GREENWICH – Democratic candidate for first selectwoman Laura Erickson walked around Loughlin Avenue Park on Saturday, stopping to talk to voters and candidates about needed changes in town leadership.
Just an hour before she was scheduled to meet Gov. Ned Lamont for a canvassing event, Erickson, a finance board member who’s served the town for over 20 years, visited Cos Cob to encourage residents to vote on Nov. 7.
Standing beside a park’s pickleball courts, Erickson caught up with Jennifer Jones, a data scientist and a Democrat running for the Representative Town Meeting. Erickson showed her a photo of the Democratic slate of candidates this year, and the two quickly began to discuss the need for candidates who better represent Greenwich residents.
“We have to bring some diversity to this group,” said Jones.
“We absolutely do,” Erickson replied.
According to the federal Census Bureau, people of color make up more than 25 percent of Greenwich’s population, with 19 percent of residents being Hispanic or Latino, seven percent being Asian, and five percent being Black.
Jones told Erickson that she is running for RTM because a few of the current members are “extremists” who do not represent her values.
“I cannot possibly, in good faith, not stand up to people who are going to represent the Confederate flag, who are going to be intentionally antisocial because they don’t like having Black people in their neighborhood, the people who get up off their porches and walk away when they see me coming,” Jones said.
The RTM candidate suggested that in order to improve the diversity in Greenwich, town officials should stop embracing “Reaganomics” and embrace the 21st-century realities of the country. Erickson agreed, and offered up a suggestion of her own.
“We also need to diversify our housing stock,” Erickson said. “I’ve been doing a lot of door knocking, and people’s rents are skyrocketing.”
Erickson said some in town have been “fear mongering” by putting up signs that say, “Stop the high rises.” But in reality, she said, she and the Democratic Town Committee want to work with local agencies to support public housing and workforce development.
Heading down the street onto Cross Lane, Erickson knocked on the door of Pragati Soni, an unaffiliated resident who is also running for RTM. Soni came outside with her daughters and discussed another overlooked group in Greenwich’s government – women.
Asked how long it’s been since a woman served as first selectperson, Erickson told the RTM candidate that it has been about 24 years. Propping open her front door, Soni agreed that she’d like to see a shift in dynamics.
“It’s time,” Soni said. “The kids keep getting confused by selectman and selectwoman. They never heard selectwoman.”
Her two daughters, who are in first and second grade, stood beside Soni and listened as the candidates discussed the recently-approved $42 million appropriation for a new Central Middle School – their local middle school.
Erickson and her fellow Democrats on the finance board spent much of the year debating the funding with Republican board members. While Democrats largely backed school board plans for the project, many of their Republican counterparts argued that the process had been rushed, and the planned school was too large given projected drops in enrollment.
But last month, the two Republican members not running for reelection voted alongside Democrats, moving the project forward. Smiling, Erickson told the students about their new school.
“When you’re in eighth grade, we might have a new school,” Erickson said to Soni’s eldest daughter. “You’ll definitely have it,” she said to the youngest daughter.
“You will definitely have a school for your sister,” Soni told her daughter. “Thanks to everyone’s efforts.”