Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Democrat Schaefer considers bid for mayor in Vernon

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Monday, March 28, 2011 12:10 PM EDT

VERNON — Town Council member Pauline A. Schaefer is considering a run for mayor, but she plans to wait until returning from a three-week trip to visit friends and family before coming to a final decision.

Schaefer, a Democrat who is more commonly known around town as “Polly,” said she will contemplate a potential candidacy while on vacation with husband, Carl. They expect to return April 15.

Both Schaefer and her husband grew up in Vernon. They raised four children, the youngest of whom graduated from Rockville High School in 1993.

Four generations of Schaefer’s family live in town, and three generations have attended Northeast elementary school. At one point, Schaefer served on the Board of Education and worked with her former seventh-grade teacher, Andrew Maneggia, who by then had been promoted to superintendent of schools.

Known for decades as a civic activist and volunteer, Schaefer has spearheaded numerous community efforts and fundraising drives over the years. The list of town and school committees on which Schaefer has served is lengthy.

She served on the Board of Education for 13 years, from 1982 to 1995, before she was elected to the Town Council in 1999. Schaefer has been serving on the council ever since.

She is retired from a position as a paraprofessional in the South Windsor schools.

Mayor undecided

Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy said Friday that he has yet to decide whether he will try for a third consecutive term.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” McCoy said. He added that if he decides not to run, “it might be easy for her, we’ll see, I have no idea.”

McCoy, a local trial lawyer, was appointed to the council in January 1999 and made three unsuccessful runs for the 56th House district seat before he was elected mayor in 2007.

When he was re-elected in 2009, McCoy became the first Republican since his grandfather, the late Frank J. McCoy, to serve two terms as mayor. His grandfather set a record of four non-consecutive terms.

“Hey look, if she thinks she can handle the job, you know, take your shot,” McCoy said. “It’s a lot different than being on the council, and it’s a lot harder work.”

A mayor also is required to “make decisions that people don’t always like and spend 90 percent of your day telling everybody ‘no,’” McCoy said. “There’s a lot of moving parts, and you have to be able to accommodate them all.”

Harold Cummings, who is Republican town chairman and town attorney, said Friday that he is happy Schaefer is thinking about running.

“Polly and I go way back,” Cummings said. “We were on the Board of Education together 30 years ago. She’s a well meaning, very nice lady, and I think she’d make a very credible candidate.”

Marie Herbst, a Democratic council member and former mayor, echoed Cummings’ sentiments.

‘Respect and civility’

“She has respect and civility for people, and she believes very strongly in open government,” Herbst said. “She’s a native of this community, and she’s very, very involved, more so than people know.”

Herbst also said that Schaefer “knows what procedures should be followed in order to make government open and transparent, … and I think that’s why she gets elected over and over again.

Herbst said she is planning on running for re-election to the council and, “I would be very proud to run with her.”

Cummings said McCoy hasn’t told him whether he plans to run again. But he said the pressures of being a town leader and a business owner with his own law practice — not to mention a family — takes their toll.

“It’s got to wear on you after a while. … I frankly don’t know how he’s managed,” Cummings said. “It’s got to be a personal decision on his end, and I think partly that’s why he’s torn.”

Regardless of whether McCoy runs again, “he’s got a great future, a great career ahead of him,” Cummings said. “He’s proven that he can effectively manage a major town. I mean you’re talking 30,000 people, a $75 million budget … so he’s done well. And I personally hope he runs again because I think he’s doing a great job.”

McCoy is often criticized for his abrasive attitude toward town staff, council members, and residents.

“I understand he gets excited, and he yells a lot and that sort of thing, but when you look at the job he’s doing… I think he’s making a very effective mayor,” Cummings said.

After being involved in town matters for 40 years, local politics has gotten, “a lot more personal, and unfortunately so on both sides … and I think we’ve lost something in that respect,” Cummings added.

While the election is about seven months away, if recent politically charged letters to the editor have been any indication, “it’s obvious that the campaign has started,” Cummings said.

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