State Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, announced a primary challenge against incumbent Democrat David Martin in the Stamford mayoral election. Also competing for the seat, is independent candidate Bobby Valentine, a former Major League Baseball manager and player.
What inspired you to run for Mayor of Stamford?
I love this city, and I want to make it work better for the people of Stamford. I believe we’re at a critical turning point right now. Amidst this pandemic, we can’t go back to the way things were.
So many people are struggling, and thousands are out of work. We’re facing challenges to our education system with students having missed time in the classroom and mold in schools. There are infrastructure problems with our roads and the train station falling apart.
I believe we need to come together as a city around bold innovative solutions to fix these challenges. I’m ready to listen, collaborate and work tirelessly for the people of Stamford so we can together lead our city forward to a brighter future.
I’m also a mom of two young boys: one is two and a half years old and the other is eight months old. Serving as a mom in the legislature and being a mom of young kids in this city makes me feel an even greater sense of urgency to make Stamford a better place for all of our kids.
That’s what this campaign is really about: the future for our kids and grandkids. I want to ensure that no child is going to bed hungry at night, and that every child has access to the same resources at schools and parks no matter their zip code.
You’re challenging the incumbent mayor, David Martin. What decisions has he made that you would’ve done differently, had you been in his shoes?
I have nothing but respect for Mayor Martin and his service to our city. I just think it’s time for a change. He’s been there eight years, and there are still so many challenges facing our city that I think we need new, fresh energizing leadership to tackle, whether it’s the mold issue in our schools, which is now a $500 million challenge, or the lack of progress made on the train station and fixing roads and infrastructure.
We just need a real, bold, innovative vision to help our city recover from this pandemic. We need an inclusive economic growth vision that helps people get back to work and revitalizes downtown to make Stamford a more flourishing city. I’m working on leading a positive, future-focused campaign really focused on tackling these challenges together.
Building close relationships and collaborating and listening is such an important part of leadership, so that’s one thing I would do differently. I hear from constituents that they don’t feel like their voices are heard. I would bring the partnerships I’ve built at the federal and state level to Stamford, developing relationships with Stamford’s boards and working collaboratively to address the problems the city faces. I would really prioritize constituent services and better servicing constituents in a timely manner, since it’s such an important part of local government. I would prioritize same-day constituent responses, so hardworking, tax-paying citizens get responses quickly, whether it’s about a pothole on the street or leaves not getting picked up.
What are the policy issues that Stamford voters should be looking at as they consider who to vote for in this election?
First and foremost is our economic recovery. Voters should elect someone who has the vision and experience to help our economy bounce back, get people back to work, and help small businesses. As co-chair of the Commerce Committee for the past eight years, I think I can bring that experience and connections at the state level to help our city do that.
We’re also facing so many infrastructure challenges, from mold in schools to the train station to roads, and we’re at an opportune moment right now with the historic investments by the Biden-Harris administration. We can really build back our city in a sustainable way so we don’t keep running into challenges every couple of years.
With education, we need to help students make up for lost time and support the mental health of teachers and students. I’d work closely with state and federal partners to get the funding Stamford schools deserve.
What are you proudest of accomplishing as a state legislator?
I’m most proud of the number of bills we’ve passed in the Commerce Committee to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. I’m so proud of our focus on women, minority, and veteran-owned businesses, as well as businesses owned by people with disabilities. For so long, the state focused on providing big tax credits to big corporations. As Commerce co-chair, my focus was on smaller businesses, which create two thirds of all new jobs, hire locally, and are so invested in our community.
I helped introduce and lead passage of bills like the Angel Investor Tax Credit to support investments in small local businesses. I also helped expand the Small Business Express Program to focus on women and minority owned businesses, and helped launch the Entrepreneurs Learner’s Permit Program to make it easier and cheaper to start a small business or startup in Connecticut.
What did you learn from your time at the Department of Homeland Security? Has your experience in counterterrorism work taught you anything that applies on the state and local level?
I was honored to work at Homeland Security for four and a half years before coming back to state government. It was an essential experience that taught me so many important skills. As director of special projects in the counterterrorism coordinators office, I was working primarily to protect cities across the country from a range of threats, ranging from terrorist threats to cyber threats to natural disasters. During my time at Homeland Security, I learned critical management and leadership skills and the importance of coordination between federal, state and local partners. I worked closely with governors and mayors across the country through FEMA and federal offices and agencies at DHS to provide support and resources. That understanding of the threats cities face, and the need to protect citizens of cities, is valuable experience as well.