March 25th, 2013 | City

Ward 26 alderman eyes city clerk role

Ward 26 Alderman Sergio Rodriguez wants to be New Haven’s next city clerk — and he means business.

Rodriguez took to the streets Saturday, launching his campaign for the city’s chief administrative office with a walking tour designed to inform voters about his candidacy and shed light on the responsibilities that come with the office. A five-term Westville alderman, Rodriguez said the face in the clerk’s office should be more visible to the public. He described the position as a “community connection,” the New Haven Independent reported Monday.

Officially called the city/town clerk, the position involves handling all public documents, including claims and suits against the city, business licenses, land records and liquor permits; compiling and overseeing Board of Aldermen legislation; and distributing absentee ballots for city elections.

Rodriguez is running to replace incumbent Ron Smith, who has served for 10 years in the 20-hour-a-week position that pays $46,597 per year. In his time as clerk, Smith has never faced a serious re-election challenge. Typically, the city clerk runs alongside a mayoral candidate, with Smith attached to Mayor John DeStefano Jr. over the last decade. But with DeStefano’s planned exit, the race may heat up this November.

Since filing paperwork last Thursday to oust Smith, Rodriguez has already hired a campaign manager and a social media point person, and has scouted out a campaign headquarters.

Joining him on the tour were Ernie Santiago and Santiago Berrios-Bones, two Fair Haven aldermen who say they’re supporting their colleague. Berrios-Bones, who won a special election in Ward 14 earlier this year with the backing of prominent Hispanic leaders in the city, told the Independent that he prefers Rodriguez to Smith primarily because Rodriguez speaks Spanish.

The trio made an appearance at a number of small businesses, talking with city residents about property tax hikes and explaining their vision for a more engaged, active city clerk.

Rodriguez and Smith will square off in a Sept. 14 Democratic Party primary.