Trumbull First Selectman Speaks to Political Science Students

News Story: January 20, 2016

First Selectman of Trumbull, Tim Herbst, shared how he got involved in politics, his experience running for state treasurer, opinions on the 2016 presidential election and much more with students in Sacred Heart University’s State and Local Government course during a recent visit. 

Herbst, who is currently serving his fourth term as first selectman for the town of Trumbull seemed energized and ready to exchange ideas and answer questions. But as it turned out, he had actually been up since 2 a.m. when the Trumbull police chief called to tell him a threat had been made on the high school. 

“That’s the challenging part of government,” Herbst said. “You get stuff put in your lap sometimes that you don’t expect to deal with.”

Functioning on little sleep, Herbst jumped right into his talk. He shared that he became interested in politics at a young age. At 19, while still an undergrad at Trinity College, he was elected to Trumbull’s Planning and Zoning Commission. In 2009, while practicing law and still serving on the commission, Herbst was asked to run for first selectman against a four-term incumbent. He was told he probably wouldn’t win, but the town’s Republican Party needed someone to give it a “good fight.”

“I said I’d give it a shot. I figured I’d lose, but thought it would be good for my law practice and the community,” Herbst said.

The rest is history. Herbst won the election and has since learned much about being a first selectman, a job that is equivalent to being a mayor.

Herbst also understands the differences between running for local office versus state office. In 2014, Herbst ran for state treasurer and lost by about 18,000 votes, he said.

Herbst told students that getting the media to focus on the race and the issues he brought up helped make the race tighter and more competitive. He learned what kinds of ads to run and how to target certain areas of the state. “I learned a lot and I’m a better person for that,” he said.

After detailing his career, Herbst encouraged students to ask him questions. Some asked how he was able to start his career so young; others asked what he would have done differently in the state treasurer campaign; still others asked about Trumbull’s public safety and the upcoming presidential election.

Herbst talked about some of the Republicans running for President. He said he doesn’t think Donald Trump will get the nomination. He does believe that if New Jersey governor Chris Christie can get ahead of former Florida governor Jeb Bush and come in first or second in New Hampshire’s primary, he may have a shot at the nomination.

Herbst also said he doesn’t think the American people believe in dynasties, and that’s why they haven’t fully embraced Bush, whose brother and father were presidents. He believes former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not get the Democrat Party’s nomination because of the investigation into her usage of personal email for job-related correspondence.

Before leaving class, Gary Rose, professor and chair in the Department of Government, Politics and Global Studies, asked Herbst about his plans for the rest of the day. Herbst said he would eat lunch and check in with the chief of police in Trumbull about the threat (the school was deemed safe) and then get ready for a budget meeting. He didn’t expect to get home until 10:30 or 11 p.m.

“I was pleased with the quality of the students’ questions, and I was very pleased and impressed with Herbst’s poise and delivery. I thought he related to the students in a terrific way,” Rose said. “Tim is the sort of political figure in Connecticut who could inspire students to enter the political process, which I always encourage.”

Rose said several students told him after class that they really appreciated the depth of Herbst’s discussion regarding both local and state political issues, and they liked that he connected well with them.