MIDDLETOWN, CT (WFSB) – Middletown’s new mayor took officer a little more than 100 days ago and he’s already seen a lot from a coronavirus scare to balancing his first budget.
Channel 3 spoke exclusively to him about what his new era will look like.
Mayor Ben Florsheim turned 28 last month and he recognizes there are city employees who have been working for Middletown longer than he’s been alive.
“I was worried about that going in,” Florsheim said.
Florsheim hurdled the age obstacle in the election and so far, his colleagues at city hall don’t seem to mind.
“I haven’t encountered that dynamic yet. It may come up, but everything has felt pretty collegial,” Florsheim said.
Channel 3 was there on inauguration night and a little more than 100 days later, he spoke in his office about the transition.
“You’re being handed the keys to a car that’s already in motion. There’s a lot of things you pick up midstream and have to see through completion,” Florsheim said.
One of those inherited projects is an old parking garage behind the courthouse.
“It has been deteriorating for many years and it eventually had to be closed and torn down,” Florsheim said.
This happened during the Dan Drew era, but now, Florsheim is adding his flavor to it. He has visions of making Middletown a destination.
“We want to see a housing element to it. There might be a retail element, a commercial element, but it’s something I see as part of our riverfront redevelopment effort,” Florsheim said.
Florsheim’s office overlooks the Connecticut River. A main campaign point was building off this view and he shares what could be in the works.
“A concert venue of some kind and that’s an idea that’s been kicked around,” Florsheim said.
While campaign promises continue being working on, last month, Florsheim learned emergencies can get in the way. Middletown was home to one of the first coronavirus scares in the nation.
“We were asking ourselves, boy, is the second or third confirmed case going to be here in Middletown,” Florsheim said.
The Wesleyan student didn’t have the coronavirus, but the days-long episode taught Florsheim a lesson his predecessor left with him, which is to trust the people around you.
“Don’t try to micromanage them. Let them do what they need to do. You job is to make sure the public knows what’s going on,” Florsheim said.
Florsheim is also eager to learn, even reaching across party lines for advice. Early on, he sat down with another young mayor, New Britain’s Erin Stewart.
“She will do a Facebook live, a virtual town hall, before every council meeting so that you can tell people what’s on the agenda, what’s going to be voted on, they can give you feedback on that stuff, even if they’re not going to come down,” Florsheim said.
It’s still early into his term, but Channel 3 asked about legacy and Florsheim said changing the culture in education, possibly having universal preschool that would affect generations in a positive way, it what he’d like his legacy to be.