Walter Briggs has been active in the Norwalk community for 32 years. He has been Chairman of the Norwalk Planning Commission since 2002. He’s also a member of the Democratic Town Committee and the District E Committee. He received the Democratic nomination to run for Mayor of Norwalk at the Democratic Town Committee meeting July 23.
His wife Gwen is a Common Council member representing District E. As Chairman of the Norwalk Planning Commission, Briggs initiated the East Avenue Village District. He led the completion of the Norwalk Plan of Conservation and Development and served as chairman of the South Norwalk Study committee, the Mid-Harbor Study Committee and the Industrial Study Committee.
Briggs, 72, delayed his official announcement July because he wanted to be sure he was free of prostrate cancer, for which he was treated earlier this year. He said his doctors have assured him the disease has been eradicated.
Briggs works full time as a stockbroker with Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC, Darien. He is a member of the Rowayton Art Center and serves on the board of directors of the Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance Clinic. He is also a member of the Democratic Town Committee and the District E Committee. He has a B.S. in marketing from Lehigh University. Walter has been married to his wife, Gwen for more than 50 years. They have eight children and 22 grandchildren.
NP: Please give us a few words on your background and qualifications for mayor.
Briggs: I’ve been Chairman of the Planning Commission for five years. I saw in the Planning Commission process that many different constituencies wanted to be involved. People are eager to have a voice in how the city develops. I want to continue the dialogue between city and citizens. I have a background in business, planning and finance—all necessary to move Norwalk forward so that people will want to come to live, work and enjoy life in Norwalk.
NP: Education in Norwalk: what of the following areas need improvement and/or expansion?
- Job training?
Briggs: The city should work with NCC and other constituencies to provide training for under-educated and under-employed citizens.
- College prep?
Briggs: We are doing a fairly good job in this area. We need to move more people toward college, to get them educated upward. We need to look at ways to help less privileged people to be able to afford college.
- Stay in school and after-school programs?
Briggs: We need to continue to empower the After-school Alliance to keep kids interested so that they will want to sty in school. We can’t make kids stay in school; they have to want it.
Briggs: The Early Childhood Action Plan has been developed. We need to get it moving and quickly.
Briggs: Athletics are necessary in the schools. Our programs are doing very well, and kids need them. We have to give the students the things that they need.
NP: The healthcare issue, how does this huge national problem impact on Norwalk? What would you do to improve healthcare in Norwalk?
Briggs: It is a national issue and needs to be resolved nationally. Its impact on Norwalk is that our health insurance costs for city employees go up every year. We need to improve health organizations in the city and care for our uninsured citizens. I will work to get universal coverage for all of the citizens of our state.
NP: With so many buildings going up, the antiquated infrastructure is definitely an issue. What are your plans for improving roads, storm sewers and sewer lines?
Briggs: First of all, I can assure you that working with new developers and finance (the city Finance Commission) all new development must ensure that infrastructure will be financed. We need creative, out-of-the-box thinking. We will create additional funds to handle these problems. We need to create additional funds to speed up repair of infrastructure so that we are not doing “Band-Aid” fixes but building what we need as we go along. We need to get everything up to speed in the next three-five years.
NP: Will there be enough sewage treatment to handle the city’s growth? Is enough money budgeted to do more than stick a “Band-Aid” on these problems?
Briggs: I believe that there will be (enough money). Sewage treatment is financed off (the city’s) balance sheet, it is not part of Norwalk’s tax base. New fees to bring development on line will be adequate to cover expansion of sewers and treatment.
NP: What are your plans if elected? How would your programs differ from those of your opponent?
Briggs: My plans are forward-looking, not backward or reactive. My plans (for the City) have been sent to the Common Council and are ready for adoption. My plans for conservation and development have been sent to Common Council and will be my bible.
NP: Do you have plans for reducing the crime rate in Norwalk?
Briggs: All you can do is hope to get more police officers on the streets. A number of places on the force need to be filled. I will work with the police department, the police commissioner and the Police Commission to see what other programs will be needed to reduce crime and increase the numbers of police, both men and women on street.
NP: What is your take on the changing face of Norwalk as it becomes home to many small and mid-size corporations?
Briggs: I think it’s terrific! It’s a great opportunity, which affords our citizens better jobs. Small and mid-sized companies won’t need to import people to fill jobs. The more of these companies that we get, less chance we will have of a recession, like in the past when our manufacturing base closed down and we were dependent on one company. Many smaller companies will keep the tax base going.
NP: The vision thing—how would you like to see Norwalk in 10 years?
Briggs: I have an idea of what I’d like to see. I would like to see Norwalk remain a diverse community with a vibrant downtown area full of shops, offices and restaurants. Our suburban areas need to remain beautiful, parks to remain beautiful. And, I’d like to see the historical heritage of Norwalk to shine through.
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