Two decades of service in the legislature come to an end

It seems like just yesterday that I raised my right hand in the historic, cavernous Hall of the House of Representatives in Hartford and took the oath of office for the first time. That was January of 1999.

Each time I walked in to that historic building the significance of the role entrusted to me was not lost and I took the responsibilities in the House Chambers quite seriously, knowing that I was a ‘temporary caregiver of the 111th District.’ And every time I drove down Route 7 and saw the Ridgefield Town line sign, I knew I was coming home to an absolutely great place.

I won’t be raising my hand again this Jan. 6 when a new class of legislators is sworn in to begin the work of the people. Following my last election in 2018 I decided then this term in the Capitol would be my last. It has been a privilege and honor to have served the people of Ridgefield, my hometown, for 22 years. Serving with four governors, five Speakers of the House, three state senators, two first selectmen, four police chiefs … the list of ‘partners’ in government is lengthy. For someone who never contemplated being state representative one day, never mind 22 years, it ends up my tenure represents the longest anyone from Ridgefield has served in the House. The second longest stretch was by the first person to hold the seat starting in 1776 and which lasted 13 years.

I’ve said before I never thought I would spend one day as a State Representative. It’s funny, sometimes, how history works.

The long days and nights in the House chamber, trying to get a budget passed or working on legislation that mattered most to the people I represented, was challenging but in the end rewarding. The things we were able to accomplish made the hard work worthwhile because they made positive differences in constituents’ lives: The widening of Route 7, the purchase of Bennett’s Pond, securing funding for senior housing spring to mind.

But it was the little things that perhaps mattered most: The calls from Ridgefield neighbors who needed help in navigating the huge state bureaucracy, through motor vehicles or social services, or issues affecting our school system.

We have certainly shared trying times - 9/11, Sandy Hook, multiple storms and of course this pandemic. But countless memorable ones as well such as celebrating the millennium, business hallmark moments, Eagle Scout ceremonies, the opening of the Ridgefield Playhouse, new Aldrich Museum, Tiger Hollow, new Little League Field, expansion of the Boys and Girls Club - I could go on.

I will miss the collegiality that comes with the job after the political campaigns were fought and won. My definition of a Citizen Legislature is one where we all come home at the end of the day and keep the needs and wishes of all of the people that I have represented, not just those that voted for me, foremost in mind. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention four of my predecessors, Chris Scalzo, Barbara Ireland, Herb Camp and the late Romeo Petroni. All met with me before taking office and provided me with invaluable information useful throughout my tenure.

Behind me are a hundred trips to Hartford a year, thousands of votes, probably tens of thousands of constituent contacts of all kinds (and all hours!) via telephone, email, text, Facebook, conversations on Main Street, local restaurants and shops as well as the old fashioned knock on my front door. I grew as a person from all these conversations listening to diverse viewpoints, impassioned arguments, suggested legislation and more often requests for assistance.

I will remain active in Ridgefield and in my real estate business. This is my home and I’m not going anywhere. This past summer I was sworn in to serve as a public member of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. It is a position I look forward to fulfilling.

As I said, history can be funny sometimes. The state continues to face serious challenges. I wish my successor the very best and look forward to seeing neighbors and friends around town and the next chapter.

My heartfelt thank you, Ridgefield, for allowing me to represent what I think is the best community in the state!

John Frey retires when his current term as state Rep. from the 111th District expires at noon on Jan. 6, 2021.