Nick Panuzio, who won the mayoralty of Bridgeport by the tightest of margins and went on to be an influential behind-the-scenes presence in Washington, D.C., passed away on Friday at the age of 83.
Panuzio entered politics in the 1960s as a representative for Bridgeport’s 134th District. A Republican, he unsuccessfully challenged the Democrat incumbent Hugh Curran in the 1969 Bridgeport mayoral race, and returned in 1971 to eke out a victory of only nine votes. Panuzio was re-elected in 1973 and his administration was responsible for establishing the Bridgeport Economic Development Corp., a public-private entity initially focused on bringing new use to industrial properties.
Panuzio unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for governor in 1974 and opted not to seek a third term as mayor. He left Bridgeport with 55 days remaining in his term to become deputy administrator of the General Services Administration and commissioner of public buildings under President Gerald Ford.
After the Ford Administration concluded in 1977, Panuzio stayed in Washington as a political adviser, initially serving as the founder and manager of The Management Link and Panuzio Business Strategies, then teaming with Washington power brokers Paul Manafort and Roger Stone in 1981 to become president and CEO of Black, Manofort, Stone and Kelly Public Affairs Co. He created Panuzio & Giordano Public Affairs in 2003, with offices in the Washington area and Hartford.
Although he never sought elected office again, Panuzio served as an adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush on urban affairs and later became chairman of the Talbot County Republican Central Committee in Maryland.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim paid tribute to his predecessor, noting that his “commitment to the people continued throughout his life and most recently with his time serving on the Board of Trustees for the University of Bridgeport. Nick’s contributions and kindness will be fondly remembered.”