Darien’s First Selectman Jayme Stevenson has filed her papers Tuesday to run for Connecticut’s next lieutenant governor. In her first interview following her decision, Stevenson told The Darien Times said she “feels a great sense of responsibility to use the skills I have acquired in the last eight years of local public service and on a regional level” to turn the state around.
Stevenson said the state needs a team of open-minded thinking people to make the changes that need to be made and it has to be done “by people who aren’t worried about their political future.”
As far as a gubernatorial candidate she might team with in the election, Stevenson said it is still too soon to think about that and said there are many very highly qualified candidates in the race at the moment.
“Like everyone else I’m doing my homework on those candidates and I want to hear their plans on how they will turn this state around,” she said.
“But first things first, I can now go out and talk to the people of Connecticut as a candidate for lieutenant governor and see if my message resonates with the people of Connecticut,” she said.
Stevenson said in the end the decision as to which candidate she joins in the race will be made at the Republican convention in May, at which she said she clearly hopes she is the standout candidate.
Another Republican currently running for lieutenant governor is state Sen. Joe Markley, a Republican representing parts of Waterbury, Cheshire and Southington, as well as Republican Ann Brookes, of Westbrook.
But Stevenson pointed out that can change by the convention as some of the many candidates for governor might change their office sought to lieutenant governor or another office.
Stevenson said she is solely committed to lieutenant governor.
“I am committed to be a team player for the next team that is going to make the changes for the state of Connecticut,” she said.
As to how this impacts Darien in the coming months, Stevenson pointed out to anyone with concerns that her campaign will not take away from her job as the town’s chief executive.
“It just means I have to work twice as hard because now I have two jobs — and Darien will always come first,” she said.
Should she win in the statewide election in November, the Darien Town Clerk’s office said the Board of Selectmen would have 30 days to choose a replacement first selectman to serve the remainder of Stevenson’s term (ending in 2019). After that 30 days, all Republican elected officials would have 60 days to choose a replacement.
Stevenson added that she thinks a critical part of the next team for Connecticut is that it includes women on all levels of leadership. To that end, she aims to put together an all-women campaign team.
“As Republican women, I think we have to stand up and push back on the Democrats who drive the message about Republicans being anti-women. Nothing could be further from the truth and I will be committed to further that message throughout my campaign,” Stevenson [said].
Stevenson added that part of her drive to run is “you can’t make change unless you are willing to step up and be vulnerable to whatever comes your way, criticism, both constructive and otherwise. You can’t expect change if you’re not willing to step up yourself.”
She said she had told only a few people about her interest in seeking higher office and told her family immediately upon filing her papers.
“Everyone is very supportive of my run. I’ve even had a number of local Democrats tell me the time is now and that they would support me. I’m very pleased about that,” Stevenson said.
“I know I have a very big job ahead of me to get out talking to people across the state of Connecticut. People are wonderful but all very different and have different concerns. I will spend a lot of time listening and learning,” she said.
Stevenson added that on a personal note, she continues to want to be a positive role for her children. Stevenson and her husband John have five children, four daughters and one son, the youngest, in college.
“We continue to tell our children you can do and be whatever it is you want to be. If something needs to change in your life, be the change. My candidacy role models what I want to instill in my children,” she said.
She said her family is happy and excited about her decision.
“Being a political candidate isn’t always easy on a family but my family has seen and understand how public service is important to me and I’m passionate about it,” she said.
“They support me in this endeavor,” Stevenson said.
Fellow Republican Selectman Susan Marks said, “I am very excited for Jayme and the opportunity for her to bring her problem-solving skills to Hartford. She would be an excellent lieutenant governor, this is great news for the voters in Connecticut.”
Darien’s Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman John Sini said “Given her great success as first selectman in Darien, and focus on generating local efficiencies and fiscal responsibility I think Jayme be a great addition to our state government leadership in its time of fiscal disrepair.”
State Rep. Terrie Wood, a Republican who represents Darien and Rowayton, called the announcement “great news.”
“I’m very happy that Jayme running for lieutenant governor. Having worked closely with her over nine years I know the experience, intelligence, integrity and emotional maturity she brings to her responsibilities each day,” Wood said.
“Jayme understands the critical issues facing our state and how to solve them. She is practical, with common sense with respect for all and looks to hear all sides of a debate with an open mind and open heart,” Wood said.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican who represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton said she has worked with Stevenson on a number of issues facing the state’s cities and towns.
“I know that she has been a very capable chief executive for Darien and a thoughtful and effective chair of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments. I am delighted that she has decided to run for lieutenant governor and that she is committed to building the best possible team for the Republican ticket in November,” Lavielle said.
Former New Canaan First Selectman Rob Mallozzi worked alongside Stevenson for years and called her “an outstanding candidate for lieutenant governor.”
“Jayme has dedicated herself to being involved in a broad array of statewide issues while successfully serving as Darien’s first selectman,” he said.
“Difficult issues facing all Connecticut residents such as 8-30g housing mandates, transportation funding and regional planning have all benefited from her involvement. Her fiscal conservatism is also a huge plus,” Mallozzi said.
“In my years working with Jayme, I have found her to be one of the smartest, articulate and well- informed leaders around. I wish her all the best in her latest endeavor,” he said.
Democratic Town Committee Chairman David Bayne said he has known Stevenson for many years and while he wished her “no ill will” in seeking higher office, he questioned how she will balance her campaign and current job.
“Darien deserves a full-time first selectman. We have been repeatedly told that these are challenging times for Darien and it is disappointing that our first selectman, who was only re-elected a few short months ago, has chosen to embark on a campaign for statewide office,” Bayne said.
To run a successful campaign requires extraordinary amounts of time, energy and focus, he said.
“The job of first selectman is uniquely demanding, which is why it is one of the few paid elected positions in town government. In my opinion, Darien’s residents have the right to expect that their chief elected official is working for them 24/7,” Bayne said.
Republican Town Committee Chairman Brent Hayes said he was excited to hear the news.
“Jayme would bring fiscal responsibility and discipline to the seat. I’ve worked closely with Jayme over the years and I’ve been impressed with her ability to bring people together,” he said.
“Jayme has a unique ability to motivate people towards common goals, and a genuine care for those in our community. She has accomplished a tremendous amount as first selectman of Darien and as chair of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments,” Hayes said.
“Jayme is an outstanding public servant, and Connecticut would be very lucky to have her as lieutenant governor. She brings a practical approach to governing, along with exceptionally good judgment in dealing with difficult situations and decisions,” Jon Zagrodzky, chairman of Darien’s Board of Finance, said.
Former Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao said she is the proposed deputy treasurer of Stevenson’s campaign and said she could “not be more excited” to be part of the team.
“The most critical issue for the State of Connecticut is to fix the management of the taxpayers’ money and better manage all state assets. We need to produce a plan for financial stability,” Mao said.
“Jayme Stevenson is a talented executive who can do this. She has done an outstanding job managing Darien and leading our local COG as its chair. Connecticut will be most fortunate to have her as its next lieutenant governor,” Mao said.
UPDATED with reaction:
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson to run for lieutenant governor
By Susan Shultz, The Darien Times, February 4, 2018
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Jayme Stevenson, First Selectman