Hines Sight / Let's work together

I'm back. Well, sort of.

To those of you who do not know me, I was the editor of this newspaper for nearly 24 years. I retired from the day-to-day grind of the business in June 2009. To those of you who do know me, it will be nice to reconnect.

Over the past year, I regrouped and redefined what I want to do with the rest of my working life. After a failed attempt at finding full-time employment, I decided that writing is the only thing I have ever wanted to do and now will make a concentrated effort to do. So when Fairfield Citizen Editor Gary Jeanfaivre (who, by the way, was hired by me several years ago to be a reporter) and I got to talking about a weekly political commentary column, I jumped at the chance. I was offered a blog on the Citizen's website too -- check it out at http://blog.ctnews.com/hines.

I am humbled to be asked and I intend to have fun with both of them. I may have left the daily stress of putting out a newspaper but the ink always will be in my bloodstream. I am honored to share these pages with my pals Barry Wallace, Dan Vasone and Jim Lee. I think I can bring a bit of historical perspective to the decisions made for our town. In my 24 years as editor, I was a witness to change. I covered the administrations of four first selectmen and five school superintendents (two of whom were interim). Fairfield has gone from a sleepy little community with small-town character to a bustling little city (as Dan likes to point out).

So let's get some housekeeping details out of the way first. Full disclosure will set the right tone at the outset.

I have lived in Connecticut all my life, having been a resident of Norwalk, Weston, Milford, Bridgeport and now Fairfield, where I have lived for more than 20 years. But I have deep roots here and in Southport. I grew up in a large Italian family. My mother and her eight siblings were born here and spent their formative years on the Old Post Road in Southport. The two-story white clapboard house with the attached storefront used to sit right where Southport Green does now. My Grandma Rose lived in that house until the day she died at the age of 86. Three of my aunts and their families later continued to live here in town; in fact, a cousin has just moved into one aunt's house. My mother and Aunt Pam are the two surviving siblings.

I own a contemporary home that still has a big mortgage and needs some updates. But the trim did just get a new paint job. I love to garden or just sit on my deck reading. I read a lot of books and newspapers.

I do not have children, unless you consider my 15-year-old cat to be one. And I guess she is since I baby her and cater to her every need. How's this for devotion? To help her through her recently diagnosed kidney disease, I take her to Highway Animal Hospital for "kitty dialysis" on a regular basis.

As a freelance writer and independent contractor, I undoubtedly will work for agencies or individuals that could, on the surface, appear like a conflict of interest. My ethics are very important to me and I will avoid the conflict whenever I can. For instance, I will be helping out one of the campaigns for state office, but I can promise I will not comment on the actions of any one legislator or the state Legislature. This column will be about Fairfield.

I am registered as an unaffiliated voter. I have friends and acquaintances from both sides of the political aisle. The late Jacky Durrell, who served as first selectman from 1983 to 1993, was a huge influence on me. And a wise man I once knew, the late Ralph Bowley, described me as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, just like Jacky.

Two actions make my crazy -- wasting time and spending excessive amounts of money. The time it takes to make a decision in this town is nerve-wracking; even the simplest ones can drag on for months and months. (However, those decisions that cry out for time are done in haste.) The kind of money the town and school administrations can spend makes my head spin. In my mind, for example, the dollars thrown at the construction of playing fields would be more wisely spent helping organizations like Operation Hope -- where the need is so much greater.

Here's where full disclosure plays a crucial role -- I am a volunteer for Operation Hope and became one in 2009. I have seen firsthand how hard Executive Director Carla Miklos and her team work to give the hungry and homeless some basic needs and dignity. Imagine what the $350,000 appropriated for the girls' softball field could do if it were given to an organization like Operation Hope?

As we take this new journey together, I hope I can enlighten you, educate you, entertain you and mobilize you. I don't expect you to always agree with me. In fact, what's the fun in that? A good, healthy debate is strongly encouraged. Maybe we can work together to right some wrongs or highlight what makes Fairfield truly a very special place in which to live.

Patricia A. Hines can be reached at hinessight@hotmail.com