Common Council President Richard McQuaid may change his title in city government to Town Clerk Richard McQuaid if the voters approve: McQuaid has told Patch he's running for the clerk's office.
"I will be running for town clerk," he said. "I think it's time. I want to get more involved in city government a little more than I am."
McQuaid has taken out papers to form "an exploratory committee, Friends of Rick McQuaid," which will ask for donations. McQuaid said that in the immediate future he will start to see whether or not there's enough public support for his candidacy. "If no one wants me to do it, I'd have to find something else to do."
McQuaid said he knows of no one else running for the office, either on the Democratic or Republican side.
His job as an "intervention specialist" at the Naramake Elementary School may well be cut in the next city education budget, he said, but McQuaid added that he has enough job seniority to get another, similar position elsewhere within the school district.
McQuaid, 54, said the real reason he'd like the job is because he likes "helping the citizens of Norwalk. I'm a people person. It's a place where I can get more contact with the public."
McQuaid and Garfunkel
The current town clerk, Democrat Andrew Garfunkel, is set to announce on Saturday that he's running for mayor in a bid to replace Republican Richard Moccia. McQuaid said he gets along well with both men and could work with either of them.
He has no plans to change the way Garfunkel has run the town clerk's office, he said, and he added that he thinks Garfunkel has done a fine job.
"I'm not saying I want to change anything right now, because I'd have to get in and look around before I made changes," McQuaid said. "I know there's some things Andy has put forward that haven't gone forward yet. I'd sit down with him and chat about what to do and what needs to be done."
There are about 10 employees in the Town Clerk's office, McQuaid said. Asked what experience he has as a supervisor, he pointed out that he's managed a group of 23 summer camp counselors, all adults, and in his job at the Naramake school he has supervised 10 to 12 employees, including those in a before- and after-school program.
"Andy is a very good friend of mine, and we've been allies for a long time," he said. "He is someone I've worked with in the Oyster Festival and in the city." Despite the fact that McQuaid is a Republican and Garfunkel a Democrat, he said, the position of town clerk has traditionally been something apart from partisan rivalry, and both Democrat and Republican town committees have often endorsed incumbents from the other party.
If Garfunkel decides not to run for mayor at some point and wants to keep the town clerk position, McQuaid would feel pretty uncomfortable running against him, he admitted. On the other hand, McQuaid said he could work well with either Moccia or Garfunkel as mayor.
He won't be endorsing Garfunkel for mayor, McQuaid said. "It's a difficult decision to make, and right now I will be running on the Republican ticket. You support the top of the ticket."
McQuaid is a lifelong Norwalk resident who worked for more than a decade at the Hudson Paper Co. in Stratford, had a brief job with Bigelow Tea, and for the past 12 years or so has worked as a counselor in Norwalk Public Schools.
As an intervention specialist, McQuaid works with "at-risk" children who are having behavioral or academic problems in school or problems at home. For the past decade or so, he has also run a summer camp
McQuaid's political career has taken him from the Planning Commission, on which he served for eight years, to the Common Council, where he served about another 16 years (with one break, when Republicans lost their seats on the council the year Alex Knopp was first elected mayor in a Democratic sweep). This winter, McQuaid became president of the Common Council, succeeding his friend Doug Hempstead.
The town clerk's position, McQuaid said, "is something I've been interested in before. I just wasn't in the right position." Asked what he meant by "right position," he said, "My position in the council has reached a point where I want to see what else is out there." McQuaid has run for state representative twice, several years ago, and lost both times, once to Bruce V. Morris, and once to Joseph Mann. McQuaid lives in state House District 140 and in District A for city elections.
McQuaid lives on Silk Street with his wife, Alice McQuaid, a lawyer specializing in family law (which largely involves divorce cases). They have two children together, who are elementary school students, and he has three other children, now in college. Their children range in age from 4 to 21, he said.
Town clerk races tend not to be based on policy positions but on whether people trust and like the person running for the office, McQuaid said. Years ago, parties cross-endorsed some candidates for the position, although "I don't think that will happen this time," he said.
"It comes down to, I'm just Rick McQuaid. I take every day with a laugh. If you take it all seriously, it'll kill you. I think that's what's gotten me elected. That's what I think I bring to the table: I'm a people person. That's what I'll do as town clerk."
Editor's note: This article has been corrected to say that Richard McQuaid's children in college are his from a previous marriage.