Town Councilman Kevin Moynihan on Tuesday afternoon announced his candidacy for first selectman.
The Republican told members of the local press corps that he will seek endorsement from the Republican Town Committee for New Canaan’s highest elected office during this summer’s GOP caucus.
A 36-year resident of New Canaan and married father of two kids who attended New Canaan Public Schools, Moynihan is poised square off at the July 18 caucus against incumbent Republican First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, who announced in March that he will seek a fourth term.
Moynihan during the meeting with reporters from the New Canaanite, New Canaan Advertiser and New Canaan News said his priorities on the major issue of parking differ sharply with Mallozzi’s.
“Rob’s priorities for parking are Town Hall employee parking and my priorities—because I really think it’s related to the real estate market and the attractiveness of the town to young families from Manhattan—is commuter parking,” Moynihan said during the meeting, held near the New Canaan train station and overlooking the Lumberyard lot.
Moynihan, an attorney who retired from Merrill Lynch in 2009, described himself as a 29-year commuter and said he would prioritize the decking of Lumberyard over Locust Avenue lot.
“Let’s solve the real problem that’s going to make an impact,” he said.
Moynihan added: “When you look at the problems we are having with our real estate market and the competition for young families, this should be the priority. I’m not saying don’t solve the problem, but one there are less expensive ways to do that over there [for municipal workers] and we can discuss that in the course of the campaign.”
Moynihan touted his record on the Town Council and in a prepared statement said New Canaan “can do better” than the way municipal government now is being run and “how priorities are being set.”
“I am proud of what I’ve accomplished as a member of the Town Council—working collaboratively with my Republican and Democratic colleagues—including formation of an Audit Committee and Ethics Board, inspiring the creation of the Waveny Park Conservancy, facilitating the New Canaan Library’s acquisition of a key real estate parcel, and opening the door to Eversource to undertake a major expansion of natural gas service into New Canaan,” Moynihan said in the statement. “There is much more that I could accomplish as first selectman.”
Moynihan will be the first Republican to challenge Mallozzi as first selectman since the incumbent defeated Paul Giusti in the GOP caucus six years ago. Mallozzi had served for four years as a selectman already.
Since Mallozzi became first selectman, the Board of Selectmen has also included fellow Republican Nick Williams, who will run for selectman this fall, and Democrat Beth Jones, who is not seeking re-election.
Mallozzi issued a statement Tuesday saying that he welcomed Moynihan’s candidacy.
“Our residents deserve a thoughtful conversation on the pertinent issues of the day and the direction the town is heading,” Mallozzi said. “This is also an opportunity for me to do something I probably don’t do enough of—talk about this special town and all of the amazing accomplishments that I’ve been a big part of during my six years in service as your first selectman.”
He cited the top-ranked schools system, New Canaan’s AAA credit rating, pension fund management and support for seniors.
Democrat and longtime New Canaan resident Kit Devereaux—a member of the Parks & Recreation Commission who has served on the Board of Finance, Town Council and Charter Revision Commission as well as with numerous nonprofit organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Kiwanis Club and as co-chair of the May Fair—also has announced that she is running for first selectman. It is unclear whether the Democratic Town Committee also will put forward a candidate for selectman—the DTC’s caucus also will be held July 18.
Told of Moynihan’s candidacy, Devereaux said: “I think this is going to be a really interesting election season and it will engender a lot of discussion bout the current direction of the town and the path the community would like to take in the future. I think the more voices involved in this discussion, the better it is for everyone.”
That trio of first selectman candidates—Devereaux, Mallozzi and Moynihan—also will face New Canaan resident Michael Nowacki, who has said he intends to run again as a petitioning candidate.
Yet only one Republican candidate for first selectman will earn the backing of the RTC. The candidate who loses at the caucus may pursue a September primary to overturn that vote, or could pursue a petitioning candidacy on the ballot that would put his or her name in front of voters though not on the party line.
Moynihan said that he’s a Republican and would not run as a petitioning candidate.
Two years ago, in a municipal election that saw strong voter turnout, Mallozzi earned more than 10 times the votes as Nowacki, though the summer of 2015 itself was unusual in that the first selectman declined to recognize Nowacki’s candidacy and opted not to participate in a debate.
Mallozzi has said he would participate in a debate this election cycle.
Moynihan has been an active volunteer as a board member of the New Canaan Community Foundation and Getabout, Inc and has been a member of the Exchange Club of New Canaan, Men’s Club of New Canaan, and the RTC.
“Our lives in New Canaan have been blessed as communicants of St. Aloysius Parish and as members of the New Canaan Field Club and the Country Club of New Canaan,” Moynihan said in his statement.
During the interview, Moynihan answered questions about why he is choosing to run for office in New Canaan as opposed to, for example, seeking a position in the Trump administration.
“Obviously I worked on the Trump campaign as I had on the [Mitt] Romney campaign, and the Trump campaign was very small,” he said. “I was surprised. The national finance committee was 90 people. The transition finance committee was 70 people. And so if you want to go work for the Trump administration, there are 4,000 jobs they have to fill. I decided initially I had no interest in going overseas. We have four grandchildren in Greenwich. I have talked to them, and we still talk, but I think I can contribute more in New Canaan.”
Moynihan described himself as a “creative problem-solver” with a background in working for leading investment banks in New York City and Chicago, who will “bring this skill set to the first selectman’s office to deal with the complex problems facing our town.”
He painted a picture of impending problems for New Canaan, citing Connecticut’s “declining financial condition” and the “added burdens that will be placed on us locally as a result is a risk.”
“We are at risk of a falling real estate tax base as high-income executives and affluent retirees move to more tax-friendly states,” Moynihan said in his statement. “We are at risk of becoming a less desirable choice for young families moving from New York City due to our severe shortage of commuter parking. And we are at risk of a deteriorating retail sector in our downtown village.”
During the meeting, Moynihan ordinance pushed through in two months for Audit Committee. It was just an example where I and KC pushed it through. I think we never expected. I expected the Audit Committee would come in and meet three times a year and say, ‘Things are fine.’ Instead we got a very powerful Audit Committee and they found that things were not fine. And mainly about financial controls. It’s not really a question of the numbers. It’s a question of the financial controls. And also the ability to just close the books. If you have a finance director that cannot close the books in her fifth year in office, that’s a personnel problem. And it took over two years to realize we had a personnel problem. Three years. It was masked by [former Budget Director] Jennifer [Charneski] because she was so good.”
In his prepared statement, Moynihan outlined a list of what he called “critical issues” and laid out his plans to address those matters. In addition to the parking, they include:
- Transparency in government—“I will work in a collaborative way with the Town Council, the Board of Finance and other town bodies to ensure that the public’s business is done in a transparent and inclusive manner.”
- Financial administration—“I will ensure that we have proper leadership in our Finance Department so that we will no longer have recurring material weaknesses in our accounting and financial controls.”
- Cellular phone service—“We need to solve the town’s problem of inadequate or non-existent cellular phone and data service in large parts of town. I will provide the political leadership needed to address this critical public safety issue.”
- Natural gas—“Eversource proposes to bring natural gas to our schools, our downtown village and to many residents beginning in 2018 with the prospect of millions of dollars in future energy savings to taxpayers and homeowners. I will ensure that Eversource has an enthusiastic municipal partner to complete their plan.”
- Affordable Senior Housing—“I will work earnestly to facilitate private construction of sorely needed ‘senior-friendly’ housing units for moderate-income seniors who are leaving New Canaan for lower cost areas.”
“New Canaan is a special town with special people,” he said in his statement. “I believe that new leadership can make our town even better.”