Winch Is Elected President Of Hartford City Council
September 02, 2010
Breaking a two-month deadlock over who would become the next city council president, the panel on Wednesday elected its majority leader, rJo Winch, to the seat vacated by Mayor Pedro Segarra.
Shortly before her appointment, Winch's nomination for the seat touched off a bitter argument among council members over whether the vote was an effort by former Mayor Eddie Perez's allies to reclaim power.
Winch, a Perez supporter, won the seat by a vote of 5-3, with one abstention. She was sworn in following the vote.
"In fact, Eddie Perez's fingerprints are all over this vote," said Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, who opposed Winch for the role. "Not even the majority of the [council's] Democratic caucus supports her."
Larry Deutsch, who also voted against her, said she was too closely aligned with Perez and his policies, which included a lack of government transparency and the outsourcing of city jobs.
"I wish she had been more vocal in improving that situation" while Perez was in office, Deutsch said. Winch dismissed the charges Wednesday, saying she supports everyone who serves as mayor and that she ran for council president to help mend some of the broken relationships among council members.
"You can get in the shadow of an individual and people don't see the real you," Winch said of her alignment with Perez. "People should know I'm very capable."
Winch's five votes came from council members Calixto Torres, Veronica Airey-Wilson, Luis Cotto, newly appointed member Alex Aponte and herself. In addition to Kennedy and Deutsch, assistant majority leader Jim Boucher voted against her. Matthew Ritter abstained. Winch edged out Boucher, who at one point also had the support of several council members for the council presidency — including, he said, Winch.
Boucher said he's disillusioned with the process by which the council elected its new president. He said members had agreed to wait until the panel's next meeting on Sept.13 to vote on the issue to allow for further discussion. But shortly after that agreement was made, he said, five council members announced they were supporting Winch.
"What we are left with now, I believe, is a major step backward for the city," he said.
Winch, a seven-year member of the council, has been serving as its interim president since Segarra was sworn in as mayor in late June. Segarra took over for Perez, who resigned following his conviction on five felony corruption charges. Winch challenged state Rep. Douglas McCrory for the 7th House District seat in the Aug. 10 primary, but lost.
The council president term runs through December 2011.
"I think I've been prepared for the role for a long time," Winch said in an interview Wednesday. "Any time the council president was out and any time the mayor was out I've always been the one to step in and take things on."
Her goals as president include bolstering the city workforce, increasing revenue and getting council members to work together more effectively. She said she plans to meet with members individually and with the body as a whole. "We've been fragmented for too long," Winch said.
Segarra said Wednesday that he had no role in the selection of the panel's new president, but is prepared to work with her.
"We have some pressing problems in our city. My objective is to work constructively with anyone who has the same objectives and the same goal in resolving some critical issues," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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