Sometime in April I think, I received a phone call that turned out to be from one of the most honorable, ethical, inspiring people that I have had the honor to meet. The caller identified himself as Robert Killian. He told me that he heard a lot about me and that he was contemplating a run for Mayor of Hartford. He wanted to meet and introduce himself. I wasn't sure but I also wanted to meet him and hear what he had to say.
I knew of him and his family name. I had heard him speak once as the MC for the Southend Democratic Ladies luncheon a few years ago and his style was impressive. We met at a restaurant for lunch which eventually turned out to be a three hour introduction. Being in the presence of Bob Killian was like having lunch with Santa Claus and Mark Twain at the same time. I couldn't stop calling him Judge, a title of respect he earned. He kept correcting me and asking me to just call him Bob. (I still call him Judge, especially in public)
His knowledge and love of everything Hartford was amazing. His family history and political history and knowledge was also amazing. And after being a Judge for 31 years, I quickly realized he was one of the most "down to earth" people I had ever met. By the end of our 3 hour lunch, Bob came right out and asked me what it would take to get me as part of his team for his Mayoral run. At first I was hesitant to commit. We talked some more and before we left, he asked again. What would it take to get me as part of his team?
He wore me down, and my response was "lets do this". From that point on, he treated me like he had known me for years and I was immediately included as part of his inner circle and included in most major campaign decisions. He still continued to impress me everyday . No matter where we went I the City , or who we met, a brief history lesson was attached (well I quickly learned the Judge was never brief, but always informative) and he always had a lesson.Whether we were going to lunch on Main Street or passing the XL Center, there was Hartford history. Saint Peter's Church, the Charter Oak Cultural Center, the roof collapse at the Civic Center. How many people knew about the co-generation power plant on the roof of the G.Fox building powered by kerosene? Bob Killian does.
Ask him about political events on the front steps of the old Hartford Times building (soon to be UConn) and the street that used to run by City Hall where the Burr Mall and Stegosaurus are know. The Killian family was here and were part f Hartford's history.
My "what if " calls between the two of us became a regular nightly thing. What did I think about staffing at HPD? What would he do about the baseball stadium? What were my thoughts on Hartford's small business environment? Any thing and everything was on the table and I have never talked to someone that knew more about finance and bonding and could explain it all in a usable , understandable way. Municipal law and his understanding is amazing. The entire time we would talk, I always kept thinking this guy could run circles around Pedro Segarra . I just kept thinking , the sky is the limit as to what Hartford cold achieve with the Judge as Mayor
I will be honest, I was concerned initially if Bob had the stamina to run a campaign and be Mayor at his age. That was quickly dispelled in very short order. The first was a hone call from someone that was aware of my concerns, They asked if I knew Hillary Clinton's age? I quickly realized, both Hillary and Bob were the same age. If she could run for President, surely Bob could run for Mayor. Then the more time I spent with him the more I realized my fears were unfounded. One day we started off attending a funeral for a Hartford resident that both Bob and I had history with, then a luncheon meeting related to the campaign, an evening community event and I honestly think if it wasn't so late, Bob would have been ready to go out door knocking for a few hours.
His energy level was inspiring, He would wear me out almost every time. But at the end of the day you knew you were accomplishing something, meeting great people and learning more about this great City, You can't buy that knowledge.
Bob's campaign was taking shape. His love for his family, his wife Candy, his two daughters and his grandson Calder I think was the only thing greater than his love for the City of Hartford. During all of this, Bob not only showed what a great Mayor he would be but also what a great friend he is. During this period, I had my stroke. Bob was immediately asking what I needed, Bo and Candy offered to take my dog Bailey into their home if needed. Bob called me one day and asked what I needed in the hospital. I told him the food was so bad, I would really like some fresh fruit.
That afternoon, when Bob should have been out campaigning. he showed up in my hospital room. He was carrying a large insulated bag from Whole Foods loaded with fresh fruit, some of the best bananas I have ever tasted, white flesh nectarines, cherries, strawberries. I made friends with the nursing staff at snack time, they loved the cherries especially. Unfortunately the potassium in the bananas and nectarines damn near killed me, but like they say, it is the thought that counts. (Thanks Bob)
Bob made several visits to my room while I as in the Hospital and during rehab. Shortly after my release from rehab, I was staying at my Mother's house in Windsor Locks. One afternoon Bob called and asked if he could visit me that night, he wanted to talk to me. I immediately could tell by the tone of the conversation it wasn't good. I looked at my mother and said to her, "He's dropping out" It was devastating because all I could imagine was what he could do as Mayor. He arrived at Mom's house and he had some papers in his hand.
I think besides his wife, I was the only other person to get the news yet. He had decided to drop out of the race for Mayor. His reasoning was sound. As with everything Bob Killian.does, the decision had been well thought out. Bob had contracted a poll. Based on that poll,to the best of my memory, it showed that Bob Killian would give Luke Bronin a run for his money. It also showed that Pedro Segarra would most likely pull out a victory if the voter base was split three or four ways between Killian, Bronin and possibly John Gale if he didn't drop out , which he eventually did) Bob said that he loved Hartford too much and cared too much about its future, to be the spoiler in the race.He had made the decision to drop out of the race. Clearly there was no changing his mind.
I was asked by Bob to keep the decision confidential until he was ready to announce it later in the week, Several people weren't happy afterwards when they found out I knew in advance. That was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do
He didn't make it any easier when he told me that as much as he wanted to be Mayor, at least one good thing came out of the campaign, he met me and he made a good friend for life. (Right back at ya' Judge )
. And I couldn't really argue. I had seen his love for Hartford from day one, and his reasoning was sound. It was a tough pill to swallow but the decision was his. In the end it was the correct decision. If Bob had stayed in the race and split the vote, Wednesday's outcome would have been much different. We would have been headed for another four years of incompetent leadership. The 15 or 20 percent of the vote the poll predicted, at the very least would have guaranteed Segarra a win over Killian and Bronin. Things might have changed, Killian's numbers might have swelled, but based on the preliminary poll numbers, Judge Killian wasn't willing to take that risk. He is not ego driven like some and was unwillingness to risk the future of 120,000 people on his desire to be Mayor is commendable.
It is more than commendable, it is honorable. And that is exactly what I expected when I signed on with the Honorable Robert Killian. Bob Killian would be a definite asset for turning this City around.