Heller sworn-in as first selectwoman of Woodbridge
WOODBRIDGE >> Beth Heller was sworn in as first selectwoman, with elected and appointed members of boards and commissions also taking of office.
Heller, a Democrat who won the top post handily in the May election, was sworn in by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.
Wyman drew on her experience as a local leader to share insights with Heller and about 100 people gathered on the Green for the July 29 ceremony.
“Local government to me is probably the best job to have, but the hardest one to have,” because everyone knows you and wants to share their ideas, Wyman said.
“But,” Wyman added, it’s also “the most refreshing and satisfying of all.”
Heller, whose mother, 91, attended, as well as her husband and one of her sons, replaces two-term First Selectwoman Ellen Scalettar.
Heller is a registered nurse and animal advocate. It was said at the swearing-in that she probably knows all of the town’s 10,000 residents.
PRAISE FOR SCALETTAR
Scalettar, a lawyer and seasoned legislator, chose not to run for a third term so she could spend more time with her granddaughters who live out of state and her aging parents.
In announcing her decision months ago, Scalettar said it was easier knowing her longtime friend Heller would run for the post.
Speakers praised Scalettar for her bold leadership, vision and accomplishments.
There are “certainly differences of opinion,” among Woodbridge residents, Scalettar said, but townspeople have shared values, including the desire to increase diversity, a spirit of volunteerism, a high priority on education and a belief in science to protect the natural environment.
“We know the difference between facts and alternative facts,” and pass that on to the children, Scalettar said.
OPEN, INCLUSIVE, TRANSPARENT
Heller promised a town government that is “open, inclusive, transparent.”
“We value free speech, the expression of ideas, diversity. ... And we respect one another,” Heller said.
Heller said she’s “honored” and “humbled” to serve as first selectwoman.
Heller joined the Board of Selectmen in 2008, became deputy first selectman in 2009 and served in the top spot briefly after the death in 2013 of First Selectman Ed Sheehy. She said she didn’t run in that special election because her mother needed assistance.
One of the most controversial issues the last two years has been what to do with the Country Club of Woodbridge building and property, purchased by the town several years ago after its owner had financial problems.
Heller has said she personally favors using the property for recreation, but the question should be put to residents in a referendum. No matter what the outcome, she said there should be “strict limitations on development.” Heller also wants the pool at the club to remain open for residents.
Heller has said in light of probable state funding cuts to Woodbridge, she will look at new approaches to managing resources, such as vendor consolidation; eliminating redundancies; shared services with neighboring towns and school districts to maximize economy of scale; expansion of green energy; enhancement of efficiency to decrease utility costs; and renewed focus on increasing the commercial tax base.