WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Embattled West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi will not run for a fourth term. She announced her decision Wednesday night in a Zoom call with the West Haven Town Democratic Committee.

The Democrat said she and her husband plan to retire from their respective jobs later this year.

“It was a hard decision because I love what I’ve been doing, as hard and difficult as these years have been,” Rossi said.

Rossi made it clear she believes she is leaving the city better than she found it.

“We have made major strides, even in the financial condition of the city,” Rossi said. “We have balanced every budget that we have produced.”

Public opinion turned against her about a year and a half ago when more than a million dollars in COVID-19 relief money disappeared. Four people, including two city employees, pleaded guilty to charges in the scheme.

“What we call controls, things that stop things like that, were not done properly for decades,” Rossi said. “Not just here. We inherited a mess.”

However, people with whom News 8 spoke said Rossi ran as a CPA who could clean up the city’s finances. Most believe not running is the right call.

“You know, the things that happened with the COVID money and stuff,” West Haven resident Sue Bonci said. “Not that it’s really her fault, but it’s on her watch.”

“She’s not doing what she’s supposed to do,” said Dee Doyle of West Haven. “I think she outdid her time. We need fresh blood.”

“She’s done a lot for West Haven, but the last year and a half has tarnished what she has done,” said West Haven resident Paul Frosolone.

Right after the COVID money scandal, Rossi beat Republican Barry Lee Cohen by a handful of votes. He is also glad Rossi is not running.

“It’s sorely needed and long overdue because, most importantly, it gives the city an opportunity to heal,” Cohen said.

One of the most visible issues the city of West Haven is still dealing with is the Haven project. It was supposed to be a sprawling outlet mall with waterfront dining. That never happened, but Rossi pointed out that the owner has cleaned it up in recent weeks. Excavators are knocking down the buildings that were left and making them more attractive for whatever happens next.

“You can see the water, and that’s an attraction for everyone,” Rossi said. “That’s where people want to be — on the water. I believe we’re going to end up with a good development there.”

Cohen has already announced he is running for mayor again this year and said development is one of the keys to the future.

“We want to know that we are going to be talking to developers and real estate agents and people like that. To be friendly again,” Cohen said. “We have been the city of missed opportunity for far, far too long.”

West Haven Democratic Chairman Mike Last released the following statement to News 8:

“Rossi was first elected in 2017, becoming the first woman to hold the position. She has been under fire since 2021 when the state audited the use by city officials of federal COVID-19 relief funds. Four people were later charged with stealing COVID money in the case, including State Representative Michael DiMassa and his wife Lauren. The pregnant Mrs. DiMassa was later sentenced to six months in prison and will give birth behind bars. Michael DiMassa will be sentenced next month.”

Rossi said she would keep working for the city until the end of her term in December.