Former City Councilwoman Donna Curran has served the city both as a Republican and Democrat with an extensive reach of public benevolence on behalf of neighborhoods, schools, children and non-profits.
She graduated Fairfield University magna cum laude in economics and spent more than 24 years in corporate management specializing in marketing communications, corporate sales, commercial real estate acquisition and disposition. She and her husband, Michael Curran, are the parents and step-parents of four children and four grandchildren.
Donna is OIB’s latest interview saluting Bridgeport’s 200 years.
Q. What is your first memory of Bridgeport?
A. I was born in Bridgeport, lived in Yellow Mill Village in the mid-’40s, then moved to 269 Barnum Avenue across from Washington Park. I remember walking to kindergarten at Barnum School, coming home for lunch and meeting my father who also came home for lunch from Manning, Maxwell & Moore. My father would stop at Frisbee Pie Company and buy his favorite, coconut custard, for only 15 cents because of its broken crust. As a small child I was beguiled by Bridgeport’s world-class architecture, the brass and crystal chandeliers hanging from ornate plastered ceilings, the carved marble bank buildings, elegant apartment buildings, the Wheeler Mansion, the glorious fountain at the intersection of Park and North Avenues. Beardsley Park’s Ann Hathaway’s Cottage with adjacent waterfalls and stone boathouse was a magical location for me.
Q. What are your ties to Bpt., and what do you do, either work or volunteer work, that benefits the city and its residents?
A. My mom graduated from Harding HS and Arnold College (UB). My parents met at Remington Arms during the war–my mother tapered 50 mm bullets and my father was the inspector. Dr. Paul Hippolitus, my maternal grandfather with my grandmother, Elena, serving as treasurer, was a founding member of Park City Hospital. These 11 doctors wanted to provide hospital care without regard for a patient’s ability to pay. When I returned to Bridgeport in 1989, I immediately became engaged in advocacy and activism. The galvanizing issue that grabbed everyone’s attention was the attempt to build not one, but TWO, asphalt plants–one adjacent to Seaside Park and one 30 feet away from a residence! I remember the public meeting–600-700 people from across the city came together in outrage. The unity transcended political party. It was a defining moment for me. I ran for public office 4 times (2-2). Elected to the City Council and to the Democratic Town Committee most recently. I worked at The Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport for four amazing years. I didn’t know I was a science geek! And what a STEM asset for the region.
My past affiliations included Friends of Seaside Park; Black Rock NRZ; Black Rock Homeowners’ Association; Bridgeport Citizens Watch; Mercy Learning Center; St. Ann’s Board; SVA; City Council: Budget, Contracts and Reform Committees; appointed to Urban Land Institute Education, Ethics, and Budget Committees. Presently active in Ash Creek Conservation Association Board member and Generation Now/UnRig Bridgeport.
Q. What do you like best about Bridgeport?
A. I am inspired by the diversity of its people and the vibrancy of our city neighborhoods–culture, food, music, art. Hard to find except in another city. When I went door to door campaigning and spent time with residents, their sincerity and trust and generosity of spirit humbled me. They fueled my purpose to hold the city accountable and transparent in its operations. And do I need mention our 20,000+ school children whose futures are on the line?
Q. Where is your favorite spot in the city to visit and why?
A. Bridgeport is on Long Island Sound which for me is perfect. Seaside Park is a remarkable gift to the city from Barnum. What a legacy he left us! Also during Covid I came to truly appreciate being near the salt water–always restorative to walk along a shoreline. Downtown Cabaret and The Klein are venues that I have enjoyed for decades as have my children and grandchildren.
Q. What’s your favorite Bridgeport eatery and what do you like there?
A. My favorite Bridgeport eatery was an epic dining experience for me as a young child–Jerry’s Apizza on Pequonnock Street. 75 cents for a grated cheese pizza; $1.25 for scamorza. My sister and I always burned the roofs of our mouths. We couldn’t wait! No restaurant can top that memory I’m afraid!
Q. Where do you see the city going?
A. I am hopeful and optimistic. I’m hoping, as younger people move into the many rental apartments being built, they will bring their openness to change, their expectation of transparency and accountability, and their motivation to help reform our city government. Generation Now impresses me with its long-term social, economic and judicial mission to help our “beloved” city get on a righteous path. Together it can be a powerful force for change.
Q. If you had a magic wand and could make a miracle happen for the city, what would it be?
A. Would I be considered greedy if I asked for two miracles? They are kind of related. I can’t forget our 20,000+ school children. My first wand-wave would guarantee a public education system equal to that of our suburban neighbors. We have apartheid by zip code in the State of Connecticut. Bridgeport’s graduation rate is around 76% compared to 95% and up in our surrounding towns. Teachers have their hands full. We must have universal pre-school to change the dynamic. Student outcomes are significantly improved the earlier formal education begins. My second wand-wave: UnRig Bridgeport! The patronage system continues. Bridgeport sends 100 delegates to State and Federal nominating conventions affecting candidate selections. The State is not going to help. We need to press from the bottom up–the way our democracy was envisioned–and educate and motivate voters, increase voter participation, and create the change we deserve. These are not political issues, they are moral issues.