Stephanie Philips announces run for Mayor

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Stephanie Philips made it official on Tuesday March 7th, leaving no room for ambiguity.

“Not an exploratory; I’m a mayoral [candidate],” Philips said after filing her paperwork on Tuesday at the town clerk’s office. “Not an ‘if,’ not a ‘maybe,’ but I’m in it to win it.”

 

Philips, a former three-term councilman and current Stratford Democratic Town Committee chairman, is the first candidate to announce her intention to run for the town’s highest office in what is expected to be a hectic election season in Stratford.  

A group of fellow Democrats applauded after Philips filed her election forms with Town Clerk Susan Pawluk.  StephaniePhilipsPortrait-240x300.jpgDemocrats will officially choose their nominee on July 20.

“This campaign is going to be about what I’m going to do for the town of Stratford, for the people of Stratford,” said Philips, who noted she is the first black woman and gay woman to run for the office. “It’s not going to be about what the other guys are. It’s going to be about my vision and articulating it.”

Philips said she wants to work on capping taxes, reducing expenditures, growing the town’s economy, and finding projects that fit the community.

“I’m going to talk about bringing people together. I’ve had a lot of experience, I’ve volunteered in town over the last 20 years. I’m hoping to bring a lot of coalitions of people together of different backgrounds and areas of experience,” she said.

Philips, who has lived in Stratford since 1980, said she thinks she has “better ideas” to reduce taxes, and believes she is qualified for the mayoral job.

“I jumped in this race to demonstrate that we can do better and I know how to do it,” she said.

Philips chose to enter the race early to get organized for the campaign.

“This is the time to get out and talk about how we can do better, not later on after everybody has made a decision. I’m not that person. I don’t mind getting out in front and leading, and that’s what leadership is about,” she said.

A big idea on Philips’ agenda is making Stratford “a destination place.” Part of that is getting the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre open again and marketing the town and its events better.

“We don’t market our town as well as we can and I think we can do better,” she said.

As she did during her time on the Town Council, Philips offered criticism of Mayor John Harkins’ administration.

920x920.jpg“They have had full control over the last eight years. I have not been happy that it has resulted in more taxes, that we continually are in lawsuits time after time [and] we don’t support the public’s opportunity to voice their opinion,” she said.

Philips pointed to the failed proposed sale of the Stratford Water Pollution Control Authority in 2015, something she called “a mess” that caused residents to lose faith in the administration. The fight to stop the planned sale of the sewer plant created “a watershed moment,” Philips said.

“That whole issue was about the fact that this administration chose to ignore the will of the public,” she said, referring to the town’s rejection of a petition to force a referendum on the proposed sale. Harkins and many town Republicans supported the sale of the plant to the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority. A Superior Court judge ordered the town to accept the signatures, which led to the townwide vote. Residents overwhelmingly rejected the sale in the November 2015 election.  

Philips has the backing of two current council members. Fifth District Councilman Greg Cann offered his support.

“Stephanie articulates issues with clarity, and her judgment is based on a reasonable evaluation of the facts. She leads with an open mind, is accessible and she values everyone’s input,” Cann said.

Wali Kadeem, the 3rd District councilman, said Philips is needed to “restore the trust in town leadership” that was lost after the WPCA battle.

“I am convinced that now more than ever Stratford needs a leader who will make sure all of us can benefit, and not just a chosen few. Stephanie cares about people,” Kadeem said.

Harkins said Wednesday that Philips is “too political” to be mayor.

“The fact that Stephanie Philips is the head of the Democrat Town Committee is proof positive that she is simply too political to hold the office of Mayor,” Harkins said in an email on Wednesday. He added that residents “have figured out since that [2015] election that they were mislead by Ms. Philips in a cynical political ploy to win an election.”

While Philips is the first candidate, she may face a challenge for her party’s nomination. Fellow Democrat and former DTC Chairman Len Petruccelli said two weeks ago that he was filing an exploratory committee to run for public office, though he did not indicate which office he would seek.

No Republicans have announced their mayoral aspirations, though Harkins said Wednesday that he would make his intentions known “in the not-too distant future.”

Story by Melvin Mason at the Stratford Star

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