NORWALK, Conn. – Doug Hempstead, a longtime Independent and Republican Common Council member in Norwalk, was elected president of the council Tuesday night, an unexpected move that followed a confusing course of events.
Often, the election of a new Common Council president is a smooth transfer of power. But Tuesday night’s action bordered on spectacle as disagreement among council members took hold during the last council meeting of the year.
Councilwoman Anna Duleep, a Democrat who wanted to nominate someone instead of waiting until January, essentially stopped the meeting in its tracks when she wanted clarification over whether the term of the current president, Carvin Hilliard, had expired and whether she could nominate someone else.
Typically, the council votes on a president in the second meeting of November, she said, but Republicans wanted to wait until January. Republicans did not disclose a reason for wanting to delay until next month.
“I’m confused why there is no item on agenda about the election of council president,” said Duleep. Democrats were ready to vote and she had five votes for the person she intended to nominate, she said.
That nominee turned out to be Nick Kydes, a Republican, but he was not put into nomination until after a 15-minute recess and a couple of testy exchanges between Duleep and Mayor Richard Moccia over the process. Republicans hold the majority on the council, and the parties sometimes work out such votes before the full council meeting to avoid holdups and surprises.
Duleep said she was nominating Kydes, in part, because he represented “diversity of thought” among council members, which she said she respected.
“I’m very appreciative of Ms. Duleep’s statements,” Kydes said. But he withdrew his nomination and seconded Councilman Fred Bondi’s nomination of Hempstead.
For his part, Hempstead was genuinely surprised by the turn of events and was elected in a 9-5 vote. Council members David McCarthy, Jerry Petrini, Bruce Kimmel, Michelle Maggio, Kydes, Michael Geake, Bondi, Hilliard and Hempstead voted in favor. Duleep, Warren Peña, Matt Miklave, David Watts and John Igneri, all Democrats, opposed.
After the vote, Hempstead declined to give a speech but said he hopes 2013 will usher in a more peaceful council.
He was recently elected majority leader of the council. But following his election as president, Hempstead will relinquish the majority post, and the party will chose a new majority leader.
“I hope that in the New Year, we can reach out to one another and have conversations,” he said.