Tax collector announces bid for second term
GREENWICH — Keeping his eye on November, Tax Collector Howard Richman on Thursday evening became the first municipal official in Greenwich to throw his hat in the ring for re-election.
The Democrat, who is in the middle of his first two-year term, made the announcement at Town Hall. In 2017, Richman narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Tax Collector Tod Laudonia by 172 votes.
“The reason I’m running again is because of the public service aspect,” Richman said. “I’ve been in here for a year, and I’ve learned how the whole system works and the department works. The best thing about this job is dealing with the people who call up, who come in and who have an issue.”
Richman said he made his announcement early so voters would know he was honored to be in the job and wanted to continue.
In announcing his candidacy, Richman pointed to reforms he has made in the office: streamlining the deposit process for tax payments; redesigning the tax bills to cut down on potential errors by taxpayers; and enhancing the department’s website to offer more information. Richman said all of that has had an impact, with “no lines” during the busy month of July when tax payments are due.
Richman is the first candidate to make his plans known for the 2019 municipal election in Greenwich. The November ballot will include the offices of tax collector and town clerk; the entire Board of Selectmen, Board of Estimate and Taxation, and Representative Town Meeting; and four seats on the eight-member Board of Education.
No names have been announced, but Republican Town Committee Chair Richard DiPreta said Thursday that Richman will definitely face a GOP opponent.
“The RTC will field candidates for all positions this election cycle, including tax collector,” DiPreta said. “We look forward to campaigning and promoting the Republican values of good government and strong fiscal stewardship that have made Greenwich such a desirable place to live.”
DiPreta said there was no timetable for when Republican candidates would step forward.
When asked, Laudonia did not close the door on making another run, but did not kick it open, either.
“It’s not something that’s on my mind right now,” Laudonia said Thursday.
If Laudonia were to run again, it would set up a third straight election battle against Richman. In 2015, Laudonia won, 5,984 votes to 3,329 votes. But in 2017, Richman won the rematch, 6,746 votes to 6,574 votes.
While most offices in Greenwich have been dominated by Republicans, Greenwich Democrats have had past success with the tax collector’s position.
In the first race, Richman ran on the platform of eliminating the tax collector as an elected office and making it an appointed position, like the town assessor. But in 2017, he changed his platform and ran on improving the office’s performance. Richman said he saw the value of having a resident who knows the town in the position. He embraced Laudonia’s past stance about the importance of an elected tax collector.
First Selectman Peter Tesei is scheduled to declare whether he will run for a seventh term on Feb. 1. After that, Selectman John Toner, a Republican, and Selectman Sandy Litvack, a Democrat, are expected to announced their plans.
Greenwich Democratic Town Committee Chair Tony Turner introduced Richman at the Thursday event.
“He has the perspective that public service is a public trust,” Turner said. “He has the perspective that the people in his department always have the voice of the customer when it comes to service, which is exactly what you need.”
Greenwich Democrats have recorded successes in two straight elections. In 2017, the Democrats won not only the tax collector’s seat but also control of the BET for the first time in Greenwich’s recorded history. In 2018, the Democrats broke a century-long Republican deadlock on the town’s legislative delegation to Hartford in 2018. And Turner said the party is eager to continue that momentum in 2019.
“We have to continue to demonstrate we can govern,” Turner said. “We have to continue to demonstrate that the Democrats have the best voice of the voter right now. We had it in 2017, we had it in the November midterm elections, we have it today and we’re going to have it in November.”
Town Democrat John Blankley, who was among the more than 30 people who attended the event, called Richman he “gold standard” for tax collectors.