Democrats endorse Stillman for mayor
Democrat Larry Stillman threw his hat in the political ring Tuesday night and jubilant Democrats endorsed him as their mayoral candidate with cheers and two standing ovations.
A current Board of Education member, Dr. Stillman will face off against Incumbent Mayor Pat Murphy, who was endorsed for a third term by Republicans last week.
"Our system provides for people to compete for votes," Mayor Murphy said Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to continuing to do a great job for New Milford."
The New Milford First Party may also endorse a mayoral candidate at its caucus Sunday Aug. 5. Two years ago the fledgling party endorsed Mayor Murphy.
Democratic Board of Education member Tom McSherry said "He will be missed," on the board, but remarked Democrats have "a wonderful candidate for mayor. He will do us all proud."
As Dr. Stillman's name was formally announced, finance board member Shelly Pruss, the party's mayoral candidate in 2003, shouted "Give em' hell, Larry.''
Dr. Stillman, 69, is a fan of the late president Harry Truman, who he said had promised to give "those Republicans hell and they are going to learn to love it."
A retired podiatrist, who for years had the license plate DR. TOE and now has the license plate MAVEN, promised a hard-hitting, clean, fair but intense campaign. He described the term maven as Yiddish for a "self-styled expert."
The newly endorsed mayoral candidate said New Milford needs measured residential growth, support for businesses and support for schools.
Well-supported schools, he said, are key to attracting quality people to town.
"Mayor Murphy has cut our school budget every year with no rationale as to why," Dr. Stillman said.
"We've got to take care of our infrastructure, our roads and bridges," he said, adding "no-bid" contracts would not occur when he's mayor.
Mayor Murphy, however, said Wednesday what Dr. Stillman is saying "is misleading."
"The school budget has increased every year," the mayor said.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Pat Sherry said Mayor Murphy and Republican incumbents have returned civility to government, kept taxes low, and made infrastructure improvements.
She said good education is not based on the amount of money that is spent on it.
"We [Republicans] believe in quality education at an affordable cost to the taxpayers," she said. "The Democrats feel the more money spent the better the education."
Democratic Town Committee chairman and Councilman John Lillis said Dr. Stillman is "an outstanding candidate" who has been an advocate for children and schools and "as mayor would be an advocate for the entire community."
"If people listen to him, he'll be elected mayor," Mr. Lillis predicted.
"I think he'll be fabulous," said school board member David Lawson, who has also worked with Dr. Stillman.
He said it's a disservice to voters if there is no clear-cut choice in an election and is glad Democrats will have a mayoral candidate.
"Republicans have a stranglehold on town government," Dr. Stillman said after the caucus, remarking he's been thinking of running for mayor for a long time, in part because he believes he could do more as mayor than on the school board.
"It's not brain surgery," he said of the mayor's position. "It takes a modicum of common sense dealing with people to work together for the common good. I'm not an ideologue."
"I listen to people," he said. "I take what people have to say and try to incorporate that into my thinking."
Known for his wit and sense of humor, Dr. Stillman said "politics is too serious to be taken seriously."
He promised to govern fairly, with civility and with a sense of humor.
An admirer of President Truman, Dr, Stillman said, "Truman rose from modest origins, was self taught about history and made tough decisions when he had to."
He said he has always been interested in history and psychology "because I like people."
A town resident since 1962, Dr. Stillman retired in 2000, after 38 years as a podiatrist.
He and his wife of 46 years, Fredricka, who is better known as Freddie, are the parents of four and grandparents of two.
Mr. Pruss said he's "thrilled" Dr. Stillman is challenging Mayor Murphy.
"I think he's going to hold her accountable," Mr. Pruss said. "He's going to say what's on his mind."
"I think the whole slate is pretty strong, a real mix of people old and young," Mr. Pruss commented.
Democrats endorsed incumbent Town Council members John Lillis, Peter Mullen and Mary Jane Lundgren for council seats. They also endorsed Mary Patricia Issavi and Walter Bayer for the council.
Incumbent Board of Finance member Gale Alexander was endorsed for another four year term. Current finance alternate George Barnett was also endorsed for a four year term.
Former Councilman Frank Wargo, the EDC chairman, was endorsed for a two-year seat on the Board of Finance.
Endorsed Board of Education candidates include incumbents Lisa Diamond and David Lawson for four-year terms and Incumbent Elizabeth Finney and Amy Olander Llerena for two-year terms.
Incumbent Zoner Sharon Ward, Kevin Jackson and Jacqueline Broder-Walker were endorsed for Zoning Commission.
For the Planning Commission, Democrats endorsed incumbents Bob Rush and Jeremy Schulz for four-year and two-year terms respectively, and also Terry Ellis for a four-year term.
Democrats also endorsed the following candidates: Incumbent Tax Collector Cathy Reynolds for a sixth term; EDC member Jeff Burcaw for Board of Assessment Appeals; Lisa Alexander, Richard Dugdale and Matthew Pruss for Zoning Board of Appeals.