Q&A with ... Beth Jones, first woman on New Canaan Fire Commission
NEW CANAAN — For as long as New Canaan has had a Fire Commission, it is has always been staffed by men — that is until now.
On Tuesday evening, Beth Jones was sworn in as the first woman on the commission in the town’s history.
Jones has already established herself in town by being involved with local organizations and the town government. She spent four years on the Town Council and six years on the Board of Selectmen. She also serves as chairman of the New Canaan Democratic Town Committee.
Q: What is the role of the Fire Commission in town?
A: The Fire Commission generally is the liaison between the town government and the Fire Department. We work on the budget proposals for the Fire Department, keep track of what our capital needs are. Unlike most of the commissions in town, the Police and Fire commissions do the hiring and firing of the policemen and firemen. We also recommend the hires to the Board of Selectmen. So we’re responsible for the whole department and how it fits into town.
Q: How do you think this moment could impact not only your commission, but other boards or commissions in town?
A: It’s funny because being a small town I think nobody deliberately didn’t have a woman on these boards. Maybe there wasn’t interest before.
I hope that it brings awareness so we could maybe get a woman commissioner on the Police Commission at one point. That is also a commission that to my knowledge has never had a woman commissioner. Most of the other boards have had women or a woman.
I would love to see like we’re seeing in Congress, a move toward it being 50-50. I would like to see six women on the Town Council and four or five women on the Board of Finance. I think diversity is important.
Q: What else are you involved with around town?
A: I’m still in the Kiwanis Club. I’m still a member of the League of Women Voters. I was on the board of that for several years, but when I retook over the role of DTC chair I stepped off the board. They are a nonpartisan group so I thought that would put them in an awkward position. I’m also a member of the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and have CERT training. Also I’m the cook at the ABC House.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for local residents to be involved in their government?
A: It’s such an immediate impact on the life of the community. We have just an outstanding number of people that put volunteer hours in all sorts of direction. Half the hours or more put in at the library are volunteer hours. We have so many parent volunteers that come in at the schools. We’re really blessed in that way.
Q: What are some short-term or long-term goals with your new role in town?
A: Al Dupont is the Democrat I’m replacing; he moved out of town. He was a volunteer himself and such a fabulous guy. I’m just going to try to keep following his footsteps as best I can because I couldn’t do better than that.
I think I may have a different perspective. Maybe after being there for a while I’ll come up with some suggestions and new ideas, but I’m going to spend a lot of time just listening to begin with.