Ridgefield's Berger-Girvalo, Hebert put opposite issues on ballot as they seek 111th House seat

RIDGEFIELD — A reproductive rights and gun reform advocate is running for second term representing the 111th House District against a local selectman who has made affordability and crime chief to his campaign. 

Incumbent Democrat Aimee Berger-Girvalo and Republican Bob Hebert offered contrasting priorities for the state as they campaign in the closing weeks of the race for a district that includes most of Ridgefield. 

As she approaches the end of her first term, Berger-Girvalo said, “Our work isn’t done — we have so much more to do. Connecticut has become a leader in so many really critical issues, including reproductive freedom, gun violence prevention and climate change. We have to continue to be a leader in this country and we have to ensure that Connecticut remains safe in all three of these areas.”

Running under the Republican and Independent party lines, Hebert said he’s motivated to run for the 111th House District by his “passion to get this state back on track and prosperous again."

“Let’s focus on the things that are going to make Connecticut thrive again and to keep Ridgefield a special community that it is,” he said.

With prices going up in the state — including sewer, gas and housing costs — Hebert considers affordability a key issue. Along with focusing on public and mental health, Hebert said he’d like to address the increase in crime.

“We have a very good police department, and I think we sort of live in a bubble here, but even here in Ridgefield, we’re starting to see crime increase and certainly in the surrounding areas in the city,” he said. “My job is to represent the people of Ridgefield but we also have to step back and see how we can solve this crime issue statewide.”

Violent crime rates across the state declined between 2021 to 2020, according to a report from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. However, there were six violent crimes reported in Ridgefield in 2021, compared to three the year before, the data shows. 

Campaigning under the Democratic party line, Berger-Girvalo said reproductive freedom, gun violence prevention and climate change are the biggest issues she’d like to work on. 

As far as climate change goes, she said, “We’ve done more in the last year than we have in any years prior, but it’s not enough. We need to continue growing our electric vehicle infrastructure. We also need to look at sustainable solutions for waste management.”

Additionally, she said she needs to continue her work related to domestic violence and sexual assault by strengthening laws that protect people from both threats. Berger-Girvalo said plans to introduce a bill that would prevent convicted abusers from pursuing alimony from those they abused. 

Background

Both candidates are long-time residents of Ridgefield. 

Hebert studied business with a focus on marketing at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and started his professional career in banking. In addition to founding and organizing The Bank of New Canaan in New Canaan, he opened his own real estate investment and advisory firm, Hebert Partners, where he is a managing partner. In the banking world, Hebert has held a variety of senior officer positions, including president and CEO of a division of The Bank of Mystic; vice president and head of National Sales for Merrill Lynch and Kidder-Peabody; and executive vice president and chief lending officer of New Canaan Bank & Trust. 

On the local level, Hebert served as chairman of the Ridgefield Housing Authority and is in his seventh year on the Ridgefield Board of Selectman. He has also served on the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement and is the former chairman of the Republican Town Committee. He said he mentors disadvantaged fathers, teaching them how to be present with their children and how they can be better fathers by making small changes to their lives.

Hebert said the Ridgefield Housing Authority was in bad shape when he first joined. Today, he said the authority is “a very viable, important aspect to the community, serving some of our most vulnerable residents and our seniors, but we also have affordable housing that the Housing Authority manages for families as well.”

Through his work on the Board of Selectman, Hebert said he’s gotten to know the town’s fire department, police department and schools and has had “some meaningful input.” He’s also been involved in the town’s business community, from coordinating the distribution of personal protective equipment to Ridgefield businesses to starting a 501(c)(3) private fund to distribute funds to struggling businesses.

Berger-Girvalo studied developmental disability advocacy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her professional background includes working in operations and general management for restaurant and retail businesses, working in early childhood education, and working as a behavioral therapist. In Ridgefield, she’s been involved with the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee since 2017.

Yet she said she’s always been involved in politics, adding her mother is an army veteran who raised her to be very conscious of the world around her.

“I attended my first pro-choice march in middle school,” Berger-Girvalo said, “so I’ve always been active in policy that protects women and children and families and vets.”

Berger-Girvalo said she was deeply affected by the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, adding her son was a first grader at the time of the shooting and “the pause that I took from being super engaged in politics while my children were very young stopped.”

The Sandy Hook tragedy inspired Berger-Girvalo to get involved with CT Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action, and she worked to organize the Women’s March for Ridgefield, bringing five buses of people down to Washington, D.C.

“After Sandy Hook, I was getting involved again,” Berger-Girvalo said on entering politics, “but after Trump was elected, it was impossible for me not to get involved.”