WEST HARTFORD — Prompting a standing ovation from residents, former and current town council members, as well as a congratulatory visit and proclamation from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — naming Monday 'Scott Slifka Appreciation Day' in Connecticut — the town's longest-serving mayor bid adieu to his leadership role in town.
Slifka, 42, has served as the mayor of West Hartford since 2004. He was the youngest mayor in the history of West Hartford when he took office at the age of 30. He was first elected to the town council in 2001.
Slifka, then the deputy mayor, was selected by the council to replace Jonathan Harris, who was elected to the state Senate in 2004.
Under Slifka's tenure, Blue Back Square opened in 2007. Slifka was an outspoken municipal leader, who lobbied for power to be restored after an October 2011 snowstorm left many West Hartford residents without power for more than a week. Most recently, the town council approved a more than 300-unit apartment complex at the Sisters of St. Joseph convent on Park Road.
Slifka told a packed room Monday night that he served as mayor for 4,206 days, worked alongside 29 council members, had four deputy mayors, worked with three town managers, two town clerks and one corporation counsel.
"I was often asked how did I do it," Slifka said. "There's two reasons: great role models and a fantastic support system."
In January, Slifka announced he would step down from his council and mayor role once the 2016-17 budget was adopted — after being promoted to the deputy general counsel of Lego Systems Inc.
"I think we've become the most desirable community in Connecticut, one of the most desirable in the country," Slifka said in an interview following the meeting. "I'm very honored to be part of that and that we've done it with a social conscience. … I look forward to enjoying the town I had played a small part in creating."
Slifka lives in West Hartford with his wife, Noelle, and daughter, Betsy, who is a student at Duffy Elementary School.
Slifka's role in government started at the age of 17, when he was a board of education representative for Hall High School, he said Monday night. He was appointed deputy mayor in March 2002 and served in that role until November 2004, when he began his 12-year role as mayor.
Malloy praised Slifka's "distinguished public career," extending thanks and congratulations on Slifka's tenure.
"It's important that we lift up extraordinary public servants and the mayor is certainly one of those in the state," Malloy said. "We need great role models and he indeed has been just that."
After accepting Slifka's resignation, the council unanimously elected deputy mayor Shari Cantor, 56, to the mayor position. The council unanimously elected Leon Davidoff, 53, as deputy mayor.
Davidoff said Cantor had "exceptional organizational and leadership skills" and "earned the trust of residents" through her years on the town council, and as a deputy mayor.
Cantor called Davidoff an "ethical, thoughtful and good man" when she nominated him for the role of deputy mayor.
Filling Slifka's vacancy, West Hartford native Dallas Dodge, 32, was sworn in as a new town councilman.
Council members also voted to send a resolution authorizing the purchase of the 58-acre UConn campus at Asylum Avenue and Trout Brook Drive to the town's planning and zoning commission for review. The commission's next meeting, according to Town Manager Ron Van Winkle, is scheduled for June 6.