Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Wheelock to leave Town Council

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Published: Thursday, August 21, 2008 3:18 PM EDT

VERNON — Amid a political firestorm, Republican Diane Wheelock said she plans to step down from the Town Council in the coming weeks but will keep her new town paid job as the mayor’s executive assistant.

“I would really love to stay on the Council until the next election — it’s possible, legal, and ethical — but I don’t think it’s helping the town do its business,” Wheelock said today.

Her reason: the appointment to the new job drew harsh rebukes from Democrats and some members of her own party, and it was becoming a distraction for the Council, she said.

“The whole thing is to serve the community, and the behavior is distracting from getting business done, and they’re going to keep hammering and hammering away,” Wheelock said.

Wheelock, who starts her Town Hall job Monday, said she initially considered only resigning her position as deputy mayor and caucus leader, and staying on the council.

The highest vote getter in the last election, Wheelock said she felt a certain responsibility to the people who cast their ballots for her, but “the more I thought about it, the more I realized I can give up evening politics.”

Wheelock said she would remain on the council until the Republican Town Committee finds a replacement.

She expects that to happen sometime in the coming weeks before the next election in November. The search committee also is looking for a replacement for Republican Councilwoman Peggy Jackle.

Jackle is resigning to take a job in Chatham, Mass.

Wheelock says a few people have come forward wanting to serve on the council in their stead.

Wheelock says this is not a victory for the Democrats or her detractors, who characterized her appointment as “inappropriate,” but a decision she came to naturally.

However, she says, Democrats are using the appointment as a political football in an attempt to hurt the man who hired her, Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy.

McCoy and Republican Town Chairman Hal Cummings have said all along that Wheelock would remain on the Council.

On Tuesday, Democrats called for Wheelock to step down from her Council seat, a move that was quickly voted down along party lines by the Council, which holds a Republican majority.

“It’s interesting that everyone is making decisions for me, but no one is giving me the respect that I think I deserve to make decisions on my own,” Wheelock said of both sides.

A child care operator who is closing her business, Wheelock will start the new job at the top of the pay scale for the job description, at $66,979 annually.

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