The mayoral race in Wallingford has focused on the differences between the two candidates, Democrat Riley O’Connell and Republican Vinny Cervoni. O’Connell is still the newcomer, despite having fared well in his unsuccessful challenge to Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. two years ago. Cervoni is the Town Council veteran, having served since 2009, the last decade as chairman.
Yet, what also bears pointing out are essential similarities, which boil down to a commitment to Wallingford and its well-being. Campaigns are about making distinctions, of course, and establishing differences, but that point of agreement is important as well. Wallingford is well served in this election by two outstanding candidates.
Wallingford residents know that their town is special in that for 40 years it has been led by a single individual. The shadow of Dickinson’s tenure has been a constant during this election. Many of the issues candidates have singled out for improvement, as in the dilapidated condition of Community Pool, are the responsibility of the Dickinson administration. Dickinson was at times during his tenure considered unbeatable, because voter loyalty seemed to transcend some of the issues that have been hot topics of election debate. It’s fair to say that neither O’Connell nor Cervoni can count on similar loyalty. The winner will need to be prepared to hit the ground running.
A vote for Cervoni is a vote for continuity. He has been a close ally of Dickinson on the Town Council, supporting the mayor’s budgets and the approach behind the budgets. One result is a “rainy day” fund that has been bulging for decades.
O’Connell is not alone in wanting to see something done about that, and has pointed to years of tax increases, offering a different approach. While other Republican councilors have felt free to go against Dickinson when it comes to budgets, that group has not included Cervoni.
O’Connell earns admiration for fresh ideas. If elected, he would join Ben Florsheim, Middletown’s mayor, as a young leader in Connecticut municipal government. His approach can be found in detail on his website. There is a plan when it comes to infrastructure, something Wallingford greatly needs. Improving technology, an issue that repeatedly failed to sway voters sufficiently against Dickinson, looks to be something the town can finally look forward to with either candidate.
The question of ethics brought against Cervoni, including his favorable vote on a settlement with United Concrete, has become a source of criticism for some voters, as evidenced by readers’ opinions expressed in the Record-Journal, but ethics is not at issue when it comes to the Republican candidate. He has served with integrity, though a shortage of fresh ideas and proposals during his tenure merits criticizing.
Some have complained about negative campaigning, and there is the thought that what’s become familiar on the national and state level doesn’t belong in town politics. Voters need to make their own decisions about how they feel about that.
It’s a difficult decision, and both candidates and their supporters have made strong arguments for their cause. A perspective worth emphasizing is that a new mayor will be elected to serve for two years. Considering Dickinson’s longevity as mayor, that might not seem so obvious. The new mayor will have two years to show voters why he needs more.
One way to look at it is the simple way of comparing experience. Cervoni has a lot of it when it comes to municipal government, and O’Connell does not. Another way to look at it is in whether Cervoni, after years of serving in Dickinson’s shadow, has earned the opportunity to demonstrate in two short years that he can be the leader Wallingford needs. We expect there will be many voters who will answer yes to that question, and we do, too.