Trying to figure out Rob Pero

This essay was going to start by reminding you that City Councilor Rob Pero announced his candidacy for the office of mayor of New London. Of course, this essay was also going to appear here last Saturday, which would have been four days after Pero's announcement.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature and Old Man Winter's torrid affair interrupted him and me. It snowed on Pero's proclamation. And I was sick. So neither of us made an appearance last week.

I got better. The weather didn't. Persistent precipitation prompted Pero to postpone yet again. He told me, though, that he really is running. He plans to formally tell everyone else on Feb. 15. His hat joins that of Democrat Daryl Finizo.

It's hard to decipher, by some positions Pero has taken, if he is totally brave, politically shrewd or a comfortable balance of both. He is keenly aware that his support of the New London Development Corp. and its use of eminent domain at the Fort Trumbull Peninsula didn't go over too well.

He knows he bucked what appeared to be popular opinion with his perceived support of the idea of selling part of Riverside Park to the U.S. Coast Guard.

He said he voted in favor of having discussions with the Coast Guard solely for the purpose of getting the issue on the table, to allow the voters to have a voice. Brave? Shrewd? Both? You be the judge.

"I heard from a lot of other people. Not just the ones who spoke out at meetings," he said. "We can't just do what we want, and we can't respond just to people who come forward at council meetings. I felt it was an issue people should have a vote on."

And so they will. Pero's and the park's fates will not be interdependent, but they will surely be decided at the same time - Nov. 8.

Might that turn out to be fortunate fate? After all, Pero entered the political arena on a park issue. Pero spent a lot of his youth hanging out with his dad, Tony, who worked at Ocean Beach Park for about 42 years, including 16 as its manager. It seems longer. Heck, when Tony Pero started, it was just a park. The beach was still a boulder.

"My dad gave me the understanding of how to listen to people, and how to speak to them," Pero said. "That's my greatest strength."

"My first campaign, that was my issue. The beach was losing money. I had the losses listed on my brochure. When I said I wanted to privatize it, people thought I meant sell it."

With help of the SOB (Save Our Beach) committee, he made his point. There was no sale despite strong winds that blew in that direction. Pero got elected and has been representing SOBs and the rest of the city ever since, often collecting the most votes despite often being the lone Republican on the council.

That Sweet Old Beach made money last year for the first time in decades.

Pero says he has the ideas, the skills and the dedication to move the city forward. And when you listen to him talk, you realize that he surely has the passion, for both the job and the city.

"I'm not a big supporter of party politics," he said. "I look at myself as a New Londoner first."

So where's the rub? Well, after 15 years of service, including a stint as the ceremonial mayor, Pero seems to have developed the wisdom to smooth over some of the rough spots.

"This city has already invested 15 years in me," he said. "I look at their votes, their faith in me, as an investment. That investment gave me the chance to gain the knowledge and the history. Now I have the chance to utilize that knowledge to help them."

Pero knows that some positions he took weren't the most popular. Some, he said, might not have been the wisest to take.

"I've made mistakes. There are some votes I wish I could take back. But I learned from them. And I learned to evaluate better. I've been pushing for this (a strong mayor system) for years. I'm ready."

And I'm ready to watch him go for it. The race is getting good and will only get better. Stay in touch.

This is the opinion of Chuck Potter

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