Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Council approves O’Shea as Wheelock’s replacement

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 12:11 PM EDT

VERNON —The Town Council unanimously approved the appointment of Republican Sean O’Shea to fill the seat vacated by Diane Wheelock who has taken a job as the mayor’s executive assistant.

Wheelock, a former mayor, served as current Mayor Jason McCoy’s deputy this year before Democrats, clamoring that her hire was a conflict of interest, vacated her title and forced her resignation from the council.

O’Shea, a political newcomer, was confirmed by the Republican Town Committee last week, and received high praise from Town Chairman Hal Cummings.

“Sean’s background is the chief of logistics, budgets, and planning,” Cummings has said. “He will be bringing lots of budgeting and management experience,” to the council.

O’Shea is employed by Macy’s Logistics and Operations in South Windsor and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. This is the first local board or commission he has served on.

“Really my primary focus is to grow the grand list and focus on economic development in town … and we accomplish that by attracting new businesses and helping the business that we have to expand,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea moved to town in 1999 with his wife and has two children at Skinner Road School.

A second priority, he said, is to ensure the school system retains the most qualified teachers and administrators it can. As a freshman to the council and town government, he plans to use the opportunity to listen and learn how the council works — a body that historically has been marked by contentious and rancorous debate.

“We really feel that Connecticut and Vernon in particular is a great town to raise a family … and we felt it was time to get involved,” O’Shea said. “I bring a fresh and new perspective by not having been born in town or part of town for very long.”

Councilman Brian Mottola has replaced Wheelock in her leadership position as deputy mayor. Wheelock, who recently closed her child-care business, will earn nearly $67,000 as McCoy’s assistant — the top pay grade for the job description.

Democrats hollered that her appointment, while not a violation of the town’s charter, was political patronage, unethical, and a textbook example of conflict of interest. They claimed she could not be an independent voice on the council if she also has to report directly to McCoy.

Wheelock has said that while it was legal and ethical for her to remain in both positions, she would resign from the council because criticism of the hire wasn’t helping the town conduct business.

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