Walsh gets Democratic nod for mayor

It has been nearly two years since Ron Belmont won in a landslide victory for Harrison mayor—securing 63 percent of the vote—over then-Mayor Joan Walsh.

Now in her late seventies, Walsh, a Democrat, has returned from a two-year hiatus from the political arena with plans to reclaim the mayoral seat.

“Many people are dissatisfied with the current town board,” Walsh said. “When I was mayor, we really watched every dollar…now, [the council is] spending money and they’re borrowing money.”

Story first appeared in June 14, 2013 edition of The Harrison Report

Preparing to spar with Belmont for a second time, Walsh plans to run a fiscally-minded campaign with the primary focus on reducing the amount of spending and accrued debt built by the town in recent years.

At the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the town was carrying $79.6 million in accumulated debt—accounting for each of the town’s special districts with accrued interest.

“I feel they’re reversing what I did over my four years [as mayor],” Walsh said.

Although confident in her ability to devote the time and energy necessary to run the town, Walsh said she felt left out of the loop politically and therefore did not seek the nomination, but eventually decided to throw her hat in the ring after being approached by members of the Harrison Democratic Committee.

“[Joan] is a very strong woman with the town’s best interests at heart,” said Harrison Democratic Chairwoman Elizabeth ‘Jimmi’ Pritchard. “She has energy, drive, determination…and nothing stops her.”

Despite losing a few allies—including former Democratic Chairman Joe Derwin, who stepped down from the position last year—Walsh said she has seen the current GOP-led board monopoly resort to ignoring residents comments and keeping more pressing issues in the town behind closed doors in executive session.

“I feel that people should know what’s going on,” Walsh said, “And how can they, when the town board meetings only last a half-hour.”

With rolls now reversed, Walsh will face the challenge of trying to unseat the popular Belmont, who is in the final year of his first-term in office.

Belmont, who served as the Recreation Department superintendent for more than 20 years, said he had never aspired to be mayor, but joined the fray after members of the community urged him to run back in 2011. In fact, he was an unaffiliated candidate chosen by the local GOP to run against his former boss.

Since the Democratic nod for Walsh is still unofficial as of press time, Belmont refused to comment on the upcoming campaign, citing the Democratic Party’s endorsement as hearsay.

“When it’s official, I’ll officially comment,” Belmont said.

Although the slate is still subject to change, the Dems have stated that they have started to file petitions.

Walsh joins the first of an all-female Democratic slate to be named in Harrison. She will run alongside Rosemarie Varano and Democratic Party chairwoman Elizabeth ‘Jimmi’ Pritchard who will vie for the two open Town Council seats currently filled by GOP incumbents Marlene Amelio and Joseph Cannella. Pritchard will fill a gap, left by Town Council candidate Michael LaDore, who dropped out of the race despite the endorsement of the committee.

Additionally, the Democrats have nominated Margaret “Peg” Conover, who will run against Jackie Greer for Town Clerk, and Maria Frioli-Fiore, who will run against Nancy Masi for Receiver of Taxes.

In the Town of Harrison, the mayor is elected to a two-year term of office; councilmen serve four-year terms. Due to the gap in electoral years, should Walsh be victorious in her endeavor, it would mean serving alongside her Republican predecessor, former mayor and current Councilman Steve Malfitano.

Although she said serving with Malfitano was initially a deterrent for her candidacy, Walsh said she would deal with it when it happens.