New Canaan’s Kimberly Norton, a Republican who was elected to the Town Council in 2021, has announced her candidacy for first selectman. We put some questions to Norton, the second GOPer to announce her candidacy for the highest elected office in New Canaan. (Dionna Carlson announced earlier this month. The Republican Caucus, where local GOP members vote to decide which candidates will receive party backing for the election, is scheduled for July 25.)
Our exchange with Norton follows.
New Canaanite: What is your background professionally and in terms of living and volunteering here in New Canaan?
Kimberly Norton: I attended a liberal arts college, Connecticut College in New London, and graduated with honors in psychology. After college, I worked with children as a mental health counselor in a psychiatric hospital, as a caseworker for at risk teenagers, and as a counselor in a therapeutic school for children. I got my Masters and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Fordham University where I was a Presidential Scholar, as well as the recipient of a Teaching Fellowship. My training included assignments at New York Hospital, Fordham University Counseling Center and Manhattan Psychiatric Center, where I completed advanced training. Upon graduation, I worked at New York City Police Department, becoming a forensic psychologist. I also started a private adult psychotherapy practice in New York City and maintained that for many years while raising my children.
I moved to New Canaan with my husband Bill and our four children in 2008, and I have been an active and engaged volunteer ever since.
I was elected to the Town Council in the general election, after winning the Republican nomination in a contested caucus, in 2021. In the general election, I earned 3962 votes and was the highest vote getter for new candidates, coming in 192 votes less than the First Selectman. As a Town Council member, I’ve reviewed and evaluated the Town and Board of Education budget for the past two years. I currently serve as the Co-Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, where I closely follow our town’s response to important health issues. As a member of the Bylaws and Ordinance Committee, I advocated for a larger Affordable Housing Committee to make room for more members. I also advocated early on to reinstate the Utilities Commission, and to make it larger than the originally planned 5 members. Town Council recently approved a 9 member Utilities Commission. I am also a member of the Land Use, Recreation and Conservation Committee.
My local volunteerism includes committee chair positions at South School, Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School (NCHS); Service League of Boys Liaison to the Rotary Club of New Canaan; New Canaan Cares NCHS Leadership Program; National Charity League; NCHS Library Volunteer; NCHS Grant Committee Member; NC Recreation Soccer Coach; NC Lacrosse Team Manager; St. Aloysius Parishioner and member of the New Canaan League of Women Voters.
My public advocacy work includes reviving New Canaan’s ‘Slow Down in Our Town’ public safety project to reduce speeding, increase pedestrian safety, and to raise awareness about the dangers of texting and driving, especially for new high school drivers.
In 2016, I was a founding advocate for the first ever student data privacy bill passed into law in CT – Public Act 16-189: An Act Concerning Data Privacy- that protects school children’s online privacy.:
I also advocated for safe, careful and thorough PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) remediation during the Saxe Middle School auditorium renovation. My advocacy was informed by my experience in New York City leading a parent effort to remediate PCBs at PS199, the elementary school that my children attended. By engaging local and national politicians, the School Construction Authority and the EPA, city wide PCB remediation took place and the first ever PCB threshold levels were set for children in public schools.
In 2018, I wrote a book called Story: the art of standing out, geared to help young adults get into college, land their first job, and career climb. It debuted as a best seller in its category. I produced and narrated an audiobook of the same title. It was a great learning experience that honed my ability to lead a cross functional team of editors, designers, proofreaders, marketers and an audio production group.
Why are you running for first selectman?
I’ve spent my life helping others and now I want to do the same for our town. New Canaan is at tipping point where the peace, quiet and safety we have come to expect is being challenged. Residents from all over town have asked me to run and I am very well versed in issues facing the town as a current member of Town Council. I am confident that I can make a positive difference in the lives of our residents. As a transparent leader and driven advocate for New Canaan, I will effectively collaborate with all our residents, town government leaders and state representatives in Hartford to protect our Next Station to Heaven. My attention to detail, strong work ethic, strategic acumen and open mindedness to new and creative ideas will position the New Canaan Community to coalesce and work together in a bipartisan manner to succeed, remaining one of the best places in the country to live and raise a family.
What do you view as the biggest issues facing New Canaan?
