Dallas Dodge, a former member of the West Hartford Town Council, will take over for Corporation Counsel Patrick Alair who received a standing ovation Monday night in honor of his service.
By Ronni Newton
Dallas Dodge retired from the West Hartford Town Council this fall, but will soon rejoin his former colleagues at the table, this time in a different role.
Dodge, 36, was approved 8-0 Monday night for a two-year term as corporation counsel effective Dec. 19, 2019, replacing Patrick Alair who chose to retire at the end of his term.
Republican Chris Williams, who earlier in the meeting expressed concern about raises for the town clerk and town manager, and the increase in salary for the corporation counsel position, abstained.
“Dallas is an excellent attorney who is respected by his former council colleagues,” said Mayor Shari Cantor, who proposed Dodge for the corporation counsel position. “He has a deep history as a government lawyer and advisor, and I’m very pleased that he has agreed to continue serving West Hartford in this new capacity.”
When Dodge decided not to seek re-election for Town Council this fall, becoming corporation counsel was not on his radar. Cantor told We-Ha.com that after he had already announced plans not to run, she approached Dodge to get some recommendations of candidates for the job.
During the process, Cantor said, “He said, ‘I wish I could do it.’ I said, ‘Same.’ Then we both paused, talked again, and got a a temperature check from our caucus.” Cantor reached out to Republicans who were also supportive.
“We’re lucky that he had an interest and is sharing his intelligence, hard work, and municipal and legal background,” said Cantor. “The town will really benefit.”
Dodge is a “stellar” candidate for the position, Cantor said.
Corporation counsel is a part-time position, appointed by the Council, and includes supervision of full-time staff attorneys – Garmon Newsom and Gina Varono – who both work as assistant corporation counsel for the town.
“I am humbled and honored to have been asked by Mayor Cantor to serve in this capacity,” Dodge told We-Ha.com. I am very grateful for the support of my former colleagues and also the new Council members for the trust they have put in me, and I’m looking forward to working with what I think is one of the best legal departments in the state.”
Dodge will be paid an annual salary of $59,000, an increase from the $42,500 paid to Alair and several of his predecessors. The salary has not changed since 1997, Cantor told We-Ha.com, and based on the number of hours Dodge is expected to spend at the job it works out to a rate of approximately $63 per hour, far below the average billable cost for an attorney. He is also responsible for paying for his own malpractice insurance, Cantor noted.
According to a comparison of corporation counsel salaries in other Connecticut municipalities (see PDF below) provided by Town Manager Matt Hart, Dodge’s salary for the position is far below the $78,103 average.
“I think he would be a great fit to continue what Mr. Alair has created here,” Minority Leader Lee Gold said of Dodge. “It’s not a part-time job. … In terms of the salary, we’ve gone through comps, there hasn’t been an increase in quite some time, and the amount that we’re taking about I think is commensurate with what is required of the job and what you’re going to put into it.”
Dodge received his law degree, with honors, from the University of Connecticut in 2009. He earned a B.A. in political science from UConn in 2006.
Dodge is currently a partner at Hartford-based government relations consulting firm Roy & Leroy, but will provide legal services to the town separately through his law firm, The Law Office of Dallas Dodge PLLC.
His previous experience was as vice president and general counsel with the Insurance Association of Connecticut, senior attorney for the Office of the Connecticut Speaker of the House, and associate attorney in the municipal law and public finance departments of Shipman & Goodwin.
After law school, he clerked for Connecticut Appellate Court Judge Lubbie Harper Jr. as well as Senior United States District Judge Ellen Bree Burns, the first female federal judge in Connecticut.
Dodge grew up in West Hartford and currently lives in town with his wife, Jessica, and two children.
Dodge’s interest in municipal government dates back to his high school days, when he was Conard High School’s student representative to the West Hartford Board of Education.
Before Dodge was confirmed, the Council also paid tribute to Alair, who served as part of the town’s legal department for more than 33 years. Alair now looks forward to retiring and spending time with his wife, and his two daughters, their husbands, and his grandchildren.
Cantor read a proclamation noting Alair’s instrumental role in evolution of the town, including as a key player in the development of Blue Back Square.
Alair has worked in West Hartford’s Office of Corporation Counsel since Aug. 1, 1986, when he became an assistant corporation counsel. In 2005 he received the “deputy” designation.
On Aug. 2, 2016, Alair, who retired from the staff position of deputy corporation counsel, agreed to take on the part-time position, and was appointed to replace Joe O’Brien, the town’s longest-serving corporation counsel whose tenure began in 2001.
Alair is “recognized by his peers as one of the preeminent municipal attorneys in the state” after defending the town in many cases, the proclamation stated.
“Mr. Alair’s finest attributes are his quick wit, responsiveness, attention to detail, and institutional knowledge,” the proclamation noted.
“We owe you way more than you took from this town … you made us shine when we needed to shine,” Cantor told Alair.
Other Council members expressed their appreciation for Alair’s contributions, including Councilor Liam Sweeney grew up with one of Alair’s daughters. “I wish him so much luck,” Sweeney said.
Alair has always had the right attitude and led the town in the right direction, Deputy Mayor Leon Davidoff said. “Enjoy being a grandfather.”
Williams thanked Alair for his thoroughness, and Carol Blanks, who was just elected in November, thanked Alair for educating her about the important issues in town as she stepped into her new role.
“We’re really going to miss your institutional memory,” said Town Manager Matt Hart, who thanked Alair for his service on behalf of town staff.
Cantor said the town has been so lucky to have benefited from Alair’s service for so long, service that has spanned many mayors and four different town managers.
“You have that gift of being confident and humble … we’re a better community because of your input,” she said. “You have been a sage and a leader.
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