FAIRFIELD — Philip Dwyer is retiring from the Board of Education after an eight-year career, six of which he served as the board’s chair.

Throughout his time on the Board of Education, Dwyer has been a patient and thoughtful leader, no matter the challenge.

He won his first term in November 2011 and chaired the board through 2018. The journey began after he retired from a 42-year career at the YMCA and saw an opportunity to leverage his experience as a long-time community leader.

“The YMCA is a community-based organization, so my job was essentially saying, ‘What does the community needs, and how can we deliver on meeting those needs?’” Dwyer explained. “And that’s exactly what the Board of Education does.”

Dwyer chaired the board through a contentious six years, during which the goals and strategies of different members were often at odds. Throughout that time, he always strove towards empathy.

“I tried my best to be patient, whether it was a parent, a staff member or a board member who was very excitedly offering a different viewpoint,” he said.

He noted that whenever a community member would apologize for being forward at a meeting, he would always reply in the same way.

“I would say to them, ‘If you do not advocate for the needs of your child, who will?’” he said. “So don’t ever be shy about being an advocate for the needs of your child or what you believe in.”

This patient leadership style proved effective, with Dwyer overseeing multiple school building projects, hiring former superintendent Toni Jones and consistently advocating for teachers and students in front of town bodies.

The Board of Education thanked him for this and more at his final meeting on Oct. 23, seeing him out with a standing ovation.

“You’ve been such a source of guidance for me as I’ve assumed this position,” said Chair Christine Vitale, who took over as Chair from Dwyer in 2018. “I thank you for your positive impact. Thousands of children’s lives are better because of your guidance.”

Dwyer believes he’s leaving the Board of Education in good hands, and he’s optimistic about the future of Fairfield Public Schools.

“The board is in a better position today to address some of the real challenges that are facing our school system,” Dwyer said. “It has always been my hope that Fairfield is the kind of town that can look at serious issues, push away the rhetoric and come to a good decision that’s in the long-term best interest of this town and its students.”

Although he’s leaving the Board of Education, Dwyer is by no means done being involved in the community. He has always engaged broadly with Fairfield — through his church, Fairfield CARES Community Coalition and the Democratic Town Committee.

In 2016, Dwyer was endorsed as the Democratic candidate for State Senator in Connecticut’s 28th District. He lost to Republican Tony Hwang, who was seeking his second term and won re-election again in 2018.

Dwyer is also looking forward to continuing to have an impact on the YMCA, which he called his “first love,” as chair of the World Federation of YMCA Retirees.

“As my friends will tell me, when I retired in 2010, essentially I flunked retirement,” he said. “I’m an engaged person. I will continue to be engaged, and I’ll just pick and choose where my talents might be best used.”

rscharf@hearstmediact.com