In a development that stunned those outside his immediate family and a few close friends, Mayor Anthony P. LaRosa announced Monday he was giving up the position he has held for more than seven years, effective immediately.
LaRosa, 60, dropped the bombshell at the close of what turned out to be his final town council meeting Monday night. He was in the midst of his fourth term as mayor, and had served on the council four years prior to that.
"For everybody's notification, this will be my last council meeting. I am resigning as of the end of this meeting. When we adjourn I will no longer be the mayor of the town of Rocky Hill,'' LaRosa said, announcing his departure.
"It's for personal and family reasons. Basically I'm going to leave it at that."
His wife, Patricia, and young granddaughter Aryana were among a few family members and close friends who had dropped by for LaRosa's announcement, which caught most people there "off guard," Republican council member Frank Szeps said afterward.
LaRosa had alerted fellow Democrats Philip Sylvestro and Deputy Mayor Timothy Moriarty of his intentions over the weekend, and notified Town Manager Barbara R. Gilbert earlier Monday.
During a brief interview following the meeting, LaRosa said that his health was fine and that he and his wife, who celebrate their 44th anniversary next month, had been discussing his stepping down since December. He said he had fully intended to complete the term when he was last elected in November 2011.
A Connecticut state marshal, and owner of a bail bonds business, LaRosa said the position of mayor -- a volunteer, unpaid position -- was "a 24-7 job." His decision was based on "a combination of variables,'' he said. He declined to elaborate further.
In his announcement, LaRosa credited his late father, former Hartford state Rep. Paul A. LaRosa, and longtime state Rep. Richard Tulisano for cultivating his interest in politics and community involvement.
First elected mayor in 2005, LaRosa earned a reputation as consensus builder who could work with members of both political parties. He pointed with pride to the fact that he was able to leave with the town having a solid financial footing, with development of the former Connecticut Foundry moving forward and with being able to maintain services and rein in taxes "during an economy that has been the worst since the Great Depression."
"You will be a very difficult act to follow,'' Sylvestro said, praising LaRosa's leadership.
LaRosa said he will remain in town and stay active in the campaign opposing the opening of the state-backed prison nursing home at 60 West St.
"I'm not going anywhere and will continue to fight iCare. We're going to do everything in our power to stop them from putting an extension of a prison in our town,'' he said.
LaRosa is the first mayor to step down before the completion of his term since Antonio "Tony" Guerrera resigned in September 2001, seven months after his election to the General Assembly. The Democratic Town Committee will recommend someone to fill the council vacancy. Moriarty will serve as acting mayor, presiding at council meetings and representing the town at ceremonial and official functions, until the council votes a successor.
A council member for eight years, Moriarty, 53, said he would be interested in serving out the balance of LaRosa's term. The council will receive Gilbert's recommended 2013-2014 town budget next week.