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RIP: Oz kept contributing to make his state better

On July 14, a guest commentary written by Oz Griebel appeared in the pages of The Day. It concerned his latest attempt to make Connecticut better, a proposal to move to a “ranked-choice” voting system, so that voters would no longer face a binary choice — the lesser of two evils — but could rank multiple candidates in order of preference.

“First and foremost, thanks very much for using the piece,” Griebel had emailed Day Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere shortly before publication. “Please also let me know when you have a few minutes to compare notes,” he continued. “Look forward to talking at your convenience.”

They never got the chance.

One week later Griebel, a fit 71, was struck by a car while jogging. He never recovered. His family announced his death Wednesday.

The commentary and email said a lot about Richard Nelson Griebel, nicknamed Ozzie as a youth, an allusion to Ricky Nelson, an early rock idol and actor in the “Ozzie and Harriet” TV show.

Griebel had contributed much public service already — leading the business group MetroHartford Alliance, heading up the state’s transportation advisory board, serving on multiple task forces, twice running for governor — yet he was still working to improve things, this time with voting reforms.

He remained upbeat, passionate, full of energy. These were Griebel’s hallmarks.

The email also reflected his graciousness.

In his first run for governor, 2010, Griebel ran as a Republican, but did not get past the primary. In 2018 he attempted an independent run, finishing third in the race won by current Gov. Ned Lamont. During that second run, Griebel was shut out of the debate between Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, sponsored by The Day at the Garde Arts Center in New London. Choiniere had to deliver the news to Griebel that he had not qualified because of low poll numbers.

Griebel was displeased, for sure. But he was not bitter. And he did not hold a grudge, as evidenced by his friendly exchange of late.

He was a moderate in an age of political polarization. He took positions because he believed in them — such as pushing for tolls as necessary to finance repair of the state’s transportation system — not because they were focus-group tested.

In his 2018 run for governor, Griebel visited a New London restaurant. Patrons didn’t know who he was.

"The room's not very full, but I'll work it," Griebel said, breaking out the smile.

And work it he did. Until the end.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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