Not seeing ‘the nasty’ in politics
Published 4:40 pm, Monday, March 20, 2017
NEW MILFORD — State Rep. Bill Buckbee, R-New Milford, a legislator just months into the job, says he doesn’t get much sleep these days.
In his first three months in the General Assembly he has introduced 13 bills, read more bills then he can count and has spoken to more than 1,000 constituents, he said. And when he goes to Big Y in town to pick up milk or eggs, it often turns into a 45-minute affair with fellow shoppers bending his ear.
“I don’t rush anyone along. I just try to stagger the time so I can do some shopping,” said the 45-year-old. “It’s technically a part-time job, but the job is the job — not the time.”
He is 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, which makes it difficult to hide from fellow residents. And it’s not like he stays in the grocery store long shopping for a big family. He’s single with no kids.
“It used to be quick,” he said.
All the while, he has kept up with his full-time job at Harrybrooke Park, where he manages events and raises money to maintain the park and the Harden House Museum, established in 1965.
“I absolutely love it,” he said about working in Hartford. From the start, he has been pleasantly surprised by the collegial atmosphere in the state capital, unlike national and New Milford politics, where bickering has taken center stage.
“I haven’t seen the nasty in Hartford at all,” he said. “I expected it to be more ‘this is politics,’ ” with party line fights and harsh words exchanged.
There has been a learning curve, though. For example, the phrase “I promise I’ll read it” has become a reflexive response to his peers’ consistent requests for bill sponsorship, he said.
“Up there in Hartford, your word is your bond, and I like it that way,” but with that, he admits, he has inundated himself with reading material.
The 13 bills he has signed off on vary in purpose and include proposals to put passenger trains on the New Milford train line, better protect police from assault and require licenses for art therapists.
“I’m not a cookie-cutter,” he said. He votes for and proposes what he thinks the town needs, even if it seems implausible, he said.
“It’s a lot easier to be common sense than a politician,” he said.
The train bill, which so far has marked his three-month tenure, died in committee, but the idea isn’t dead.
“The naysayers say ‘they’ve been trying this for 30 years,’ ” Buckbee said. “Well, why not year 31.”
He recently had breakfast with U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., thinking federal funds for the passenger line may be easier to come by.
Then there is the budget, with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposing to cut $6.6 million of state money from New Milford next year. While Buckbee said he doesn’t yet know what will come of the proposed cuts, he said he’s fighting for all of the state aid.
Buckbee said he has been in contact with town officials, and is excited to see what the Legislature can do to save town funding.
“How do you eat an elephant?” he said. “A bite at a time.”
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