The West Hartford Town Council officially elected its president and vice president – the mayor and deputy mayor – and bid goodbye to two longtime council members as the newly elected were sworn in.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Town Council’s Tuesday night meeting was ceremonial – with the agenda including the election of its new officers and a swearing in – but prior to that members “roasted” their colleagues who did not seek re-election this fall, offering positive and heartfelt comments about their service to the community.
The meeting was the last for the Council’s minority leader, Republican Denise Hall, as well as Democrat Judy Casperson, both of whom served eight years and chose to retire from the Council this year. Both received praise for their commitment and the hours spent in volunteer service to the West Hartford community. Family and friends also filled the room to offer good wishes.
“You’ve seen a lot in the last eight years,” Cantor said, highlighting a long list that included changes in town manager and many directors, hurricanes and other natural disasters, the conversion to single-stream recycling, reduction of the number of polling places, outdoor dining changes, approval of medical marijuana, complete streets, and adoption of an entertainment ordinance.
On a personal level, Cantor said that she, Hall, and Casperson, who are all about the same age, have gone through many similar experiences. “We have been so lucky to have had the services of these incredible women,” Cantor said.
Cantor said she met Casperson when they were part of a rowing team with other Morley moms. “I could tell when I met her that she was smart and worldly … she has strength and ethics and has always led with incredible grace,” Cantor said, noting that Casperson was the first woman of color and the only woman of color elected to the Council.
Hall takes public service very seriously, cares passionately about her hometown, and was a wonderful partner on the selection committee for town manager, Cantor said. “West Hartford is a better place because of you,” she said.
Cantor’s sentiments were echoed by the other Council members, who praised their outgoing colleagues. Hall has been appointed to the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) board, and Council members said they are glad that she will remain in public service.
Davidoff said that he knows that as a West Hartford representative on the MDC, Hall will “ask the tough questions and expect the honest answers.”
Casperson said she had so many thoughts about her service on the Town Council, and “there is a lot of joy at the core of it all.” She said she was honored to be one of the voices to represent West Hartford, and when she agreed to run never thought she would be the first person of color on the Town Council.
Hall said that leaving was more difficult than she anticipated, and thanked her husband and other family members. “Running for office has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life,” she said, especially because of the friends she has made.
Newly-elected Council members Mary Fay (Republican) and Liam Sweeney (Democrat) were sworn in and took their seats at the table.
With unanimous support, the newly-seated Council made official the role of Shari Cantor as Mayor and Beth Kerrigan as deputy mayor by electing them president and vice president of the West Hartford Town Council. Cantor was the top vote-getter in the Nov. 7 municipal election, and Kerrigan had the second-highest vote total.
The role of minority leader is not in the Town Council’s charter, but the Republican caucus has appointed Chris Barnes, who garnered the most votes among his party, to the position.
Essie Labrot was officially reappointed as Council Clerk, and Pat Alair was officially re-appointed Corporation Counsel.
Committee chairs and assignments were also announced, including a new Economic Development Committee to be chaired by Dallas Dodge.
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