State Rep. Joe Verrengia of West Hartford announced Wednesday that he will not run for re-election in the 20th District this fall.
By Ronni Newton
State Rep. Joe Verrengia, a Democrat from West Hartford, has served in the State House since 2011, and Wednesday he officially announced plans to retire from the legislature.
Verrengia, 55, a resident of the Elmwood section of West Hartford, has been involved in public service for many decades. He had a 25-year career with the West Hartford Police Department, from which he retired as a sergeant in 2016. Before being elected to the state legislature, he was a member of the West Hartford Town Council from 2004-2010.
“It is with a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude to my family, neighbors and colleagues that I have decided not to run for re-election,” Verrengia said in a statement.
“For 40 years my professional life has taken the path of public service in the areas of law enforcement, the Town Council, and the General Assembly. I am proud of the work I’ve done in helping to bring about Blue Back Square, Quaker Green, and the continuing resurgence of Elmwood,” Verrengia said. “Most importantly, though, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help make a positive difference in the lives of my neighbors.”
Verrengia told We-Ha.com that this was a big decision, and involved a great deal of time and reflection.
“Serving my friends and neighbors, in the community where I was born and raised, will always be the greatest honor I will ever hold. I will also continue to cherish the friendships I have made with those I have served beside,” he said.
“There comes a time when you just file that it’s time to move on. It wasn’t just one thing,” Verrengia said, and it’s a decision not necessarily to step away, but to “step aside” while continuing to advocate for his community.
Verrengia said he hasn’t planned his next step, and right now he is focused on the upcoming legislative session.
“My priority is to put a bow on comprehensive gaming policy,” he said, including sports betting. Gaming falls within the Public Safety and Security Committee, which Verrengia chairs, and he has been working on policy for the past four years.
“I’m optimistic we will be able to get something done this session,” he said, even though it is a short session. The General Assembly is set to convene on Feb. 5 and will remain in session through May 6.
Verrengia was reinstated as chair of Public Safety and Security last week, after having been suspended from the role when he was charged with DUI last October. He said the DUI was “absolutely not” the reason he decided to retire from the legislature.
“It actually had the reverse effect,” he said, and made the decision even harder. “I have received an abundance of kindness and support from family, friends, and neighbors, and if anything it would have motivated me to run.”
For the remainder of his time in office, Verrengia said he plans to work hard to ensure that West Hartford doesn’t receive cuts in state aid, and will also work to put together a task force on homeland security.
Another priority this session, Verrengia said, is to look at the standards regarding police pursuits. A new policy adopted by the Police Officer Standards Council restricts pursuits for minor motor vehicle violations due to the impact on the safety of the general public.
Verrengia also said he would be open to a discussion of reform of juvenile justice laws, which remain a serious issue. A three-strike law has been discussed, but has not been able to move forward in the legislature, he said.
In the statement announcing his decision to not seek re-election, Verrengia said he is proud to have worked on behalf of the town, Elmwood, and the 20th District in helping secure funding for various projects, including $60 million in state aid for the construction of the new Charter Oak International Academy building, $750,000 in upgrades and improvements for Wolcott Park, and $9 million for infrastructure upgrades and pedestrian safety on New Park Avenue.
Verrengia also fought to restore $21 million in state aid to the Town of West Hartford in 2018.
He also is proud to have supported other initiatives, including construction of affordable housing on New Park Avenue and Newington Road, improvements on New Britain Avenue including refurbishing the railroad and busway overpass and fixing the highway overpass at Mayflower and Webster Hill Boulevard, reconstruction of the I-84 and Park Road intersection, upgraded standards and state support for school security, cyber-security protection, tax exemptions for Social Security and pension income, PTSD coverage for police and firefighters, and elimination of the small business entity tax.
Verrengia said he is not aware of any candidates who have yet expressed an interest in running for the 20th District seat.
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