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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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4 New Canaan Council members to retire

Updated 6:01 pm, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
  • Four Town Council members are retiring this year. Clockwise from top left: Mark DeWaele (R), Bob Hamill (R), Kit Devereaux (D), Christine Hussey (D). Photo: Tyler Woods
    Four Town Council members are retiring this year. Clockwise from top left: Mark DeWaele (R), Bob Hamill (R), Kit Devereaux (D), Christine Hussey (D). Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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Over the last few years, the New Canaan Town Council has faced numerous challenges, from unexpected legal fees on the Lakeview Avenue bridge, to the Main Street sidewalk debate, to the Jeb Walker pension imbroglio. Most recently, many Town Council members were taken aback at fellow member Roger Williams' threat to file legal action should he not be allowed to call into a meeting.

Four council members, including the chairman, will not seek re-election in November, with one member publicly basing her decision on the increasingly bitter nature of discussion at recent meetings.

Democrat Kit Devereaux announced she was leaving the council after eight years at its May 15 meeting.

"It used to be a great pleasure to serve on Town Council. Although I certainly have not agreed with every decision the council made, I think it is important to respect differences of opinion, and to honor the will of the majority," she said in prepared remarks at that meeting. "It seems like since the last election cycle, the quality of discourse, although polite, is often laden with implication. As a friend of mine observed, we have entered a phase of `gotcha' politics. And while New Canaan has saved some money in certain matters, which is really important, the atmosphere has deteriorated significantly."

Devereaux said she would remain active in town, where she is a member of the League of Women Voters, on the Board Advisory Committee of the New Canaan Library and a member of the Spencer's Run Advisory Board. She also noted that she would not rule out running for the Town Council again in four or eight years, if the atmosphere had improved significantly.

Mark DeWaele spent six of his eight years as council chairman.

"I'm honored to have been able to serve," he said Friday. "When I ran eight years ago, I decided I would serve two terms. I'm going to take a couple years off and do some other things: volunteering in town; for the executive committee of the board of Christo Rey High School (in East Harlem, N.Y.); for the (Connecticut) Commission on Children; the Office of Healthcare Advocate Advisory Committee, which I've been doing for the last several years. I also have a very busy dental practice, which keeps me here five-plus days a week."

Democrat Christine Hussey served on the council for 28 years.

"I've been on the Town Council since Columbus came over," she said. "It's been an absolute honor to represent the people of New Canaan on the Town Council. I will miss it very much, but it's time to give someone else a chance."

Hussey, whose grandfather built the house in which she grew up in New Canaan, was elected to the council in 1985. Hussey said she plans to stay active in town -- she volunteers at her church, St. Aloysius -- and to take time to travel. She said she'd like to go to Italy and Greece and the Holy Land.

Republican Robert Hamill will leave after serving one term.

"I found myself in the role as a bridge on a lot of topics, which is really not the best place to be," he said, mentioning the at-times rancorous nature of Town Council dealings, which wore on him.

He also mentioned what he called the tremendous challenges facing the council in the future. "We argue about $10,000 here or $20,000 there, and it's good that we do, and we should, but the pension obligations and health care obligations coming up, we're talking about millions of dollars."

Hamill said he does not have community-oriented plans for post-council life, but would be interested in joining something where his skills and experience could be put to use to help the town.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews