Duff: 'There's still much more to be done'
Published 2:33 pm, Friday, May 25, 2012
The I-95 expansion at exits 14 and 15 and the $5 million Meritt 7 train station renovation are sources of pride for State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, Darien, who is vice-chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee.
"Thankfully we are breaking ground very soon. And we are going to see chokepoint No. 1, as Gov. Malloy puts it, finally have lanes where people can move in and out of there with ease," Duff told the crowd of supporters gathered Monday evening at the Mill Hill Historic Complex in Norwalk, where he announced his bid for re-election for a fifth term.
"And we have a $5 million train station renovation where you will be able to finally, finally take a walkway up to the Merritt 7 buildings without having to take a bus all the way around. Imagine that."
But Duff is not one to rest on his laurels and said over and over again throughout his speech, "There's still much more to be done."
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He said Tuesday morning that that is the reason he didn't hesitate to run again.
"I've always enjoyed serving and feel that there is so much more to do," he said.
High on his list of priorities if re-elected -- he is running against Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte -- will be to continue helping Connecticut's economy grow faster and continuing to lower the unemployment rate.
"Two years ago the unemployment rate was higher than the national average. The good news is now its at 7.7 percent, which is lower than the national average and the best rate in three years," Duff said.
"We have to work hard to bring in new jobs in the state. We have to keep our mind focused on that like never before. One of the ways in which we do that... is by reforming our education system. We know that a good education system is key to jobs and prosperity in the state of Connecticut. What we did in the Education Reform Bill is we put a thousand new early childhood education slots all around the state of Connecticut. We put new funding and flexibility to encourage innovation... . But we still have much more to do. We have to close the achievement gap, which is the largest in the nation.
On a local level, Duff said that this year, for the first time in many years, there was an increase school funding for the Norwalk school system.
"But I will continue to fight for education funding to get our fair share," he said.
In addition to being on the Transportation Committee, Duff is chairman of the Banks Committee, and pointed how he has helped pass legislation in the General Assembly in a bi-partisan way "that has literally helped thousands of people stay in their homes."
He said that Connecticut's Foreclosure Mediation Program was one of the first in nation, and that $60 million in new funds for the Mortgage Assistance Program was approved in the last legislative session.
Duff said that he has fought for and won funding for the Maritime Aquarium and Stepping Stones Museum when their funding was jeopardized in the state budget.
He's also fought for funding for the Norwalk Seaport Association, Lockwood-Mathews Mansion and Elderhouse.
But one of his most prized accomplishments as a legislator has been to come together with his colleague and good friend, state Rep. and Minority Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk), for the Norwalk Inn expansion and the Grumman-St. John house renovation.
The Grumman-St. John house dates back to the Revolutionary War and was built by Samuel Grumman. It was severely damaged in the burning of Norwalk by the British in 1779 and was rebuilt in the 1780s. The house was expanded and its current roof was added in the 1870s. In 1987, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"There is nothing better to see than 93 East Ave. being renovated," Duff said.
The state senator has always been a supporter of Norwalk's history, which is why he chose Mill Hill as the setting to make his announcement.
"I am a supporter of our historical heritage and culture and like when new people come to Mill Hill Historic Complex and see the great things there," Duff said.
Before concluding his speech, Duff promised his supporters -- which included his wife Tracey and two sons Ryan and Colin -- that he will work hard and campaign with a positive message.
Duff's Norwalk family ties go back five generations. His interest in public service began at the age 8, when he voiced his concerns for the future of Duffy Field to then-mayor William Collins. Duffy Field is now known as Veteran's Park.
After attending Norwalk Public Schools, Duff moved to Virginia to earn his degree in political science from Lynchburg College and to hone his political skills as a student senator, campus leader and intern for U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.). When he returned to Norwalk, he became a substitute teacher from 1993 to 1995. He is also a realtor with William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty.
When asked if there is anything he wishes he had done differently over his last four terms, Duff said, "I try and look forward and not backwards. The great part of being a legislator is that if something is not perfect, there are always opportunities to modify things."
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