Story By John Murray
The whispers started before Election Day. If Governor Dan Malloy won re-election Neil O’Leary was going to step down as mayor of Waterbury and join the Malloy administration. We disregarded the speculation until a close political insider said it was true. “If Malloy wins, O’Leary is gone.”
We asked Mayor O’Leary about the rumors in mid-October, and he waved his hand and said, “Not true.” But the whispers turned into a roar on Election Day when Governor Malloy won a second four-year term.
“Doesn’t matter what he said before the election,” the insider said. “Now that Malloy won, the mayor is gone. Done deal.” Two days after the election the Observer sat down with O’Leary for a post-election conversation and brought up the subject a second time. “Are you leaving?” we asked.
O’Leary smiled, picked up his phone and read a text he’d received from the Wolcott Police Chief congratulating him on his new job. O’Leary had texted back, “Thanks, but what job?” Ed Stevens responded, “Head of the Connecticut State Police.”
O’Leary texted back, “Not true.”
O’Leary said the talk had gone viral and he was being bombed with congratulations for jobs he had never been offered or accepted. “I’m not going anywhere,” O’Leary said. “I like being mayor of Waterbury. This is an exciting time and I’m staying right here to keep working on all the projects we have going. We need to figure out how we’re going to implement aldermen by district. This is our legacy.”
The next municipal election is in November 2015 and whoever wins that race will serve as mayor for four years. “I’m undecided whether I’m running next year,” O’Leary said, “and I will make that decision in the Spring.”
If he doesn’t run would he pursue a job in state government? “That’s always a possibility,” O’Leary said. “My dream job would be Labor Commissioner, but no one has offered it to me, and I have never had a conversation with Governor Malloy about a job. Right now he likes having me in Waterbury.”