Town Clerk Claudia Weber swears in Andrew Brooks at town treasurer, in the Town Meeting Room, Nov. 20, 2017. Credit: Michael Dinan
On the eve of taking office, New Canaan’s newly elected first selectman told residents that he will strive to work on their behalf through collaboration and with purpose, transparency and accountability.
Moments after he was sworn into the town’s top elected office Monday night, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan in a stirring, heartfelt speech told a standing-room only crowd at Town Hall that the major challenge facing municipal leadership is to understand and then deliver what residents want.
“We made the case that we urgently need—must have—21st century cell service throughout New Canaan,” Moynihan said from the dais in the Town Hall Meeting Room, echoing a campaign pledge while addressing the town for the first time as its first selectman, flanked by Selectmen Kit Devereaux and Nick Williams.
“We said the longstanding problems of inadequate parking must finally be addressed and resolved. We pledged that as we aspire to provide the finest education to our children we must meet the need for more affordable housing to keep our seniors living among us.”
(His speech is published in its entirety below.)
Moynihan spoke toward the end of a high-spirited, at times lighthearted Oath of Office Ceremony that saw Town Clerk Claudia Weber swear in each member of the Board of Selectmen as well as Town Treasurer Andrew Brooks.
Overseen by state Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125th), it included an invocation from the Rev. Dr. Stephen Chapin Garner from the Congregational Church of New Canaan, Pledge of Allegiance led by Boy Scout Troop 70, singing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” led by New Canaan High School seniors Kaitlyn Piotroski, Lauren Smith and Finley Vigliotti, introduction from O’Dea, comments from Rabbi Levi Mendelow of Chabad New Canaan Jewish Center and the Rev. Peter Walsh of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and a Benediction led by the Rev. Robert M. Kinnally of St. Aloysius Catholic Church.
O’Dea said that what makes New Canaan great “is our citizenry.”
“I have been through 169 of the towns in the state of Connecticut—and maybe I am a little biased—but I can say the people in this town are what make it special,” O’Dea said. “And we are lucky to have the public servants we have here, year after year, the volunteers and our elected officials on a local level. We make our town great. And what is great about New Canaan—the ‘next stop to heaven’—is that politics does not interfere on a basis that we see down in Washington, D.C. or even up in Hartford, where I tend to spend too much time. Here in New Canaan we always put—99 percent of the time—our residents first. And that really is what makes this place special. It’s amazing—the talent, the quality of the people who live in this town.”
New Canaan on Election Day saw extremely high voter turnout. Moynihan, a Republican, prevailed over Devereaux, a Democrat, by 33 votes—a margin of less than 1 percent. It’s been almost 100 years since New Canaan elected a Democrat to the town’s top job (Rodney Light in 1919).
Moynihan referred to this year’s tight race in his speech.
“Kit, I tip my hat to you,” he said.
“You ran a terrific campaign—almost too good for my liking,” he continued, drawing laughter from the room. “We both understand we will govern best if we lead and work together.”
Later, he said: “We have a big job ahead of us. As we set out, you and I can see ourselves as Democrats versus Republicans. Yet, how much better if we follow the example of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in their later years—by remembering that before and above all else, we are friends and fellow citizens, united by our love for and our dedication to this special place.”
That theme—New Canaan as a special place—coursed through remarks from the spiritual leaders who took to the podium.
Mendelow noted that it was Thanksgiving week, an appropriate time “to recognize and be grateful for the privilege and blessing we all have to live in New Canaan and be part of this wonderful community.”
Walsh noted that Devereaux and her husband, Robert Geitz, are members of St. Mark’s, and that he lived for seven years as next-door neighbor to Moynihan and his wife, Mim. Both spouses, as well as Williams’s wife Whitney, were in attendance and stood by as Weber swore in the selectmen. Walsh said it was “with a full and happy heart” that he saw the elected officials in the front row of the room “and we gather as happy-hearted people to give you the strength and power to lead with grace and wisdom.”
Garner called for the elected officials to work “side by side for the common good of all our citizens. “For this we hope, we pray and we work,” he said.
Kinnally led the room in prayer, asking God to “lead us as we ask Your blessings upon these our brothers and sisters.”
“Make them true servant-leaders, inspired by the great ones of Scripture and of history. If the day comes that it seems overwhelming, help them to know Your presence sustaining them, holding them up. We ask You to give them the graces they need to lead well.”
O’Dea toward the end of the ceremony recognized two people in attendance: Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski. Others in attendance included family and friends of those sworn in, residents and officials from municipal bodies including the Town Council and Board of Finance. In recognizing Stevenson, O’Dea also noted that the Turkey Bowl is to kick off at 10:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning at Boyle Stadium in Stamford, and with apologies to the spiritual leaders present, said he prayed for a New Canaan win.
The Oath of Office Ceremony was followed by a reception in the new lobby inside the northern entrance to Town Hall, where New Canaan veterans’ plaques hang.
Here’s the full text of Moynihan’s speech:
Thank you, Claudia, for arranging these activities tonight. I would like to thank everyone who participated—singers, scouts, reverends, rabbi.
Good evening, everyone.
To our friends, family members, fellow citizens—thank you for coming.
Thank you for being with Nick, Kit, Andrew and me as we take our oaths to carry out our responsibilities.
Outside Town Hall, today was a normal day—people lived their lives, as commuters boarded trains, shoppers visited stores, children attended school and our police, firefighters and EMS volunteers watched over and protected us.
That we can live and enjoy a day of normalcy speaks to something deeper, stronger and enduring—and that’s the strength of free people honoring and upholding our democratic institutions.
Our fellow citizens did this when they came out in large numbers, in the rain, to vote in a free and fair election—leading to this orderly transfer of authority.
Through their votes, people expressed their trust in our system—and their expectations that we will heed their will.
The people spoke and their message was clear—the citizens of New Canaan voted for new leadership.
Our challenge is not only to hear their message, but to deliver what our people want.
How, then, shall we proceed?
To begin, ours must first and always be leadership with purpose.
We made the case that we urgently need—must have—21st century cell service throughout New Canaan.
We said the longstanding problems of inadequate parking must finally be addressed and resolved.
We pledged that as we aspire to provide the finest education to our children we must meet the need for more affordable housing to keep our seniors living among us.
And, through it all, we gave our word that, week after week, month after month, we will be prudent and responsible stewards of the people’s money—our stewardship will be thorough, it will be accurate and it will be strong.
So first, leadership with purpose—and that leadership will go hand-in-hand with leadership through integrity and transparency.
The people’s trust can only be earned and kept through integrity, honesty and truth. Accordingly, my policy will be to govern with open books, open debates and an open door.
In addition, New Canaanites voted for—and I will strive to achieve—leadership through collaboration.
Kit, I tip my hat to you. You ran a terrific campaign—almost too good for my liking. We both understand we will govern best if we lead and work together.
We also will have leadership with humility. We will listen to all voices and opinions and we will follow the will of the majority. We will be servants to the wishes of you, the people.
Finally, we will have leadership with accountability—setting the mark not just for competence but excellence—then answering to the people for how well we deliver town services each and every day, and achieve our longer-term goals.
This is my commitment to our people. This will be my covenant with the citizens of New Canaan.
We have a big job ahead of us. As we set out, you and I can see ourselves as Democrats versus Republicans.
Yet, how much better if we follow the example of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in their later years—by remembering that before and above all else, we are friends and fellow citizens, united by our love for and our dedication to this special place.
Our New Canaan. A town set apart. The home of our hearts.
So then, to our town, its people and its future—let us give the best we have—today, tomorrow and beyond. Thank you and God bless you.