New Canaan First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectman Nick Williams announced Thursday that they’ll seek re-election to the Board of Selectmen this year.
Reading from a prepared statement he’d sent to local media prior to a biweekly press briefing in his Town Hall office, Moynihan said he’s been “honored and privileged to serve as first selectman of New Canaan.”
“I enjoy coming to work every day to help make New Canaan an even better place to live and raise a family,” he said. “I am very pleased with the success that we have had in our first 17 months. I would like to continue to serve the town that my wife Mim and I have called home for the last 38 years. I especially enjoy working with our talented and dedicated team of Town employees and collaboratively with our volunteers on the many boards and commissions that make New Canaan run.”
Both Republicans, Williams joined Moynihan at the press briefing, which was also attended by Patch and Hearst Connecticut reporters. Selectman Kit Devereaux attended the briefing as an observer. Williams said he looked forward to serving a fifth term.
“It has been an enjoyable experience with Kevin and Kit, and I think we have made a lot of progress as a town the last couple of years,” Williams said.
In his press statement, Moynihan touted a recently passed budget that came in essentially flat on a year-over-year basis, gains in commuter parking, plans for the town’s first public buildings powered by solar panels and a soon-to-be-relaunched website, among other accomplishments. Those include preserving cell antennas and emergency radio equipment on the Waveny water towers, rolling out natural gas, finding a use for the former Outback Teen Center building, transparency in government through (such as through the briefings) and “strong financial management.” Moynihan oversaw the hiring of a well-respected new budget director, in addition to other important municipal government positions, such as town planner.
Elected in 2017 by a 33-vote margin over Democrat Kit Devereaux, Moynihan had been a career attorney who served on the Town Council for four years prior to taking office.
An attorney who had served for four years on the Board of Education, including two as chairman, Williams said, “We are both lawyers and we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but I think Kevin respects my opinion—I certainly respect his.”
He referred specifically to a series of votes on the future of what became known as the “Mead Park Brick Barn,” a century-old structure on Richmond Hill Road that recently was razed. Prior to voting with Moynihan last month to have the Barn demolished, Williams had advocated, with Devereaux, for more time to be given to a local preservation group seeking to restore and use it.
At other times, Williams has appeared caught off-guard by statements Moynihan has made at selectmen meetings, such as in January when the first selectman floated the idea of paving over part of a field at Saxe in order to expand YMCA parking.
“I have never believed that it’s a good thing for the selectmen, and particularly two selectmen from the same party, to be in any disputes,” Williams said. “If I feel strongly about something, I will let Kevin know in the privacy of a caucus.”
Moynihan said, “We have disagreed on very little.”
Both elected officials came onto the ballot two Novembers ago after facing strong competition at the Republican caucus—Moynihan edged out then-First Selectman Rob Mallozzi by just 10 votes, while Williams fended off a challenge by popular Town Councilman Christa Kenin, 763-466.
It isn’t clear whether they will face challenges from within the Republican party at this summer’s caucus, or who Democrats will put on the ballot.
Asked what has been surprising to him after serving 18 months as head of the town, Moynihan said, “The thing that was unexpected, that surprised me is how terrific our town employees are.”
“Government employees get a bad rap and we have tremendous, dedicated and caring” employees, he said, who “take pride in the town even though most of them don’t live here.”
Asked about future plans for New Canaan, Moynihan said he has a “short term view as to how much I can accomplish” after losing friends and relatives in recent years.
“You really begin to realize that you don’t have too much time to accomplish things, so I really focus on trying to get things accomplished,” he said.
“I think you’ve got to be really engaged in this job to get things done,” he added. “It’s a very busy job. Not a hard job. People who have had corporate law careers—most everything I’ve seen since I came here, I’ve done, I’ve had exposure to, especially personnel maters. The only thing I hadn’t experienced in my career were union negotiations which are something we have a little reprieve on.”
Asked whether his joint or near-joint announcement of a re-election bid with Moynihan represented any change in his relationship with the Republican establishment in New Canaan, Williams said, “I’m proud to be a Republican, I have always been a Republican.”
“I consider myself to be a moderate Republican, I think on social issues I would characterize myself as a liberal. I’m not afraid to say that. I believe in moderation. What it says with respect to the town—I will be attending and always have the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner [Friday] night at Woodway Country Club. I look forward to that.”
Both Moynihan and Williams said they consulted with their families prior to deciding to run again. Moynihan, who will turn 70 this year, noted that the alternative to serving another term as first selectman is “going back to being retired,” and said that not only has he sacrificed spending time with his family, but has also seen his golf game deteriorate.
“What I like about the job is that there is so much opportunity to make New Canaan a better town,” Moynihan said.