|Mayor Timothy Stewart|
As a disclaimer, I am a registered Democrat. I voted for Barack Obama, Chris Murphy, Dan Malloy, and am a big fan of former mayor Lucian Pawlak and the city's Democratic aldermen. Heck, I even worked for a well known member of the Kennedy family for several years. When I get change I ask the clerk to give me only those coins with presidents that were Democrats. So what am I doing voting for a Republican? Simply put, Timothy Stewart is great at his job. As far as I know, Stewart is the only Republican to be elected as Mayor four consecutive times in New Britain. In a heavily Democratic town, those are Michael Jordan numbers. The wins are for good reason. He's a great mayor.
I use myself as an example. For over 65 years, the law office of Podorowsky, Thompson & Baron was located in downtown Hartford. Although it was a great location, I found myself constantly traveling to courthouses and agencies in New Britain. As a result, the firm decided to rent a small ramshackle office in the city as a temporary outpost. As the newest addition to the firm, it was determined that I would man the small outpost a few days a week. Our office had been a beeper store.
The paint was still drying on the walls when Mayor Stewart walked in to welcome us to New Britain. I think that was 2007. I was surprised to learn that he had an open door policy. (I had never met the mayor of Hartford.) At the time, our branch office was located in a rather depressed area. The street had drug dealers, empty store fronts and a strip club. Black garbage bags lined the pot hole filled business district. There was an empty lot not far from our office. It was strewn with debris and old tires. But there was hope. Stewart had taken the reigns of a neighborhood revitalization program. He encouraged me to invest in the future of the city. It was gonna get better.
Fast forward to 2011. Empty storefronts on Broad Street were replaced with banks, restaurants, law firms, and various stores. The black garbage bags were replaced with city garbage bins. The strip club was now a sports club that featured blues and jazz bands. An empty bank building housed a day spa, a post office and a grocery store. An award winning flower shop from Brooklyn moved into the area. A European Cafe opened its doors. A California based credit union built a new office building on the street. The debris field lot became the new home of Celebration Foods. Police walked the beat and knew the names of business owners. Long awaited street renovations were finally in gear and a new police station was being built.
Our law firm took part in Stewart's neighborhood revitalization program as well. I decided to bid on a building that once housed a bar. The former Cousins Cafe had a gotten a reputation of being a hangout for gang members. Through the neighborhood revitalization program, it is now elegant office space with high vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors, and Victorian style furniture. Sure enough, at our grand opening the Mayor was there to wish us well. We were so happy with our New Britain experience, we decided to make the city our new home. After sixty years in Hartford, our entire firm moved to New Britain.
In an age of cynicism, I like that a politician takes an interest in his constituents. I see Stewart at business openings, no matter how small. I see him shopping at local businesses. While other politicians come to glad hand for a few minutes, I see the mayor actually take part in community events. This February 22nd, I plan to pull the lever for Stewart. I encourage you to do the same.