GREENWICH – Republican First Selectman Fred Camillo visited Spezzano Drive ahead of the Tuesday election to catch up with old friends, urging the importance of fostering working relationships as a local official.
While most candidates use mobile apps to find voters, Camillo clutched a hefty stack of canvassing lists as he walked through the Riverside neighborhood on Saturday, knocking on doors as he sought reelection against his Democratic opponent, Laura Erickson. Propping up his knee to mark off each house he visited, pieces of paper continued to slip out of his hands and onto the ground.
His method may be inconvenient, the incumbent said, but it’s how he’s always done it.
“One – it doesn’t cover everybody. Two – if you’re in a bad spot, you don’t have the reception,” Camillo said of the new canvassing software. “I used it with a couple of candidates last year. It was a total waste of time.”
Michael Hahn, a Republican Riverside resident who joined Camillo for door knocking, said the first selectman’s commitment to authentic campaigning is the entire reason he volunteers his time.
“The app is designed for digital campaigning, and that’s not what he does. He doesn’t have an algorithm spit out who he should knock on their door, and who he shouldn’t,” Hahn said. “That’s why I support him, because he cares about every resident – not just who the app tells him to.”
Camillo told CT Examiner that for all of his many campaigns – including 10 successful runs for the state House of Representatives and two prior bids for first selectman – he has knocked on the doors of Republican, Democratic, Independent and unaffiliated voters alike.
As Camillo walked through the hilly neighborhood, Michael Spezzano’s grandson invited him to come inside and visit the 92-year-old artist – a Republican whose family purchased and built houses on the street in the early 1900s, inspiring the name for Spezzano Drive.
Spezzano smiled and told Camillo that he’d just finished watching his debate against Erickson on Greenwich Community Television.
“You were very good. And your finishing speech? Very good,” he said. “You got it all in two minutes.”
Soon enough, Spezzano invited the incumbent into the basement, where he keeps a gallery of his work. His paintings included portraits of famous baseball players and landscape scenes around Greenwich. The canvases wrapped around the entire room.
“Look at this. Tod’s Point,” Camillo said as he admired the paintings. “That’s our beach. They’re beautiful.”
Camillo told CT Examiner that he’s known the Spezzano family since he was a child. Hahn said his connections with the town are the reason he’s a “one in a million” candidate.
Up the street, Camillo talked to Democratic resident Marcia Mullin. Asked if she had any issues she’d like to discuss ahead of the election, she mentioned Westchester County Airport.
Living only 10 miles from the county-owned airport, Mullin said she’s noticed that the planes are flying more frequently and lower over her house. The airport is currently proposing a federally-funded expansion, which some New Yorkers have protested in fear of long lasting environmental consequences.
“There’s so many flights coming over. How does that affect air pollution?” Mullin asked.
Camillo said he is not sure of the exact impact on air quality, but said he is in communication with George Latimer, County Executive of Westchester County. When he started to hear Greenwich resident complaints about frequent flights over their neighborhoods, he said he gave Latimer a call.
While Greenwich has no jurisdiction over the airport, Camillo said his working relationship with Latimer allows him to better understand airport operations. He said that when the Federal Aviation Administration staff hears complaints from airport neighbors, they change the flight patterns over Greenwich to give residents a break from the noise and pollution.
“We’re really at their mercy. That’s why it’s important that Greenwich has a good relationship with them,” Camillo said. “George Latimer has been terrific.”
Walking away from Mullin’s house, Hahn said the first selectman’s personal relationships set him apart from others.
“That’s the discrepancy, in my opinion, between Fred and any other politician that’s running – these personal relationships he has,” Hahn said. “He was just talking about the relationships you build over 20 years with Westchester County executives. There’s nobody who could say that.”
This story has been edited at the request of Camillo to clarify that the FAA has ultimate authority over flight patterns