ceremonies, said Stewart spoke of “four goals (during her first inauguration) that would set the foundation of what she would do the next two years. They were restoring fiscal sanity, rebuilding our infrastructure, giving our children schools to be proud of, and making New Britain government work for New Britain again. Mayor Erin Stewart, you promised these things and you did them!”

This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald.