(Editor’s Note – 15-year-old Charlie Murray spent three weeks of his summer vacation working at his uncle’s business, The Waterbury Observer, and had the opportunity to deliver newspapers, blog, and interview Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary about zombies, ghosts and first kisses. This is the result of that interview)
Charlie: How are you, Mr. Mayor?
Mayor O’Leary: I’m doing well, Charlie, thank you and how are you?
Charlie: I’m good.
Mayor O’Leary: Go ahead, Charlie….
Charlie: How long was your hair at it’s longest?
Mayor O’Leary: My hair? Not as long as yours.
Charlie: I meant when you were a kid.
Mayor O’Leary: I would say that it was a little shorter than yours (laughs), but not much though. It was as curly as yours too by the way.
Charlie: It’s hard to take care of when you have long hair. How tall are you?
Mayor O’Leary: Six Feet.
Charlie: Six feet? Do you like being six foot?
Charlie: Did you play any sports in high school?
Mayor O’Leary: I did. Baseball.
Charlie: Were you good?
Mayor O’Leary: I was average.
Charlie: What position did you play?
Mayor O’Leary: Shortstop, second base, third base.
Charlie: Which one were you the best at?
Mayor O’Leary: Probably second base.
Charlie: Did you play college?
Mayor O’Leary: No.
Charlie: Did you hit any homeruns?
Mayor O’Leary: Nah. Not legitimate homeruns, maybe inside the park home runs. But yeah, that was my sport.
Charlie: What high school was it at?
Mayor O’Leary: Nonnewaug in Woodbury.
Charlie: What was your favorite TV show growing up?
Mayor O’Leary: MASH
Charlie: MASH? Never saw that, but I’ve heard of it. What was your favorite character?
Mayor O’Leary: Oh god, I don’t know. Probably Henry.
Charlie: What’s your favorite TV show now?
Mayor O’Leary: Law & Order. Isn’t that funny?
Charlie: What do you like about Law&Order?
Mayor O’Leary: It’s real life. Do you ever watch it?
Charlie: I’ve watched it a couple times.
Mayor O’Leary: It’s not reality it’s real life stories about it’s the closest law enforcement show that I’ve found that is relates to real life and crimes and consequences for victims and their families.
Charlie: What is your favorite food?
Mayor O’Leary: Wow. Probably lasanga.
Charlie: Is there a certain kind of lasanga that you like?
Mayor O’Leary: Meat lasanga.
Charlie: Do you like it with cheese?
Mayor O’Leary: Yeah. Oh yeah. That’s a given.
Charlie: Do you like to try new foods when you go to a restaurant or just order the same thing?
Mayor O’Leary: As I’m getting older, I’m getting healthier minded. It used to be just lasanga or steak. Now I eat fish and chicken which is really amazing for me.
Charlie: What restaurant do you usually go to?
Mayor O’Leary: For lunch, I go to a place on Watertown Avenue called Domars and for dinner I frequent a place in Watertown called Roma.
Charlie: What is your favorite thing about Waterbury?
Mayor O’Leary: The people.
Charlie: What about the people?
Mayor O’Leary: Waterbury is a very diverse city. You’ve probably, hopefully, seen it by now, but almost every ethnic population is represented here in this city. It’s a huge melting pot of different people from all over the world.
Charlie: Is there anything you don’t like about being Mayor?
Mayor O’Leary: (Laughs) Where do I begin? (laughs again). The politics. The politics. The politics is what I don’t like about being Mayor. By that I mean, the partisanship. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve only been the mayor for under 8 months, but the biggest adjustment for me is to deal with the partisanship. Not only on the local level but on the state level up in Hartford.
Charlie: Is there anything else that you don’t like being Mayor about besides politics?
Mayor O’Leary: The demands on my family. My time. It’s all, Charlie, it’s all what you want to do. The way that I’m the mayor is I try to get to every event that people invite me to because I think it’s important, but after 8 months you realize that you know if you want to spend time with your family especially on the weekends you have to learn to say no. I think that’s one of the hardest things about being mayor because people really want you to be there. They really get disappointed. I mean I get scolded by people if I don’t show up to certain things. I try to say “well my daughter had a swim meet or my son had an engagement dinner” and they don’t really care. They really don’t. That’s probably one of the things that is difficult. I understand it, but they have to understand even Mayor’s have a life as well.
Charlie: What is your favorite movie?
Mayor O’Leary: My favorite movie? Well, I’m not one that goes to the movie theater. The last movie I went to in the movie theater was Titanic.
Charlie: In 1996?
Mayor O’Leary: Yeah and before that was Driving Miss Daisy.
Charlie: Do you watch from DVDs?
Mayor O’Leary: No, no. I’m not really a movie guy. I would say that I like classics, probably Ben Hur.
Charlie: Or The Breakfast Club?
Mayor O’Leary: The Breakfast Club I have never seen.
Charlie: What advice would you give yourself if you could go back and talk to 15 year old Neil O’Leary?
Mayor O’Leary: Probably to do a little bit better in school, concentrate on school a little more, but I have to tell you, I mean I was very fortunate. I had a great family and a good upbringing. I think that’s why I concentrate on people that are less fortunate than most because I was very fortunate. I felt like I had a very good family structure. If I could have gone back and fixed an area it would be to do better in school. Take it more seriously.
Charlie: Instead of procrastinating?
Mayor O’Leary: No, just um, probably I just wasn’t paying attention.
Charlie: How old were you when you had your first kiss?
Mayor O’Leary: Oh….wow….let me think Charlie….I would say….I have to be careful here because my daughter, Maggie may read this. I would say probably 13.
Charlie: 13? Oh. What is your favorite song?
Mayor O’Leary: I don’t know. Probably, Angie from the Rolling Stones.
Charlie: What do you like about that song?
Mayor O’Leary: It’s kind of a rock and roll love song.
Charlie: Do you sing along to the music in the car when you are alone?
Mayor O’Leary: Well, that’s just kind of sad. I’m not a music guy. My brother in law is a total music guy. He’s a guy that you can say who sings that song and he knows the answer 100% of the time. I’m really a talk radio guy. If you go in my car now you will turn it on and it will be talk radio.
Charlie: Are you good at singing?
Mayor O’Leary: Not particularly.
Charlie: Do you want to sing us a song?
Mayor O’Leary: No. Not at all, Charlie. (laughs)
Charlie: What privleges do you like having as the Mayor?
Mayor O’Leary: Privleges? Well, as the Mayor I guess one of the privleges I like is that people don’t get upset with me when I get to a meeting late because they know I’m running all over. That’s a privlege in my opinion. One other privlege I like as the Mayor is that you have the authority to bring people together to make things happen.
Charlie: Do you like privleges like not being arrested?
Mayor O’Leary: I haven’t been arrested ever, even before I was Mayor.
Charlie: Do Mayor’s get that privlege?
Mayor O’Leary: I would think probably not. I think the laws today are pretty evenly applied.
Mayor O’Leary: That’s a good question though.
Charlie: How do you deal with people criticizing and laughing at you?
Mayor O’Leary: I laugh back at them. That’s a really good question because it’s another thing you have to learn to do as the Mayor, you have to learn to respect people even when they are being highly critical of you or even when they are completely wrong or misinformed. You have to learn as the Mayor that everyone has a voice whether you agree with it or not you have to show them respect.
Charlie: Even when it’s totally wrong and you don’t even care about it?
Mayor O’Leary: That’s the hard part. You try to inform them that they are totally wrong but no matter what you try to tell them they will just believe that they are totally right. That’s when the impass happens.
Charlie: Do you think you’re cool?
Mayor O’Leary: Do I think I’m cool? Yeah. I think I’m okay.
Charlie: Like cool everywhere?
Mayor O’Leary: Depends on the environment I guess.
Charlie: Did you have any heroes growing up?
Mayor O’Leary: Yeah. My father.
Charlie: What about your father?
Mayor O’Leary: I had five brothers and sisters and my father and my mother worked. My father worked three jobs and my mother worked one with six kids one year apart. They worked really hard for us.
Charlie: Do you have any other heroes?
Mayor O’Leary: I have a lot of people that have impacted my life in a positive way that I have respect for, but in the hero category I’d have to give that to my father.
Charlie: John Wayne?
