Walko Takes Charge of Town Republicans
By Bill Slocum
If past performance is any indicator of future success, Greenwich Republicans say Steve Walko will do a fantastic job chairing the Republican Town Committee.
Elected last Wednesday by the RTC by a 34-22 vote, Walko takes charge as Greenwich Republicans prepare to hold three state House seats and a state Senate seat in what promises to be a contentious election year.
All that might seem like a challenge for a man simultaneously overseeing plans for a major town project, the proposed $37 million rebuilding of New Lebanon Elementary School, but people who know Walko say handling both duties at the same time won’t phase him a bit.
“For the normal person, possibly, but not for Steve,” said Michael Bocchino, the 150th District state representative who serves on the New Lebanon School Building Committee that Walko chairs. “He’s so driven, he understands how to keep his focus on the job in front of him.”
Another Greenwich Republican legislator in Hartford, state Senator Scott Frantz, recalled the two years he and Walko served together in the legislature, from 2013-15 while Walko held the 150th District seat. Walko, he said, is the right choice when it comes to “avoiding the trap of complacency.”
“The main purpose of a town committee chair is to choose good candidates, and I know he will continue that tradition,” Frantz said. “He knows everyone. He knows the system at the local and state level, and he’s quite persuasive at getting candidates to run for office.”
Ed Dadakis, a past RTC chair who recently stepped away from the committee after more than 30 years, said Walko is the right person for the position for two reasons.
“He’s a hard worker, and he’s easy to work with,” Dadakis said. “The combination of those two items will bring people together around him and contribute to the party’s success.”
Walko also holds a full-time job as a lawyer at the Greenwich firm Ivey Barnum & O’Mara, where he has worked for over ten years specializing in labor and employment law litigation and real estate law. A resident of Glenville, he is married to Alexandra Walko, with whom he has two children; Nicole, 13, and Christopher, 12.
Getting elected to the RTC required Walko to do something he admits he doesn’t like much: Talking about himself. “I’m certainly humbled by the amount of support I’ve received,” he said.
As far as whether he can juggle the requirements of managing both the RTC and the New Lebanon School Building Committee, Walko responded with “an emphatic yes.”
“I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other,” he added. “I’m excited about the next two years, and setting goals and priorities for the election just ahead.”
That includes lining up candidates for the four state legislative seats, a task which would theoretically be much simpler if the current incumbents, all Republicans, choose to stay on. Walko said he has heard nothing about that either way.
While neither Bocchino nor Frantz would tip their hand, both said they are comfortable with the idea of Walko driving future townwide campaigns. [Frantz’s district, along with that of state Representative Livvy Floren, extend outside Greenwich. The other Republican is Fred Camillo, representing the 151st District.]
Dadakis said the biggest challenge an RTC chair has in even-numbered years is “getting a lot of people to the polls.”
“I always get concerned with incumbents who are popular, where it’s too easy to check them off as re-elected before the voting begins,” Dadakis continued. “We need to get people to the polls so we can offset Democrat votes upstate and help elect a Republican senator, a Republican House member and hopefully a Republican president.”
Dadakis’s first memory of Walko is of a 26-year-old helping pass out balloons at the Bruce Museum for a Robert Dole for President rally in 1996. Later, Dadakis worked more extensively with Walko on a search committee for a first selectman candidate, a process which led to choosing current incumbent Peter Tesei. Tesei gave a speech at the RTC last week nominating Walko as chair.
Bocchino’s experience with Walko goes back even farther. Both attended New Lebanon School during overlapping periods, and later did the same at Greenwich High School, from where Walko graduated in 1988.
Bocchino remembers Walko as an engaging leader even in his youth, helping form a rugby club at Greenwich High which eventually became a successful team. Toughness and teamwork were always qualities Walko exemplified, he said.
“When Steve finds an issue that’s really important, something that needs to be fought for, he’s the first person to raise his hand and take charge,” Bocchino said. “That’s a quality we are fortunate to have in an RTC chairman.”
Walko replaced Jim Campbell as RTC chair. He said he will work to make the party more inclusive while promoting a core message of fiscal responsibility.
“My goal is not only to increase the rank and file of Republicans in town, but have those who are participating be even more engaged,” Walko said. “I want to reach out so we can understand the concerns and talents of our party members.”
A third-generation resident of Greenwich, Walko is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Political Science. He also has a J. D. from St. John’s University School of Law.
Walko’s extensive record of public service in town includes serving on the Board of Estimate and Taxation from 1999 to 2011, the last three years as its chairman. From 2006 to 2008, he was chair of the BET’s influential Budget Committee.