Members of the Parks & Recreation Commission offered high praise at their most recent meeting for Chair Rona Siegel as the leadership for the appointed body turned over in a close election.
Parks & Rec chair for the past three years, Siegel has been “exceptional, just exceptional” in the role, Commissioner Hank Green said during the group’s Jan. 12 meeting, held via videoconference.
“Your commitment, the time you’ve put in, your mastery of the issues—on behalf for town, thank you,” Green said.
Siegel was elected chair of Parks & Rec in March 2019, succeeding fellow Democrat Sally Campbell in the role. She has led the appointed body through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen New Canaan parks more heavily used and also used in new ways. While public parks had to be closed in the early week’s of the pandemic and its aftermath saw Waveny Pool passes down and Fourth of July fireworks cancelled, use of public courts for tennis and platform tennis increased dramatically, prompting the town to direct funds toward the burgeoning need. The town launched additional clinics, improved the reservation system for paddle tennis—a problem that had lingered for years—and last summer built new pickleball courts at Mead Park.
Summer Theatre of New Canaan in 2021 successfully relocated its stage shows within Waveny, and organizations such as Rotary Club of New Canaan made new use of the park in order to continue important fundraising efforts. Progress also has been made during Siegel’s chairmanship on the longtime and ongoing problem of dog poop bags left along Waveny’s walking trails.
Sensitive and at times divisive matters also have arisen during Siegel’s time as chair, such as a proposed new landscaping plan for part of the Waveny grounds, and the status of a commissioner following his arrest in a domestic incident, on which she took a firm position.
Commissioner George Benington, who was elected chair in a 6-5 vote during the meeting, thanked Siegel “for your fantastic service.”
“And I look forward to working with you,” Benington said, before requesting that Siegel conduct the Parks & Rec meeting.
Commissioner Steve Haberstroh said, “I’d like to make a motion to say ‘Thank you, Rona.’ Nobody on the [Zoom] screen spends more time than you have been. You’ve been a great leader and thank you.”
Siegel thanked the Commission for its kind words.
“Congratulations, George, and of course i will stay on through the end of the year here, anything i can to do to help,” she said.
The Commission’s meeting opened with an organizational meeting to elect officers. Francesca Segalas nominated Siegel for chair, while Carl Mason seconded the motion. Then Gene Goodman nominated Benington, seconded by Jack Hawkins. Those voting for Siegel were Segalas, Matt Konspore, Green, Mason and Siegel herself. Those voting for Benington were Keith Richey, Jake Granito, Hawkins, Haberstroh, Goodman and Benington himself.
The organizational meeting was conducted by First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, with Tucker Murphy, administrative officer in Moynihan’s office, registering the vote.
“I had five in favor of Rona and six in favor of George,” Murphy said.
Goodman replied, “That’s what I had.”
Segalas was unanimously elected secretary of Parks & Rec.