Honors awarded by the Board of Selectmen
FAIRFIELD — Wednesday marked the first time two people shared in the “Fairfielder of the Year,” an honor bestowed by the Board of Selectmen based on nominations received from the public.
Thomas Quinn and the late Robert Frigo shared the award, while Community and Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart was truly surprised by his choice as “Employee of the Year.”
Barnhart thought he was at the meeting to give an update on this month’s Holiday Shop & Stroll, and Quinn for recognition of his recent induction into the state’s Veterans Hall of Fame.
“I care about the community. I care about everyone here,” Quinn said, choking back tears.
Nominated by Board of Finance Chairman Thomas Flynn, and finance board member Chris DeWitt, Quinn served as the head of the Riverfield Building Committee and now leads the Holland Hill Building Committee. He is senior commander of Owen Fish American Legion Post 143.
“Tom is a dedicated and motivated individual,” DeWitt said. “Even though a medical condition has left him with an oxygen tank as his constant companion, it has not slowed him down.”
Riverfield Principal Brenda Anziano and First Selectman Mike Tetreau said Quinn doesn’t just lead a building committee, he becomes part of the school’s community. Anziano recalled how he sent coffee and doughnuts to the staff one morning to thank them for the patience during the Riverfield project. “We love him at Riverfield,” she said.
Frigo, who died in October, was involved not only with the Library Board of Trustees, but also the Affordable Housing Committee and the town’s Senior Center. The former General Electric executive’s son, Mark, was there to accept the award, for which he received 25 nominations.
“Bob’s skill at planning and team building were evident in his work at Fairfield’s Affordable Housing Committee which he co-chaired,” resident Jan Reber said. “One of his primary objectives was to establish a Housing Trust Fund to help fund the construction of affordable housing. Our Representative Town Meeting just took the first step in implementing that fund this week.”
Selectman Kevin Kiley said Frigo’s leadership will carry forward for generations, and noted that no matter what Frigo did, “he did it as a gentleman.”
Barnhart was quietly reviewing his Shop & Stroll report when First Selectman Mike Tetreau announced his name for Employee of the Year. His head jerked up in surprise.
“I’m not often at a loss for words,” Barnhart said, “but I am actually pretty speechless.”
Barnhart said he sees his role in the town as that of a problem solver, “and that’s what keeps me coming to work every day. I enjoy the challenge.”
His job includes community development, economic development, and affordable housing, and when it was in “crisis mode,” oversight of the Fairfield Metro train station.
Barnhart received six nominations for the award.
EDC Chairman Peter Penczer said Barnhart is responsible for Restaurant Week, the Shop & Stroll program, involving graduate students from both Fairfield and Sacred Heart universities in studies on the town, and has helped to secure needed funding for town projects.
“Mark takes the initiative in needed directions competently and unhesitatingly,” Penczer said. “He is an extremely valuable town employee and should be recognized.”
“You’ve been a man who’s been able to get it done,” Selectman Chris Tymniak said.