Mayor O’Leary: John Wayne. You talked about movies before. I haven’t seen a real movie recently, but I’ve seen quite a few John Wayne movies that I like.
Charlie: What do you fear?
Mayor O’Leary: What do I fear? I fear that my children won’t be as successful as I hope they would be. I fear that something could go wrong with my family. I have a lot of faith. I’m pretty religious. I don’t have a lot of fear because I have a lot of faith. I don’t have any fear like someone is going to come in here and shoot me if that’s what you mean. I do fear for the safety for our policeman and fireman that go out everyday. I don’t have any inherent day to day fears. Probably more worry than fear.
Charlie: Do you believe in ghosts?
Mayor O’Leary: No.
Charlie: Why not?
Mayor O’Leary: I don’t know I never did. I tried to go to a haunted house somewhere it didn’t scare me. I didn’t think it was haunted.
Charlie: Do you believe in zombies?
Mayor O’Leary: What’s your definition of a zombie?
Charlie: Someone walking dead. Their eyes are redder. If you bite someone they turn into a zombie.
Mayor O’Leary: No. I don’t believe in zombies.
Charlie: If you could choose the way you die, what would it be?
Mayor O’Leary: Happy.
Charlie: Happy? What is the meaning of life in your opinion?
Mayor O’Leary: Wow, Charlie. The meaning of life to me is that God put you here for a reason and now I believe truly that every day you should live life to it’s fullest. It’s not a dress rehearsal. I think that you should live every day to help people around you and help them be happy.
Charlie: I ran out of things on this paper, but I’m going to ask you some more questions if that’s okay.
Mayor O’Leary: Okay sure.
Charlie: Have you ever met the President?
Mayor O’Leary: I have. Several presidents.
Charlie: Which ones?
Mayor O’Leary: I’ve met President Obama in January when I was at the Mayor’s conference.
Charlie: Like you shook his hand and talked to him?
Mayor O’Leary: Yep. I met President Clinton here in Waterbury. I met President Ford here in Waterbury.
Charlie: President Ford? Gerald Ford.
Mayor O’Leary: Yep. I met President Ronald Regan here in Waterbury. I met President Bush the father.
Charlie: Have you met Mitt Romney?
Mayor O’Leary: I have not met Mitt Romney. I met Teddy Kennedy, who is not with us anymore. I met President Kennedy’s son, John, who is no longer with us either.
Charlie: Do you pay attention to sports? Which ones are your favorite?
Mayor O’Leary: Baseball.
Charlie: What’s your favorite team?
Mayor O’Leary: The New York Yankees.
Mayor O’Leary: I know. I’m one of the very few Irish Cahtolics in Waterbury who is a Yankee fan, Charlie.
Charlie: Are you a Jeter fan?
Mayor O’Leary: Very much a Jeter fan.
Charlie: Or Rodriguez?
Mayor O’Leary: I like Rodriguez which people criticize me for all the time. I think Derek Jeter is the best role model that baseball has to offer for young people.
Charlie: What is your opinion on gay marriage?
Mayor O’Leary: I don’t have a negative opinion on gay marriage. Quite frankly if you had asked me that same question 20 years ago, I may have. I think people need to do whatever it is to make them happy as long as they are doing it within the laws of our society.
Charlie: That’s how I feel and believe. Do you meet a lot of people here as the Mayor?
Mayor O’Leary: Yeah. I have to tell you, today, I met probably 70. I was at a ground breaking, a meeting at the college and I’ve had meetings here.
Charlie: Is it every stressful being the Mayor like when you go home?
Mayor O’Leary: I think in the beginning it’s a little stressful and you are anxious about what’s going to happen everyday. Being police chief was a good prerequesite to learn how to deal with things every day. When I became the Mayor I was a little bit anxious about the job, but now I’m more comfortable than I was when I first got here.
Charlie: Thank you Mr. O’Leary for giving me this great opportunity, and it was nice meeting you again.
Mayor O’Leary: I’m glad that you’re here. How long are you in town for?
Charlie: Another two weeks.
Mayor O’Leary: Are you having a good time?
Charlie: Yeah. I’ve been practicing these questions with my Uncle. He’s been doing a good job pretending to be the Mayor.
Mayor O’Leary: I think you did a good job asking questions.