EDITOR'S NOTE: Kenneth Flatto has been Fairfield First Selectman for nearly 12 of the past 14 years. He is stepping down from the post April 29 to become the state Commissioner of Special Revenue.

I have penned many columns and speeches, but this one is the most difficult yet. I would like to thank all of Fairfield for the amazing opportunity to lead our town and to plan and protect Fairfield's future.

This is a bittersweet and emotional moment for me, as I have decided to embark upon a new and challenging path. It has been an awesome privilege and honor to lead Fairfield for 12 years and to serve since 1995 on the Board of Selectmen.

Most of you know how much I have loved my job as First Selectman and how hard I have worked around the clock to do my best for our town. I hope that my desire to remain in public service, now helping the entire state, will ultimately be of benefit to our town and townspeople.

Fairfield has treated my family and me so wonderfully. To the tens of thousands of you who have offered encouragement and who have supported me this past decade, I am truly grateful and extend my deepest appreciation. To those many hundreds who actively helped and lent time to me and those who have served with me, I will always remember.

My way of thinking of the community is to finish my job in office this month knowing that I have helped Fairfield to attain top ranking and the best condition as one of the most enviable places to live in the nation and world. There is always more that can be done, but we have achieved enormous successes and accomplishments.

It is such a joy every day to travel around town and see the fruits of that labor, from preserved open spaces to improved schools and facilities.

Over this tenure, Fairfield has built and fully renovated many schools, a library, a sewer plant, the town's recreation center and now Penfield Pavilion. We have three new parks and more than 120 acres of new open space in town, including Haydu Farm, Lower Wharf, St. Vianney, the Binger and Parcells properties, Whitewood Knoll and Burroughs Park.

Fairfield's business districts have been revitalized. We are a thriving destination for shopping, dining and the arts. I loved negotiating and creating the Fairfield Theater and Arts Council complex, the rebuilding of the former Fairfield store into a retail complex, the Fairprene revitalization, the coming train station and Whole Foods, and the clean up of a brown field at the Exide property. I am proud the neighborhood planning principles from my Blue Ribbon Task Force on Zoning have led to building-height limitations, special district improvements and new planning for the Commerce Drive area.

The town's AAA rating has been sustained as lean budgets were approved by town boards without referendums for more than a decade for the first time in decades.

When Kathleen Howard and I championed the expansion of senior tax relief and when Denise Dougiello and I conceived and obtained approval for more than 40 units of affordable housing, we sought to help citizens most in need.

With fire and police officials, we have greatly strengthened public safety programs, creating the largest town volunteer emergency Citizen Corps in the state, new emergency shelters, flood control projects and new hydrants protecting northerly neighborhoods.

I deeply thank my administration team and all the supportive town and school employees with whom I have had the pleasure to work. Your respect and dedication has meant the world to me and our community.

I have tried to lead by example. From creating an atmosphere of civility and positive leadership to spearheading ethics and blight ordinances, I believe we have generated goodwill and community cohesion. It was fun creating town's Clean Energy Task Force, Fairfield Cares, cost savings committees, and appointing superb volunteer citizens to help serve on vital boards and commissions -- all of which are so productive.

Managing town through the worst economy in 50 years was a very tough recent challenge. I am thankful town boards adopted the lowest two consecutive budgets in 40 years, without service reductions suffered by other communities. I am thankful town boards adopted two consecutive budgets with the lowest percentage increases in 40 years, without service reductions suffered by other communities. We need to ensure that Fairfield's quality of life remains secure. The only way to do that is to balance needs carefully and objectively and to achieve consensus.

In closing, you may not see me at my desk come May, but I am going to remain involved in helping this community. My smiling, sunny presence will remain, and I intend to participate in civic events. It is a responsibility, I believe, to keep helping Fairfield, as a private citizen once again. It has been and is such a pleasure making a difference for our marvelous community.