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Waterbury mayor says he won't seek reelection

Mayor Neil O'Leary announced his decision during his State of the City address Thursday afternoon.

WATERBURY, Conn. — Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary will not be seeking reelection to run the Brass City.

He announced his decision during his State of the City address Thursday afternoon.

"After much agonizing thoughts and reflections, I have decided that this will be my last term as mayor of our city," O'Leary said.

From a 21-year-old patrolman in 1980 to the chief of police, retiring in 2009. 

O’Leary was sworn in as mayor in 2011. He will have completed 43 years of service in Brass City before turning 65 this year.

“My family has made it clear to me that they would like to see if we can spend a little bit more time together. This is a 7-day-a-week job as you well know and I’m ready,” O’Leary told FOX61 after his announcement.

He thanked the Malloy and Lamont administrations, city aldermen and other city leaders for their support during his time in office. During the luncheon, he highlighted city achievements, which included growing property values and bond ratings, city revitalization, and ongoing efforts to reduce crime in the city.

"I just challenged all of you to make sure that whoever represents the mayor - whoever the next mayor is or during the campaign - you hold them accountable to make sure that we don't go backwards to those dark days," O'Leary said to those in attendance at the luncheon.

O’Leary touted moving the Brass City from junk to AA bond rating with a net taxable grand list of $6.8 billion. He highlighted projects like the 18-month, 10-million-dollar downtown utility replacement. 

“We’re excited about the future of downtown,” he said.

This annual address will be O’Leary’s last and it was different from years prior. Hundreds of business leaders were handed a sheet of crime stats detailing 96 shootings last year of which 45 percent were committed by so-called violent felons and 18 percent by people with prior convictions. O’Leary used the podium to call for statewide policy changes to address crime before leaving office in eight months at the end of his term.  

Just four days after the city’s third homicide of 2023. O’Leary turned to crime stats and called for stricter punishments for felons. 

“When you hear about crime in Connecticut or anywhere in the country don’t look to the police, look to the legislature,” he said.

Comptroller Sean Scanlon said Waterbury and Connecticut are "stronger and safer" thanks to O'Leary's work as mayor.

“Public service and dedication to his community is something he has spent his entire life doing. Possessing an unmatched love for his city, Waterbury's progress under his leadership is both extremely visible and incredibly remarkable," Scanlon said in a statement, and then added, "Given the sacrifices he has made for his community, I hope that whatever exciting chapter is next for him allows him to spend some more continuing to be both."

Mayor of Hartford Luke Bronin calls O'Leary a "true friend" of his and a "tireless advocate" for the state.

"He’s as good at getting things done as anyone I know, and he combines that skill with a deep commitment to doing the right thing, sticking to his principles, fighting for what he believes in, and working every day to make things better for his city and for our state," Bronin said of O'Leary in a statement.

Attorney General William Tong also released a statement regarding O'Leary, saying, "Mayor O’Leary has been a singular and essential partner in Connecticut’s unified fight to hold the addiction industry accountable for the devastation of the opioid epidemic. His selfless leadership has made an invaluable impact not only in Waterbury but across Connecticut and nationwide. He is the definition of a public servant, and his steady voice, friendship, and guidance will be sorely missed. I wish him and his family all the best."

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As of Thursday, two people have filed paperwork with the town clerk to be the next mayor: Democrat Keisha Gilliams and Republican Dawn Maiorano. 

O’Leary says he encouraged his Board of Aldermen President Paul Pernerewski Jr. to file exploratory paperwork recently.

“Obviously he’s very important to me and we’ll see where it goes from here,” O’Leary said of Pernerewski, who told Fox61 he’s moving full steam ahead in his bid for mayor.

Samaia Hernandez is a reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at shernandez@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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