A capacity crowd filled the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium Wednesday night for the official ‘Thank You, Scott Slifka’ event, which was a fundraiser for the Town That Cares Fund and West Hartford Community Television.
By Ronni Newton
A sell-out crowd of about 250 people filled the Town Hall Auditorium for the chance to “roast, toast, and boast” about Scott Slifka’s tenure as mayor of West Hartford.
Slifka’s family, friends, former Town Council colleagues from both political parties, current and former town employees, and other community leaders – even Slifka’s best friend from childhood – paid tribute to West Hartford’s longest serving mayor, who was also the youngest mayor when elected at age 30. Slifka announced in January that he would step down as mayor after the town’s budget was completed due to obligations from his new position as deputy general counsel for the LEGO Group, and officially resigned on May 17.
In addition to serving as a tribute, the farewell was a successful fundraiser for two town-based non-profits – the Town That Cares Fund and West Hartford Community Television (WHC-TV). Signature dishes were donated by area restaurants, and even the wine was donated for the occasion. WHC-TV Executive Director Jen Evans, who served as one of the event organizers, said that after expenses about $8,000 was raised for the two organizations.
Two of Slifka’s former Town Council colleagues – former Mayor and current Commissioner of Consumer Protection Jonathan Harris and former Deputy Mayor Art Spada – served as emcees, and took the stage as an alarm sounded and the recording of one of Slifka’s now-famous phone calls to West Hartford residents during the lengthy power outage following the October 2011 storm was replayed. Images of Slifka in his iconic orange NorthFace fleece jacket filled the screen.
The evening’s presentation included a “Fairly Odd Parents” video sketch by Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan and his wife Carolyn Thornberry, and was highlighted by the featured “homerun tribute” – a special send-off video parody of one of Slifka’s favorite films, “The Natural,” created by Evans and the WHC-TV staff.
The comedic and entertaining video included a “who’s who” of cameo appearances from people who played an important role in Slifka’s life and his tenure – his parents, his wife, his daughter, current and former Town Council members. There were also blasts from the past, including a vignette starring Bill Kelly, Slifka’s best friend since first grade who showed off a poster he made for Slifka when he ran for Board of Education Representative at Hall High School. Former Town Manager Barry Feldman, former Town Clerk Norma Cronin, and even Slifka’s nemesis – former Republican Town Council member Joe Visconti all played a role.
“I love the rare chance to roast my sibling,” said Jonathan Slifka, Scott’s brother, who led the crowd in a champagne toast. Yet Jonathan Slifka, who is currently the chair of the West Hartford Democratic Town Committee and the governor’s liaison to the disability community, was kind to his brother.
Scott served all those years as a volunteer because he loved the service, Jonathan Slifka said. “He told me that he loved waking up every day knowing that he had the opportunity to affect lives of every citizen in town,” Jonathan Slifka said. “The ways in which the town has grown in the last more than 15 years are readily apparent, and we can all say that in some way it was in largely because we had Scott Slifka as our mayor and nobody else did,” said Jonathan Slifka.
“Each and every person in this room is very proud of you. You’ve touched the lives of all of us and we know that you will continue to do so,” Jonathan Slifka said.
Scott Slifka said for the first time he was speechless. “This is absolutely overwhelming,” he said of the “This is Your Life” video.
Slifka said he never got over being a bit shy, and of being afraid that someone would be mad at him behind the next door he would knock on while campaigning. It’s true that the very first door he ever knocked on while campaigning with Jonathan Harris was Joe Visconti’s, Slifka said.
“We get a lot of credit we don’t deserve, because that credit goes to the incredible town staff,” said Slifka as he thanked the community. Not only are they professional, but they are ethical, he said. “It’s been such a privilege.”
Slifka also noted and thanked his political “adversaries,” including former Mayor Rob Bouvier and former Deputy Mayor Kevin Connors, who were both at the event. Slifka said one of the things he took to heart the most was something Connors said when Slifka asked him why he voted a certain way: “You’re going to live here a lot longer than you govern here. You’re going to run into that guy at the little league field, at the grocery store, or at the schoolyard and you’re not going to want that person to think you did something stupid and political and confront you about it.”
“Thank you for giving me the chance to lead [West Hartford] for a while and thank you for allowing me a small part to make a fantastic town even better,” said Slifka.
Continuing with the baseball theme, Slifka was presented with a special bat engraved with the names of all who served with him on the Town Council.
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