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    Friday, December 01, 2023

    Wilson to become Norwich’s first Black state representative

    Norwich city councilor Derell Wilson talks on the phone while awaiting results of his race for the 46th house seat against Robert Bell at Democratic headquarters Tuesday, November 8, 2022. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich ― Derell Wilson said he becomes emotional when he reflects on his election win Tuesday night that made him the city’s first Black state representative.

    Democrat Wilson, 30, won the 46th District election Tuesday night by a final tally of 2,690 to 2,023 over Republican Robert Bell in the race to fill the seat vacated by state Rep. Emmett Riley. With his victory, Wilson will have to give up his seat on the Norwich City Council, where he was in the middle of his second term.

    “I’m still speechless and very humbled just to be the first minority representative to serve this great city,” Wilson said Wednesday. “So, I think for me it’s humbling for that opportunity. Hopefully I can continue to do what I do on the council, listening and engaging the community and taking their thoughts and ideas to Hartford.”

    Bell released a statement early Wednesday wishing Wilson “much success” in Hartford. Wilson said Wednesday afternoon that he had not heard from Bell directly.

    “Good luck to all Norwich residents moving forward with a new voice,” Bell wrote in the statement. “May Derell Wilson serve us honorably.”

    Wilson did not have long to celebrate Tuesday night, as he worked early Wednesday at his job as a paraeducator at the Integrated Day Charter School in Norwich. Wilson said he plans to keep his job come spring, when the legislative session heats up and will work on potential scheduling issues as the time nears.

    But he has no such choice with his City Council seat. The Norwich charter does not allow an alderman to serve as a state legislator. Wilson will need to resign his council seat before legislators are sworn in on Jan. 4, 2023.

    The city charter requires a special election to be held for any council seat that becomes vacant more than six months prior to the next election, which will be Nov. 7, 2023.

    Wilson thanked a long list of mentors and role models for his political success at a relatively young age. His first leadership role came when he was just 9 and former NAACP President Jacqueline Owens asked him to take charge of the NAACP youth council.

    Wilson thanked his parents, Byron and Debra Wilson of Greeneville, Owens, current NAACP President Shiela Hayes, his pastor at the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ, Isaac Goodwater and his wife, Jerrilyn Goodwater.

    He said they instilled in him the need to serve the community, “that when you serve the community and have a good heart, good things do come,” Wilson said. “The work that you do never goes unnoticed.”

    Hayes recalled how Owens would take the NAACP youth group to Hartford to meet legislators and state government leaders and to Washington to meet the Connecticut congressional delegation. She said Wilson learned how to bring up issues and address them. Today, she said, Wilson understands the issues of healthcare, equity and the needs of Norwich residents.

    “He understands by serving 1 ½ terms on the City Council what he can bring to the residents of the city of Norwich,” Hayes said. “He will address some of the issues we really need to address. … His voice will be valuable up in Hartford.”

    Hayes said it’s Wilson’s turn to be a mentor for local youth of all backgrounds, not just to run for election, but to serve on the many boards and commissions in Norwich, where much of the government work is done.

    “You roll up your sleeves and put in the work,” she said.


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