NEW BRITAIN – If door-knocking is any indication, New Britain’s Ward 1 on the city’s west end appears to be Mayor Erin Stewart country.
Numerous political signs for Stewart, a Republican seeking her sixth two-year term as mayor, lined Brady Avenue and Harding Street, where three of the mayor’s surrogates door knocked for her late Tuesday afternoon.
Stewart, 36, is nine months pregnant and hasn’t gone door-to-door in the city for a period of time, leaving that to her supporters and those on her slate. The incumbent mayor is facing off in less than three weeks against Democrat Chris Anderson, a 34-year-old real estate accountant and relative newcomer to the city.
On Tuesday, CT Examiner tagged along, listening to residents, with Sharon Beloin-Saaverda, a candidate for Common Council and former long-time Board of Education chair; Daniel Salerno, City Treasurer; and Anthony Kane, Board of Education member. Beloin-Saaverda and Salerno are both Democrats running on the slate of the Republican mayor.
Opening her door, Beth Ann Staley, who lives on Harding Street, said that Stewart personally intervened on her behalf concerning two separate issues.
“I feel she listens,” said Staley, a 56-year-old Cheshire native. “She does what she says she will do.”
Specifically, Staley said, she had a problem with a plow that took grass from her lawn. “I complained on her Facebook page and she responded right away,” she said.
In addition, Staley, who works in Human Resources for TD Bank, said the mayor was there in 2021 when her dog Molly was severely attacked by another dog. Initially, she said, the police didn’t act aggressively on her complaint.
“It was on their list [of things to do],” she said. But, soon after she posted her concerns on the mayor’s Facebook page, Staley said the police came. “I think the mayor rushed the police to come,” she said.
It was that personal touch, residents said, as the reason they will vote Stewart, a native New Britain resident whose father Timothy served four two-year terms as mayor.
Susan Dalfonso, a 55-year-old Brady Avenue resident, echoed Staley in saying Stewart is responsive to the needs of her constituents.
“She communicates with us,” Dalfonso said. “She has social media access and is always responsive.”
Dalfonso also said she’s impressed at what Stewart has accomplished at such a young age.
“She became mayor at 26 and has accomplished a lot; it’s pretty impressive,” Dalfonso said, pointing to the school system and access to the city’s parks as two examples.
Brian and Connie Downes, who live on Brady Avenue, said they are 100 percent behind the mayor.
“I’ve known her since she was a baby and I coached and played ball with her dad, Brian said. “She has also done a lot for the inner city; she’s built apartments downtown, although they need to give more money toward the Boys & Girl’s Club. There, the city could do more.”
Salerno told Brian, a plant manager at a concrete plant, that the city has provided for the New Britain Boys & Girls Club in each of the past five years – totalling nearly $490,000 – through Community Development Block Grants.
Connie, a paraprofessional in the city’s school district, said the mayor “is for everyone, Democrats and Republicans. That’s important in New Britain, which is very diverse.”
Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about 3-1 in the city, which has about 73,000 residents, according to the city Registrar of Voters.
Martha Nowobiliski, a retired Bristol school administrator, said that many residents in her neighborhood were concerned about flooding.
“This is a flood zone,” said Nowobilski, who has lived in the area for 40 years. “We used to pay $300 in flood insurance a year but now we pay $1,000 a year.”
Salerno, also a member of the Mattabassett Sewer District, told Nowobilski that the city has no control over the price of flood insurance, but could help in other areas.
He noted that the city is currently undergoing a $90 million infrastructure project called “New Britain Flush” that is intended to take an indepth look at the city’s infrastructure, including its underground pipes, many of which are more than 100 years old.
“An assessment will be done,” Salerno said. In addition, Salerno told Nowobilski he’d personally speak to Public Works Director Mark Moriarty on her behalf after she mentioned intermittent flooding in her basement.
As Stewart’s group moved through the neighborhood, they left “Stewart for Mayor” fliers and campaign literature on more than 15 doors where the residents were either not home or declined to answer their door.
Charles and Gerri Prescott, who answered their door, are native city residents and said they have children about the mayor’s age. Both said they appreciate the economic development strides the city has made and the mayor’s attentiveness to the needs of residents.
“I think she has a lot of good ideas,” said Charles. “The revitalization of downtown is just great.” The city has seen several development projects for both affordable, market rate and luxury housing in recent years. They include the development of “The Brit,” a 107-unit apartment building in downtown and the ongoing development of the former St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School on Kelsey Street, where there will be 11 single-family homes.
Gerri said she’d like to see downtown New Britain look like downtown Middletown.
“Middletown’s downtown is amazing,” Gerri said, “There are stores, lots of restaurants and the people don’t bother you there.”
Beloin-Saavedra told Gerri that the city has seen several new restaurants open up and more vibrancy in the city’s downtown and that “the trend is in our favor” moving forward.