Mayor Erin Stewart speaks at her campaign kickoff (Photo: David Huck)

June 2, 2015
by Robert Storace

NEW BRITAIN — Mayor Erin Stewart focused on finances, economic development and compassion as she kicked off her campaign for a second term before a crowd of about 300 Tuesday night.

Stewart — who spoke for 13 minutes at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building — told the audience comprised of family, friends and political leaders, “We are setting a new standard for what the citizens of this city should expect from their government and we’re doing that in a few different ways.”

The 28-year-old mayor, who was interrupted numerous times by applause, began her speech talking about finances. Stewart said when she took office in November 2013 “our spending was literally out of control. The city’s bond rating had been downgraded to triple-B with a negative outlook. So, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.” The mayor said her administration “placed strict controls on spending and hiring” and “passed a complete restructuring of city departments that received the approval of a super majority of the Common Council.”

The administration also “reduced city spending by more than $16 million, and I have now presented two consecutive annual budgets that are both honest and balanced,” she said.

On the economic development front, the city native said, “Back in 2013 the only shovels in the ground in New Britain were being paid for by taxpayer dollars. Today, we have a laundry list of private development projects both large and small.” The mayor noted Costco “is on track to open this fall” and that the Berkowitz Building, one of the city’s most well-known eyesores “is about to undergo a major renovation.” She also talked about the former Guida property on Farmington Avenue, which is being developed into a 126-bed senior living facility, a gas station, Dunkin’ Donuts, a restaurant and dairy barn.

The mayor, who often cited her ability to work together with the Democrat-controlled council, said “we are setting a new standard when it comes to compassion. I could not be more proud of the work that ‘Building Hope Together’ has done to develop and implement New Britain’s new workplan to end homelessness…. And, I’m proud of what we have done the past two winters to secure space and staff for our emergency overflow shelter.”

The mayor ended her speech by saying “Now, let’s get this campaign going.”

Those in attendance included many former Democratic officials, such as former Alderwoman Barbara Kirejczyk, who said of Stewart, “She makes things happen. I like the feeling of being proud of our city again. I think it was so divisive before.”

Said Fran Wolski, a former Democratic school board member, “I like that she took the bull by the horn and did what should have been done many years ago.”

The Democrats have not yet put up a candidate to challenge the mayor. Only Al Mayo, a petition candidate, has announced his intention to run for mayor.

This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald.