WALLINGFORD — The fifth time was the charm for Jesse Reynolds.
The fourth-generation Wallingford resident comes from a well-known town family — his father served on the Board of Education and his grandfather was the deputy police chief for more than two decades — but winning a seat on the Town Council had always eluded him.
Reynolds, who serves on the Wallingford Public Library Board of Directors and volunteers in town soccer matches, first ran as a Democrat for the council in 2007, then in 2009 and 2017. After losing for the fourth time in 2019, Reynolds declared he would not run again. But at the urging of family members, local residents and the Democratic Town Committee, Reynolds said he threw his hat in the ring one final time.
And he finally won.
Reynolds, who garnered 6,638 votes, compared to 5,200 in 2019 and 4,077 in 2017, said it was a combination of persistence, name and face recognition, and the issues that put him over the top and onto the council.
“It has a lot to do with name recognition, but it also has a lot to do with being involved in the town with various organizations,” said Reynolds, a statistician at Yale University. ”I think the fifth time around, people knew enough about me, and I had knocked on many doors, to give me a chance.”
Most communities in Connecticut saw voter turnout between 20 and 30 percent, but 52 percent of registered Wallingford voters cast a ballot.
Reynolds said he believes the high turnout was due, in part, to the decision by Republican Mayor William Dickinson Jr. not to seek a 21st two-year term. Republican Vincent Cervoni ended up defeating Democrat Riley O’Connell in the race for mayor; Republicans held on to a 6-3 council majority.
Reynolds told CT Examiner on Friday that there were other factors at play as the reason for a high voter turnout.
“I’d say in the last month that the messaging got more and more personal and pointed, as they [Cervoni supporters] started up a PAC group called ‘Democrats for Cervoni,’’’ Reynolds said.
Both parties turned out their voters, he said, “but in the end, the top of our ticket just came up a little bit short.”
Reynolds ran his campaign highlighting ways to get the youth more involved in the town, infrastructure and volunteering. He also said he supports O’Connell’s proposal to have term limits in the city, favoring a maximum six two-year terms, or 12 years, for mayor. Any term limit measure would mean changing the current language in the town charter.
“I think a 12-year term limit on mayor is not a bad idea,” he said. “Twelve years is a long time and it allows new people to come forward with ideas. I think the other way around, it kind of leads to stagnation because you do not see a new fresh set of eyes.”
Infrastructure was a top priority for the mayoral candidates, as well as for most council candidates.
Reynolds said there needs to be more focus on the infrastructure in town because “Wallingford is kind of crumbling and falling apart, little by little. Our town-owned buildings need a lot of work and our sidewalks and roads also need a lot of attention.”
Reynolds noted that the youngest school building in town was built in 1970, and that many of the schools require upgrades and repairs.
As it relates to the local youth, Reynolds said, “Parks and Rec does a really great job of coordinating the scheduling and things like that, but we need a different approach. We can improve upon the technology within Parks and Rec and how we communicate with residents. We should also do a little more advertising for programs for the youth. I’d like to be a champion for a public/private kind of relationship. It can’t be all public; I don’t think that is sustainable.”
Reynolds also said volunteering is essential for strong communities.
“I absolutely would recommend that people volunteer as it’s a way to not only help your community, but to get and know the people in your community,” Reynolds said. “People seeing other people involved in the community makes that community stronger. You set the example by being the example.”
Wallingford Democratic Town Committee Chairperson Alida Cella told CT Examiner that Reynolds “really did work his butt off; I am so proud of him.”
“He pushed through,” Cella said. “He knows a lot about the history of Wallingford, and specifically the political history of Wallingford. He knows a lot of people in town and those connections are so important in getting things done.”
Reynolds will be sworn in on Jan. 8, 2024, the date of the Town Council’s first meeting of the new year.