Thursday, July 27, 2017
By James Lomuscio
After 15 years, three administrations, myriad Westport issues and townwide changes, Assistant Town Attorney Gail Kelly, who leaves Friday, had this advice for her successor.
“Enjoy it, have a good sense of humor and just enjoy the people you are working with,” said Kelly, who has held the post since 2002.
“And take advantage of the knowledge of the people at Town Hall. You can’t do this alone.”
Kelly, a grandmother who moved to Westport 33 years ago with her husband Bruce and two boys Jesse and Cameron, will be replaced Aug. 14 by Eileen Lavigne Flug, the former moderator of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).
Flug was recently appointed to Kelly’s post by First Selectman Jim Marpe after she joined Berchem, Moses & Devlin PC, the Milford and Westport firm that provides legal counsel to the town.
“Eileen will do a terrific job,” Kelly said, describing her as a hard worker.
While Town Attorney Ira Bloom works out of the law firm’s Westport office, the assistant town attorney has historically had an office in Town Hall, a small space catty corner to the first selectman.
That has made Kelly, a graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, a constant presence at Town Hall for three administrations.
Appointed by First Selectwoman Diane Farrelll when she joined the current firm’s predecessor Wakesee, Dimes and Bryniczka, Kelly has served under former First Selectman Gordon Joseloff for eight years, and under Marpe for the past four.
The job has put Kelly on call 24/7. Often it is a morning Board of Selectmen’s meeting or an evening Board of Finance or Representative Town Meeting (RTM) session that can go into the early morning hours.
She is often called up for legal opinions on everything from town ordinances to questions about a board or commission’s legal authority to move forward.
“Until you’re sitting here, you don’t realize how complex a municipality is, how many issues there are, and they are all important to the people,” Kelly said.
Over the years she has had a ringside seat to discussions, debates and votes on major developments that have reshaped the town.
“When I came here, the Senior Center was just being completed, and now it’s being expanded,” she said. “We have the new Levitt Pavilion. The library is being renovated. And then there’s Bedford Square.”
Still, she does not discriminate as to what issues were important or not.
“If you think of the hot button issues, they’re all hot button issues, and Ira and I have to support the people, the boards and commission that are involved, to listen to all their issues,” she added. “And you have to be objective, and you have to remain neutral.”
And those skills were shown in her smoothly dealng with hot button animal issues such as dogs on the beach, creating a dangerous dog ordinance, and a rooster that awakened its Compo Beach area neighbors.
Bloom described her as “an invaluable public servant.”
“She has the respect and admiration of virtually everybody at Town Hall, and she has been of tremendous assistance to me, as well,” said Bloom, town attorney for the past 20 years.
“What distinguishes Gail from a lot of attorneys is her excellent judgment coupled with a good sense of humor,” he added. “She puts everything in perspective for town officials, and she has a great calming influence.”
Outside the Berchem, Moses & Devlin Post Road East offices Wednesday evening, town employees, colleagues, and friends raised a glass of champagne to Kelly and thanked her for her service to the town. Bloom presented her with a large bouquet of flowers.
Appreciation by town officials and department heads was also evidenced at this month’s RTM meeting. One after the other individuals stepped to the podium to thank her for her service.
Kelly’s talent for making friends at Town Hall appears to be rooted in the fact she has regularly reached out to them.
“You can’t do this job alone, and I have had tremendous support from the department heads, Town Hall staff, my colleagues at the firm and the most important one in Ira, who has given me tremendous support,” she said.
Though she is retiring from Town Hall, Kelley stressed she is in no way retiring from Westport.
“I love this town,” she said. “I’ve been active in this community for 33 years, whether it was the PTA or Positive Youth Development. I’ve been involved in this community in many different ways, and I will continue to do so.”
Posted 07/27/17 at 06:00 AM Permalink