I’ve been a Democrat for as long as I’ve thought about politics, so when I landed myself an internship with state Rep. John Frey before I graduated RHS, I was skeptical. I’ve always known and respected him as a man, but in the age of polarization I didn’t expect myself to appreciate his politics. During my time working for him, however, I realized that John was the type of politician who transcends partisanship and serves his community with straightforward pragmatism.

I spent six weeks experiencing first-hand John’s dedication to his job as he spent early morning hours reviewing constituents’ emails and actually reading the content of the encyclopedic bills on which he would vote. I witnessed the authentic care and concern that John has for his constituents, as individuals and at large. He’s a guy who can toggle between smiling and shaking hands with the winning RHS boys hockey team on their visit to the State Capitol and discussing (off the cuff) the arcane details of Connecticut plastic bottle tax law in a meeting with an environmentally-conscious constituent. On the ride to and from the capital he would take calls from constituents, state and town officials, and from Little League organizers pushing for the construction of a new baseball field — he would treat each with equal respect and interest, privileging no one and keeping in mind who he is elected to serve. 

Almost all of John’s responsibilities in Hartford are unrelated to the ideological battles that gain media attention. But, when is he is forced to rely on political philosophy to make a decision, he is always a Ridgefielder first, a conservative second, and a Republican last. And I mean conservative in the best sense of the word, true to William F. Buckley’s demands of intellectual rigor. John’s a freethinker. He is one of Connecticut’s foremost budget watchdogs (at a time when spending has become objectively irrational) yet is also passionate about smart gun laws (his nieces and nephew, who were in Sandy Hook on that grave day, profoundly impacted his views) and environmental conservation (he was instrumental in preserving hundreds of acres of Ridgefield’s woodlands). He does not seek attention by playing a part in the transient partisan bickerings of the current moment. It is this sense of dignified remove which has kept him in office and earned him the unanimous respect of his political peers on all sides of the aisle. I still remember meeting John’s friend Nancy Wyman, the Democratic lieutenant governor, who told me that John is one of the hardest working legislators at the Capitol. In this regard, John is a politician out of his time — one who's quite, capable service of this town has been done without a desire for recognition or a thought of personal ambition. Serving this town isn’t easy. Just because the statehouse receives less press coverage than the drama down in Washington doesn’t mean that what goes on there is any less important, or that the business of governance is any less challenging. It requires someone devoted to the task, someone whose love for the town runs deep enough that it will keep them awake at night reading bills and making tough decisions. John is that legislator.

Nick Patterson is a lifelong Ridgefield resident, having graduated with the RHS Class of 2017.   He is a sophomore attending the University of Chicago.