Former First Selectman Timothy Herbst bids adieu to Trumbull
TRUMBULL — Former First Selectman Timothy Herbst is heading East, pulled by professional opportunities to a part of the state where he campaigned heavily during his 2018 run for governor.
In a six-minute video posted to his Facebook page, Herbst thanked supporters for their votes in his various runs for office and spent some time reminiscing.
“On Dec. 7, 2009, when I was sworn into my first term as first selectman, my late grandmother told me, ‘Never forget where you came from, and never forget who you work for,’” he said. “During my eight years in office — every single day — I tried to live up to those words.”
During his run for governor, Herbst said he made 170 trips to the eastern part of the state.
“Along the way, I met thousands of people, and made many new friends,” he said. “Since leaving office, my law practice and my real estate development has taken me toward Eastern Connecticut, and that is where I will be moving at the end of the month.”
Herbst is currently involved in real estate development in Madison, where he and partner Adam Greenberg have acquired a dilapidated 3,600 square-foot local landmark home known as the General’s Residence and plan to replace the home with two units of housing surrounded by seven smaller homes.
Herbst also returned to private legal practice after his run for governor, first as counsel with Bridgeport-based Cohen and Wolf, and then with Marino, Zabel & Schellenberg of Orange. Since returning to private practice, he has represented condominium owners in a lawsuit seeking to block a 55-and-older development in the former United Healthcare building on Route 111, and more recently is representing former school facilities director Mark Deming in a breach of contract suit against the Trumbull school system.
The decision to leave was not an easy one, he said, “but I’ve always believed that life takes you where you need to go.”
As he prepares to leave town, Herbst took the opportunity to mention some of the highlights of his terms in office, including the establishment of full-day kindergarten and increasing senior tax relief.
“We were able to accomplish all of this because we weren’t focused on the next election, but instead we were focused on the next generation,” he said.
The video generated more than 100 comments from supporters and friends, although one former supporter said he believes Herbst left out a few details in his recounting of his political career.
“I think he forgot the toxic and divisive tone that permeated Trumbull during his time in office, and that the voters soundly rejected in 2019,” said Democratic Town Chairman Tom Kelly, who ran for Board of Education on Herbst’s underticket in 2009 before switching party affiliation.
Herbst, reached for comment July 8, fired back, pointing the finger squarely at Trumbull Democrats and citing the recent George Floyd protest vigil on Town Hall green.
“There were signs that said ‘defund the police,’” he said. “Our first selectman and council representatives stood there and said nothing as our police chief and police officers were present in uniform watching. This was among the most vile and toxic (things) I have seen in Trumbull politics.”
Kelly said he wished Herbst all the best in the future.
“Stay well, stay safe,” he said.
Herbst contrasted his eight years in office with the current political situation, both nationally and locally. He offered his view on what it takes to lead a community through tough times.
“As I’ve watched what is unfolding in the world today, and as I see what is happening even here in Trumbull, I firmly believe that in challenging, and even unprecedented times, situational leadership requires self-awareness and a recognition that leaders meet moments of challenge not by their words, but by their actions,” he said.
To be an effective leader requires strength of conviction, he said.
“Leaders who find their value system in a poll or a focus group do not have the strength of character to lead because they are incapable of getting others to follow,” he said. “Leaders who constantly pass the buck or blame others will never inspire others because lack of responsibility fosters weakness.”
Herbst mentioned the current efforts toward racial justice, and asserted that during his terms Trumbull had hired more women and minorities than at any other time in town history. He also played to his political base by commenting that law enforcement was “under direct assault, with some politicians even saying we should defund the police.”
“There are more good cops than bad ones, and I had the privilege of working with many excellent self-sacrificing police officers during my eight years in office,” he said.
Herbst wound down his comments by predicting that the 2021-22 budget would be even more challenging than the recently completed 2020-21 spending plan. But he said he was optimistic that the town would find a way to get it done.
“Depite these challenges, I’m optimistic about the future of Trumbull because I believe in the people of Trumbull,” he said.
Herbst began the final 90 seconds of his farewell to a third-person recounting of his political career in town, beginning when “the people of Trumbull took a chance on a 19-year-old college sophomore when they elected him to the Planning and Zoning Commission. They took another chance when, at 29, they elected him first selectman.”
After thanking the voters again for their support, he concluded by wishing the best for residents, the town, and the Trumbull High Class of 2020.
“I wish this town well. I wish your families well. I wish you good health and success in the years ahead,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead the best town in America.”