- Shared Vision: We need to develop a new shared vision for New Canaan. Residents deserve more transparency especially before important decisions are made. As a first selectman, I will listen to residents, seek input in a professional manner, build consensus and deliver results. I will communicate in a timely manner, and provide access to important documents, contracts, financials and studies affecting our town. I will also make sure that that the Freedom of Information Act is followed by all town bodies, including all subcommittees.
- Develop an Affordable Housing Strategy: We need to develop an affordable housing strategy that ensures that residents have input and control over how the town meets the requirements of 8-30g. I will engage our state representatives to ensure we are making our best efforts to advocate for New Canaan in Hartford. I will coordinate this strategy with our new Affordable Housing Committee, Planning and Zoning and incorporate it into our Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). Prioritizing our residents’ enjoyment of their property and our town’s quaint New England charm, while meeting the 8-30g affordable housing demands, is achievable with thoughtful strategic planning. Senior housing is also an unmet need that requires our attention. Let’s lead the state on these issues with best practices while preserving our natural landscape and beauty.
- Better telecommunications strategy: We need to challenge all proposals to improve cell service to ensure that the least invasive technologies have been considered. I will lead the efforts to find solutions that protect our public land, and not pursue private land to build cell towers on. The need for cell service has to be objectively vetted by a neutral third-party entity that can provide a transparent baseline that targets gaps in cell coverage. New, cutting-edge technologies, with a focus on carrier neutrality, need to be explored to fix coverage gaps while prioritizing valuable public land, our residents’ enjoyment of their property, protecting our local schools and assuring first responders’ safety and effectiveness.
- Continue to support our schools with a focus on safety: We need to maintain our school excellence and place a priority on funding school safety, as determined by the BOE, to assure that children and teachers are protected at the highest level possible while simultaneously supporting our highly valued first responders – police, fire and EMS – who keep us safe.
- Reduce tax burden: We need to analyze spending and find ways to reduce it given New Canaan has one of the highest debt per capita ratios in the state in order to offset the high-cost burden of living in our town and in Connecticut. Keeping our mill rate down supports our property values and community desirability.
- Support local businesses: We need to nurture our downtown businesses. They were hit hard by Covid and stayed the course. I will do the same for them by supporting our local Chamber of Commerce and our Tourism and Economic Development Advisory Committee (TEDAC) in their work to promote New Canaan. We are a shopping, restaurant, and cultural heritage destination.
- Historic preservation: We need to respect and honor our history by preserving and retaining our historic structures. We’ve seen how much passion our community has for historic buildings. Respecting our past and the lived history of our residents makes our community stronger and more vibrant. Exploring public private partnerships to offset the costs of preservation for taxpayers will be explored should the need arise.
- Focus on physical and mental wellbeing of residents: We need to be aware of the after effects of the Covid Pandemic. Raising awareness of this and working to help anyone who suffers mentally or physically is our job as a community. I will elevate our Urgent Assessment Program, health officials, and resources available to our community.
How would you describe your management style?
As a public servant, I believe that the New Canaan Resident should be at the forefront of all decision making. I am a respectful, inclusive and transparent leader who communicates with stakeholders frequently and places a priority on sharing information. I listen to all points of view and surround myself with people who think differently than I do. Creativity, innovativeness and open-mindedness are qualities I value and admire in those I collaborate with. Lastly, I am steadfast and tenacious and my track record shows a multitude of completed, on budget, successful projects. I ran my own private practice business for many years, without overruns, in a responsible and sustainable fashion and will do the same for New Canaan. I will lead my team to get the job done.
Finally, tell us something about yourself that many New Canaanites likely don’t know.
I grew up in a musical family where my father and brother played the trumpet, my sister the flute and I played the piano and sang. When I was 12, I auditioned for the Needham Youth Summer Theater musicals and spent the next five summers on set. In high school, I landed one of my favorite roles as an ensemble cast member of Godspell and sang at my high school graduation. As a freshman at Connecticut College, I auditioned for the Conn Chords, an a cappella singing group. I sang with them for four years traveling all over the East Coast to perform with other groups from Brown, Yale, Princeton, Colgate and more. In my senior year, I led the group as the musical director and “pitch”, the person who blows the pitch pipe to get the group in tune. I learned to lead and work in harmony with others – a skill I possess – and one we need now in New Canaan’s First Selectman.