Camillo officially joins the race for Greenwich first selectman

March 12, 2019

GREENWICH — Ending all the speculation, state Rep. Fred Camillo is making it official Tuesday night: He is running for first selectman in Greenwich.

Camillo was set to throw his hat in the ring before a crowd of supporters at the Arch Street Teen Center at 7 p.m.

He is the second high-profile Republican in town to officially seek the top elected position in Greenwich since First Selectman Peter Tesei announced in February that he would not run for a seventh term.

Camillo joins Board of Estimate and Taxation member Michael Mason as declared candidates for the job.

“I am not doing this to seek another title or because this is considered the ‘next logical step’ for me,” Camillo said Tuesday before making his announcement. “I’m doing this because I love the town I grew up in. I love my job as a state representative, but I love my town more.”

Before he was first elected to the General Assembly from the 151st District in 2008, Camillo had been a member of the Representative Town Meeting. A town native, he was re-elected to a sixth term as a state representative last November. He is a former chair of the Greenwich Republican Town Committee.

Camillo said he was “very excited” to approach this new challenge. If elected, he would be the first person in town history to serve as a member of the RTM, the General Assembly and first selectman.

“Whether on the RTM or in the General Assembly, I have always had focus om local issues so this is not unfamiliar territory to me,” Camillo said. ’This is an opportunity to run for an office that would allow me to serve my hometown in a greater role.”

Mason got off to a head start in the race, announcing his candidacy quickly after Tesei made his decision. A former chair of the BET as well as a former RTM member, Mason said he has been meeting with supporters and making his case that his 26 years of government service in town make him the right choice for first selectman.

“I’m fully established (with my campaign committee) and I am continuing to add to my web presence,” Mason said. “I’ve got my first mailing going out, and I’m preparing my first campaign event soon. We’re moving along. ... I haven’t gotten any negative feedback to running and everyone is being very supportive.”

Both Mason and Camillo are seeking the RTC endorsement, which will be given out during the summer. The candidate who does not earn the endorsement could still collect signatures and force a primary.

On Tuesday, Mason said he was “fully committed to the race” and that he believed he would look to a primary if he did not get the RTC’s endorsement.

Camillo did not say whether he would commit to a primary, but he said he felt confident about his chances.

“I feel very, very strongly that I do have a lot of support, not just in the Republican Party,” he said. “I’ve had people coming up to me and encouraging me to run and many of them have been Democrats and independents and people who are unaffiliated voters.”

RTC Chair Richard DiPreta could not be reached for comment. The RTC has established a committee to evaluate candidates for first selectman and for selectman because Selectman John Toner is not seeking another term, either.

Camillo said his priorities on the campaign trail would include parking, which he said has long been a problems, especially downtown. He opposes building new parking garages, but said other solutions could be explored with town-owned land in the area.

A longtime volunteer with local sports leagues, as well as a former chair of the town’s Board of Parks and Recreation, Camillo also touched on the need for more and better fields as well as improved facilities. He acknowledged the budgetary costs of possible upgrades and the impact that would have on taxpayers, but said he would continue to explore public/private partnerships in town.

That possibility could make a big difference in projects such as a new Eastern Greenwich Civic Center and a new Cardinal Stadium at Greenwich High School. Camillo said he wanted to avoid the kind of “piecemeal” construction that happened at the Dorothy Hamill Rink, which needs to be replaced.

If elected first selectman, Camillo pledged he would “treat my first term as if it was my last” and address the issues critical to the town without concerns about re-election.

“Like my tenure at the state capitol, I will focus on one day, one year, and one term at a time,” Camillo said.

As for the Democratic Party, the picture is less clear. No first selectman candidates have stepped forward yet, and Selectman Sandy Litvack has yet to announce his own plans. Litvack could not be reached for comment about his political plans.

But there is interest from multiple possible candidates, Democratic Town Committee Chair Tony Turner said. Last month, Turner said the DTC has a candidate search and support committee, which operates throughout the year, that evaluates possible candidates. He said there was a “line at the door” of Democrats interested in running for municipal office.

In the past two years, the Democratic Party has scored some big victories in town, including breaking a century-long Republican hold on Greenwich’s delegation to Hartford and gaining control of the BET for the first time in the town’s recorded history.

“The town is facing some major challenges and people are taking this very seriously,” Turner said. “We’re very pleased to see how many people are giving this the careful consideration it deserves”

November’s ballot will include the Board of Selectmen as well as four seats on the eight-member Board of Education, the entire 12-person BET as well as the positions of town clerk and tax collector. Additionally, the entire RTM is up for election but that is a nonpartisan body.