As part of GOOD Morning Wilton‘s coverage of the elections on Nov. 6, and of the campaigns leading up to that day, we have set out some guidelines. Candidates are invited to submit one 800-word op-ed piece before the elections. Doug Stern is the Democratic candidate for Judge of Probate.
It would be the honor of my life to serve my community as Judge of Probate. And I promise to conduct myself in this role with integrity, with empathy and with compassion.
I have a diversity of life experiences that I feel will make me a well-rounded judge of probate that can empathize with all of the citizens of Norwalk and Wilton, from all backgrounds and walks of life. I grew up an ordinary kid from the area, attending St. Luke’s School in New Canaan. I then lived for four years in Nashville, Tennessee as the first person from my high school and my family to attend Vanderbilt University. Attending college in the South helped me appreciate hard work and good manners, but it also exposed a need to never let manners prevent honest and straightforward conversations about deeply important issues like race, gender, religion and poverty. I always strive to be willing to discuss any subject in a respectful, thoughtful and direct way with anyone who wants to speak with me. From there I moved to Manhattan where, at the time, I thought a career in finance was what I wanted. I worked for Citigroup/Smith Barney, became Series 7 and 63 registered but, despite learning a lot, the job wasn’t for me. I realized that for me, personally, my life needed to be more engaged with people and the human condition around me. I needed to have a job that was geared towards helping people in need and making my community work better. I then made my decision to go to law school. I headed South again, attending Tulane University’s School of law in New Orleans.
After law school I knew what I needed to do. I decided to practice law on my own focusing on criminal defense work and probate matters, and along the way get deeply involved in my community through local government, non-profits, and political organizations. Over the last years I am proud to have represented hundreds of underprivileged clients in Norwalk under very challenging and trying circumstances. Much of the volume of my clients come through Norwalk’s Public Defender referral service and are people who would not otherwise be able to afford counsel. Drug addiction, poverty, mental illness and family issues are often all present by the time I help my clients navigate the State’s criminal justice system. Over the years I have developed a temperament and a directness that has helped me serve the needs of those who truly need it, and provide stern legal advice while being sensitive to the many emotions at play. It is a true privilege to be able to help people during the most significant and stressful moments of their lives and has been personally rewarding in ways difficult to describe. I also have provided legal services in probate court, mostly in Fairfield, under the guidance of the late Judge Caruso. I have represented many individuals through the guardianship and conservator application process, as well as in involuntary commitment hearings at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.
I also became involved in my community through work with the Family and Children’s Agency (the oldest non-profit in Norwalk). I began volunteering at their after-school program and their homeless shelter, and was eventually tasked with creating a Junior Board of Advisors, a platform that helps young professionals in Norwalk get involved with the Agency’s many lofty goals. From there I was invited to join the Agency’s Board of Directors and have been proudly serving for over five years. During this time I also became involved in the good work of the Norwalk Branch of the NAACP where I was made an officer and legal redress chairman. Following these experiences I approached City Hall and was nominated and confirmed to serve on the City’s Zoning Commission. This position was time-consuming and challenging, and I loved every moment of it. This experience gave me a real sense of Norwalk from a geographical and topographical perspective and it was a pleasure working with such dedicated professionals. From there I decided to run for office and was elected to the City’s Common Council At-Large. I have seen Norwalk through a new lens in this capacity and have worked with my colleagues from many different life experiences and backgrounds to make good decisions on behalf of the people. These decisions are not without argument, controversy, or compromise, but I have learned from every member that I serve with and feel that we do not always come together and make perfect decisions, but we always do our best to make the right ones.
I am deeply committed to serving my community. I would love to help the citizens of Norwalk and Wilton in this new way and promise to serve this position with honor.