HARTFORD —— John O'Connell, a longtime Republican councilman known for his budgetary expertise and sharp wit, died Wednesday. He was 65.
Former Republican Councilman Mike McGarry, who served with O'Connell in the 1990s, recalled Wednesday how his colleague led an effort to help Democrat Mike Peters defeat Carrie Perry in the 1993 mayor's race.
McGarry said O'Connell was instrumental in bringing Republican voters to Peters, who was behind in the race with only a few days to go before the election.
"O'Connell was our leader at the time and it was up to him," McGarry said. "He knew how to make coalitions."
The support helped Peters to victory, and the Republican Party was invited to play an important role in Peters' administration, especially in the area of finances and the size of city government.
Geraldine Sullivan, Peters' sister and a former city councilwoman, said Wednesday that her brother and O'Connell had different political points of view, but worked together and "had a great relationship."
"They worked hard together to turn things around [in Hartford]," Sullivan said. "Mike respected John's expertise and John respected Mike for keeping his word."
O'Connell, who served on the city council from 1979 to 1983 and from 1993 to 2001, was in failing health in recent years, but Sullivan said he was still involved in local politics.
"He wasn't always diplomatic, but he cared," she said. "He was a watchdog for the city, not a game-player, and those people are few and far between.
Funeral arrangements for O'Connell are pending.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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