When a resident of Stern Village handed First Selectman Timothy Herbst a thick envelope last Thursday, Herbst said he didn’t expect it to be good news.
But he was happy to see that the envelope contained a petition with several signatures, all in support of Stern Village’s interim Executive Director Harriet Polansky, asking the first selectman to recommend her to the position permanently.
“She is caring, honest and concerned about the tenants of this village,” the petition read.
Herbst received a copy of the petition when he visited the subsidized housing complex last Thursday, to talk with resident’s during Polansky’s monthly “Tea with Harriet.” About 50 residents came to the meeting.
Gus Aquino, the resident who circulated the petition said that they have seen dramatic changes since Polansky started the position in late February, particularly with response after snowstorms.
“When you handed me this, I thought ‘boy, this must be a really big complaint,’” Herbst joked.
Aquino said they want to see those positive changes continue under Polansky’s leadership.
The Trumbull Housing Authority, which has said it will conduct a search for a permanent director, will make the ultimate decision on whether Polansky will be hired, but Herbst said he would pass the petition along.
“The proof is in the pudding — never confuse effort with results,” Herbst said to residents of the support for Polansky. “People like to take shots but if you do a good job, all of the other nonsense doesn’t mean anything.”
Other residents in attendance echoed similar sentiments, one saying she brought a “breath of spring” to the village.
When the Trumbull Housing Authority appointed Polansky as interim director, replacing Harry Wise, some had been critical of the appointment. Rumors swirled that she may have earned the position based on friendship with the Herbst family and not her qualifications. The first selectman vehemently denied that claim at the time, saying she was a concerned citizen who wanted to help.
Polansky thanked the residents for their support.
“For a month this has been my second home,” she said. “I love you guys — you’ve been wonderful.”
Residents had many questions for Herbst, ranging from improved bus transportation to Trumbull Center.
Herbst also discussed plans for the future of Stern Village, saying he wants it to be a model for Housing Authorities in the state.
He applauded Polansky’s work on updating an emergency plan. She is also putting together a capital plan of improvements.
“We are talking to Public Works and the state to see about grants for repaving all the roads in Stern Village,” Herbst said, eliciting applause and cheers form residents.
Polansky and Herbst said another top priority is improved outdoor lighting.
The group of about 50 residents also applauded when Herbst said police presence in the area will increase.
“This spring you will see increased patrols from Trumbull Police,” he said.
The first selectman urged residents to call 911 if they see an suspicious activity.
He also discussed bringing new EMS Chief Joe Laucella and New Nursing Director Coleen Figliuzzi in to talk with residents, about health and safety issues.
One resident suggested that the portraits of the Stern family be hung back up on the wall of the community room. The resident said they knew the portraits had been taken down while a automated external defibrillator was installed on the wall and it would be nice to get the pictures back up.
Herbst said he agreed the portraits should be back up but the problem was the portraits are no longer at Stern Village. Herbst said former Housing Authority chair, Judi Stern, who is also a relative of the founding family of the village, took the portraits with her.
Herbst said when the portraits were taken down for the AEDs to be installed, they had been put in an office for safe-keeping, until Stern removed the portraits from the village.
“If we can’t get them back then we will see about getting them replicated,” Herbst said.
“I think the most important thing is to make peace with Judi and have her bring them back on her own,” another resident suggested.