Waterbury Police Chief Mike Gugliotti, left, embraced Waterbury’s mayor-elect, Neil O’Leary, in a private office two floors above O’Leary headquarters moments after the bruising election had been decided. O’Leary had been the Waterbury police chief preceding Gugliotti and the two have been close friends for nearly 30 years.
Story and Photograph By John Murray
Mike Gugliotti was in a tough spot. One of his best friends on the planet was campaigning to unseat his boss, Waterbury mayor Mike Jarjura, a man Gugliotti had a tremendous working relationship with.
“I’m not a political person,” Gugliotti said, “and it was difficult to watch these two good men go at it these past five months.”
Gugliotti said the situation had him tangled up and confused until his father helped him slice through the fog. “My father told me that I could have a great relationship with Mike, but that Neil was family. My father was right.”
That cleared the way for Gugliotti’s support of O’Leary, but he left Waterbury police officers alone to make their own decisions.
Two issues in the campaign galvanized support for O’Leary from the policemen and firemen. The first was when the Republican-American reported about the police department’s use of a forfeit asset fund. Jarjura was quoted in several articles questioning the use of the fund and used the issue in his campaign advertising.
Gugliotti said many undecided cops were angry that Jarjura was questioning their integrity and they responded by throwing their support behind O’Leary.
And in the weeks leading up to the November 8th election O’Leary snared a tsumami of support from the Waterbury firemen, who are in contract negotiations with the city right now. Sources told the Observer that the firemen got riled up when Mayor Jarjura mis-represented O’Leary’s position about negotiating with the firemen. They didn’t want the negotiations to become a campaign issue, and Jarjura was attempting to exploit the situation for political gain.
And on election day nearly 200 off-duty cops and firemen volunteered to help get the vote out for Neil O’Leary. They drove rental cars and rented school buses to deliver voters to the polls. They knocked on doors and may have been a game changer in what was considered a tight election.
In a scene from William Shakespeare’s Henry V, the king of England addressed his troops before the Battle of Agincourt. This is a short passage from what is referred to as the St. Crispin Day Speech. It could have been uttered by O’Leary two days before the election when he held a rally at Domars Restaurant with a gathering of Waterbury policemen and firemen.
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother