Milford Republicans on Monday night said they plan to take back City Hall as they endorsed former Alderman Paula Smith to run for mayor against incumbent Mayor Ben Blake, a Democrat.
City Clerk Joanne Rohrig will run for the city clerk post, making it a two-woman Republican team seeking the top elected positions in the city.
The Republicans were quiet about the identity of their mayoral candidate up until former Republican Town Committee Chairman Tom Jagodzinski took the podium to nominate Smith at Monday’s town committee meeting at Milford City Hall.
Jagodzinski said Smith has the skills, energy and expertise to be mayor: She has a master’s degree in finance, she’s served on the Board of Aldermen and Board of Finance; she’s president of the Milford Oyster Festival Committee and she volunteers with the Boys & Girls Club.
“This is someone who is going to drive the Democrats crazy,” Jagodzinski said.
Smith said she had been weighing a run for mayor. She has a good job and the decision was a tough one, but this week she gave her notice at work and decided to run for the top city seat.
Smith, who came close to throwing her hat into the ring in the past, said there were issues over the past four years under Mayor Ben Blake that disturbed her, like a school bonding project and a near switch in city employees’ health insurance. She said there are many houses for sale in Milford — nine in a seven block stretch near her house alone. She said taxes are high, and affordable housing has become an issue that she thinks the mayor’s office should be demonstrating more leadership on.
But what tipped the scale for her was last week’s news about a debate concerning an outdoor patio at Eli’s Restaurant in downtown Milford, which Milford Republicans said Monday night is being blocked by the mayor’s office.
“It was one of those things that makes you say, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Smith said, arguing that the city shouldn’t play politics with a solid member of the business community.
Regarding the legislation called 8-30g that allows developers to circumvent zoning regulations if their developments contain a percentage of affordable housing, Smith said, “We all know about 8-30g, but what bothers me most about that is our administration has been MIA.”
A number of affordable housing projects and proposed projects in Milford over the past couple of years have raised the ire of several neighborhoods.
“As well intentioned as this statute is, it is ridiculous,” Smith said. “There are unintended consequences when you pass bad legislation.”
“It’s a tough issue, but we have to start fighting,” Smith said. “A leader gets out in front. You’re not always going to win but you have to be out in front. You need to clear a path for the team that’s coming up behind you.”
Rohrig accepted the nomination to run for the city clerk’s job, saying that she has continued the work of her predecessor and friend Linda Stock.
Rohrig was appointed to the seat after Linda Stock died last May. She is a lifelong resident, served on the Board of Education, and her family has been part of the local business community for many years.
“We have moved and transformed the complex, growing processes and procedures mandated for city clerk offices throughout Connecticut into a state of the art hub that provides vital information and services to our citizens,” Rohrig said.
She said her office continues to usher in improvements.
“Our office prides itself on meeting the public’s many and growing needs,” Rohrig said.
Former Republican Town Committee Chairman Jack Fowler nominated Rohrig with a speech that criticized the state administration of Governor Dannel P. Malloy, “aided and abetted,” Fowler said, “at the local level by their Democratic minions who never met a tax increase or 8-30g that didn’t give them a tingle up both legs.”
Last year when the Republicans chose someone to fill the rest of Linda Stock’s term, they chose Rohrig, “a woman of great stature, competence and dignity,” Fowler said, “a woman and leader who lives up to the standards of this position as lived and practiced over the decades by Linda and her predecessor, the often Republican-nominated city clerk, Mr. Alan Jepson.”
Fowler said Rohrig was a first step in reclaiming political power in the city from the Democrats, a step he wants to see continue in November with Republicans taking back majority control of Milford’s key boards and commissions, and restoring “fiscal sanity and proper governance between the Housatonic and Indian rivers.”
Last week, Milford Democrats endorsed Blake to run for a third term as mayor, and they backed Brendan Casey to run for city clerk. Click here to read about the Democrats’ endorsement meeting.
Following is the list of GOP candidates on the slate:
Paula Smith - Mayor
Joanne Rohrig - City Clerk
Board of Alderman: District