A volunteer’s volunteer, former Weston First Selectman Sherwood “Woody” Bliss has been named the 2013 Citizen of the Year by the Weston Police Commission.
He will be honored in a ceremony on Wednesday, April 24, at 7 p.m. in the Weston High School auditorium, before the start of the Annual Town Budget Meeting.
Mr. Bliss was nominated for Citizen of the Year by nine individuals and four organizations, according to Jess DiPasquale, chairman of the Citizen of the Year subcommittee. “Even though there were other very qualified candidates this year, the nominations for Woody were like a tsunami! It was clear that folks in Weston were acknowledging and supporting Woody’s contribution to the town over many years,” he said.
Since 1986, the Police Commission has recognized as Citizen of the Year an individual or individuals who it believes have made a significant contribution to elevate the standards of law enforcement, safety, or good citizenship in Weston.
Among the nominations for Mr. Bliss was a joint recommendation from Don Gary, president of the Kiwanis Club of Weston, Nina Daniel, president of the Friends of the Senior Activities Center, and Wendy Petty, director of the Weston Senior Activities Center.
Citing Mr. Bliss’s numerous accomplishments, they said Weston has benefited “immeasurably” from his “professional expertise, outstanding character, and leadership.”
“I have worked with Woody across a broad spectrum of projects and organizations. Throughout all these experiences, there are two obvious facts: First, his heart is in the right place, and second, he always has Weston’s best interest in mind and purpose. But it takes more than that to be a good person and love Weston. It takes an effective approach to problem identifying and solving. Woody is not just a ‘do-gooder,’ he is a ‘do-good accomplisher.’ His approach is to engage many people to deal with a situation, extract a consensus and offer a workable solution,” said Mr. Gary.
Mr. Bliss moved to Weston from Amherst, N.Y., with his wife, Prudence (“Prue”), and their family in 1974. He immediately got involved in the community by joining Norfield Congregational Church.
He was a founding member of the Weston Historical Society, and is a member and past president of the Kiwanis Club of Weston. When his children were young, he was involved in Little League and the Middle School PTO.
Mr. Bliss served 10 years on the town’s Panel of Moderators, two years as a selectman, and eight years as first selectman (2001-09).
He is the treasurer for a number of civic groups, including Friends of the Weston Senior Activities Center, Consortium of Education Foundations, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, and Weston’s Republican Town Committee. He is also involved with the League of Women Voters of Weston, Friends of the Weston Public Library, and the Westport Weston Y’s Men. Recently, he served on the town’s Charter Review Commission.
A longtime environmental activist, Mr. Bliss served as co-chairman of the Kelda Coalition, which helped preserve and protect 18,700 acres of open space in Connecticut.
At the senior center, Mr. Bliss teaches backgammon, geneaology and bridge. “Woody is always eager and excited to help people develop new ideas and projects. He mentors others in their own civic endeavors without expectation of recognition in return and quietly leads others to achieve their best,” said Ms. Petty, Senior Center director.
Although Mr. Bliss lost his beloved wife, Prue, eight years ago to cancer, it hasn’t slowed him down from helping others.
Mr. DiPasquale said no one deserves the Citizen of the Year award more than Mr. Bliss. “Through his service both as an elected official and 25 years as a volunteer, Woody has helped maintain the lifestyle of Weston that we all cherish. He defines what Weston is all about,” he said.
“Weston is a great town,” said Mr. Bliss. “But not just because of me. There are hundreds of people who volunteer their time and work on many projects for the town,” he said modestly.
As a retiree from IBM, Mr. Bliss said, he is happy to lend his business and financial acumen to local organizations when they need help. “These groups have a lot of paperwork that needs to be processed,” he said.
In 1986, the first Citizen of the Year recipient was Weston police Detective Carl Filsinger. Last year the Police Commission recognized Ken Edgar, who founded the Weston Community Service Coalition and helped the town during storm emergencies.
Other recipients have been Lou and Maria Dempsey, Fred Schneider, Betsy Peyreigne, Teri Gaberman, Joe Abruzzi, Dawn Egan, Walt and Sandy Dadik, Lyette Segerdahl, Dominick Renzulli, Robert Remus (Sgt. Slaughter), Anthony Sadukas, Joseph McAleenan, Diane Lederer, Jean McNeill, David Geismar, Edward McGrath, Blake Hampton, Peg Bisceglie, Margaret Robinson, Peter Meehan, Roger Core, James M. Daniel, Donald Gary, Robert Studwell, John Pokorny, Charles Pokorny, David Brown, and James Magee.