Steeneck praised in emotional selectmen's farewell

Selectman Sherri Steeneck found herself fighting back tears at her last Board of Selectmen meeting.
Selectman Sherri Steeneck found herself fighting back tears at her last Board of Selectmen meeting.Genevieve Reilly

It was not a job that she sought -- and it turned into more than she bargained for -- but Selectman Sherri Steeneck found herself fighting back tears Wednesday as the last meeting of her tenure on the Board of Selectmen drew to a close.

Holding a bouquet of flowers given to her by First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Selectman James Walsh, Steeneck said, "I didn't know you guys were going to do this."

Steeneck, a Democrat, had previously served on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Town Plan and Zoning Commission and the Representative Town Meeting and even had a stint as the town's economic development director. But she never considered running for selectman, and ended up there only after being approached by her good friend, Denise Dougiello.

Dougiello was a selectman at the time, having won a seat as the running mate of then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto. But in 2008, Dougiello a recurrence of cancer and asked Steeneck to fill her seat before her death.

Steeneck took on that role and was juggling Board of Selectmen meetings, her job as a real estate agent, managing the family's laundromat business and caring for her elderly mother. Then, as if life wasn't busy enough, Flatto in May of this year announced his resignation to take a job with the state and Steeneck became the town's acting first selectman. She held the town's top job for 40 days before Michael Tetreau was appointed interim first selectman to fill the remainder of Flatto's term.

Steeneck chose not to run for the board in the Nov. 8 municipal election.

"There's been some really good parts to this," Steeneck said. She admitted that while she had downloaded a smart phone app that was ticking off the days until the new board was sworn in, "It's not because I don't like doing this, I just don't have the time."

And just because she will no longer be on the board as of Nov. 21, "I'm not leaving town and I will be back to do other things," Steeneck said.

"I thank Sherri for her service to the town," said Walsh, who himself was also appointed to the board when Selectman Ralph Bowley died last year. She "got more than she bargained for," he added, not only taking over for a good friend, but then finding herself as the first selectman.

She dedicated herself to the job with her "heart and soul," Walsh said, and praised her for her independent thinking.

For Tetreau, who took over as interim first selectman in June and who won election in his own right in the Nov. 8 election, Steeneck has been both a "mentor and a great example" and provided a "great standard to live up to ... The entire town owes you a debt of gratitude."