Hal Cummings elected Republican chairman
By: Jason Rowe
VERNON - The town's Republicans have selected local lawyer Harold R. "Hal" Cummings to be their leader for the next two years.
The Republican Town Committee on Wednesday night unanimously elected Cummings as its chairman.
Cummings, whose law office is in South Windsor, has served as special counsel for the Vernon Inland Wetlands Commission for the past four years.
Among his most high-profile work for the town is the ongoing legal dispute involving Home Depot's attempt to build a large store on the site of the former New England SportsPlex on Reservoir Road.
Cummings replaces former Town Chairman William Francis, who decided not to seek re-election after four years in the post.
Cummings, who joined the committee in 1972, said today that he is looking forward to his new role and to November's election, which includes the congressional race between U.S. Rep. Robert R. Simmons, R-2nd District, and Vernon Democrat Joseph Courtney.
With the Democrats seeking to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Cummings said, the 2nd District race could be the key battle that determines which party prevails.
Cummings said the work of local town committees will be vital to both parties' efforts.
He also said he would also like to see the Republican Party do more to attract younger members.
Cummings, 61, said that when he first joined the party, a group of younger members was active in local politics. But as years have gone by, the party's membership has grown older, he said.
"It seems like the town committees tend to be made up of the older and senior members, and people in their 20s and 30s seem less likely to get involved," Cummings said. "We're always looking at getting younger people who are interested in serving on town boards or commissions."
Cummings said he doesn't believe his role as town chairman will conflict with his work as special town counsel.
Francis, 54, said this was the right time to give up the party chairmanship, given his increased workload as a real estate agent.
"It was time for me to step aside and allow someone else with fresh ideas and invigorated spirit and a new level of excitement to come in," Francis said. "We have a good group, and we are really excited about the future."
Francis said he expects Cummings to be an effective leader for local Republicans.
"He's got a take-charge attitude," Francis said.
Cummings' election marks the second change in the town's political leadership in less than a month.
On Feb. 28, local Democrats tapped former Town Councilman Thomas A. DiDio as their town chairman.
DiDio replaced former Town Chairman David A. Chmielecki, who died in January after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Cummings said he has gotten to know DiDio when the two have held campaign signs for their respective parties outside the Lake Street School during elections. He said he expects the relationship between the two chairmen to be cordial.
Cummings said he would also like to get more local Republicans actively involved in elections.
"The campaign finance reform is getting more people involved in the process and that's what I hope to facilitate," Cummings said.
In addition to electing Cummings chairman, the Republican Town Committee chose former Mayor Diane Wheelock as its vice-chairwoman.
Patricia Noblet was elected secretary, and Robert Hurd was elected treasurer.
©Journal Inquirer 2006