After 30 years, DiNardo takes a step back from local politics

After 30 years, Trumbull Democratic Town Committee Chair Nancy DiNardo is stepping down, taking with her a long institutional memory of Trumbull’s political scene that includes more victories than defeats for Trumbull’s Democrats.

DiNardo said she has decided to step down in order to focus on her duties as Connecticut Democratic Party chair, a position she has held for nine years. DiNardo has also been chosen by the Democratic National Committee to serve as its chair of Eastern Regional Caucuses.

“It’s a lot to balance,” DiNardo said.

While she brings a wealth of political knowledge to the party, she said the local Democrats will continue to grow.

“An institutional memory is good, but the town also needs to move forward and we need new people to get involved,” she said. “We’ve been working on getting young people involved and getting morediversity.”

After returning to Trumbull from college, DiNardo started her political career. Her father, Peter DiNardo, was active in local politics and she recalls a fellow member of the Trumbull Democrats asking her father why Nancy wasn’t running.

“Well, if there isn’t anyone else,” DiNardo said her father responded, jokingly.

In 1971, DiNardo was elected to the Town Council, subsequently serving on a number of boards and commissions before stepping up as chair. When not volunteering politically, she worked as an educator in Bridgeport for 30 years. She is now retired.

Despite a tough loss in the last election, where First Selectman Timothy Herbst was elected to a third term, along with the entire Republican slate, DiNardo said she is proud of the makeup of the local Democratic Party.

“We have a great range in the party of Democrats who are very conservative and very liberal,” she said. “You sometimes fight amongst yourselves but you always come out supporting each other.”

While the Trumbull GOP has criticized the party as being hijacked by former Republicans, DiNardo said those former Republicans weren’t welcomed by the GOP and now add a lot to the local Democrats.

“Seems like the local Republican Party is similar to the national Republican Party in that there is a litmus test,” DiNardo said. “It’s not supportive of the people who want to volunteer their time — you have to respect that. We have former Republicans in leadership roles and they want to still give back to their town.”

She also responded to Trumbull Republican Chairman Jack Testani’s recent criticism of Trumbull’s Democrats, saying it was a party that had chosen a path of negativity. During the last election, Democrats focused on issues while the GOP sent out mailers that she said were nasty and unnecessary, containing personal attacks, she said.

Now that Republicans control town boards and commissions, the blame game won’t be easy.

“When you have control of the boards, you can’t continue to blame everyone else for what is wrong with the town,” she said.

Record of success

DiNardo is proud of the years of success the Democrats have had in town, particularly between 1973 and 2009. A Democrat served as first selectman for most of those years, and that is a difficult accomplishment in what DiNardo called a “Republican town.” While DiNardo said there isn’t a large difference between the number of registered Democrats and Republicans in Trumbull, the town’s unaffiliated voters largely support Republicans in state and federal office, DiNardo said.

“As chair you get blamed for the defeats, so you should take credit for the victories,” DiNardo said, laughing. “I just think of how much the town has grown and progressed under Democrats. We can be proud of that growth.”

DiNardo said her party has always supported building a sense of community and working together, citing events like Trumbull Day, town concerts and other seasonal events.

DiNardo said she is staying out of the party’s potential nominations for new leadership, but has faith the person chosen will do a great job.

“I’ll miss the camaraderie,” she said. “I made some great friendships.”

She will still attend meetings and be available if needed.

“I’m only a phone call away,” DiNardo said.