With well over a combined century of service to the town of Wilton, three familiar faces were recognized Thursday evening, Jan. 31, as Democrats of the Year.
Louise and Fred Herot and David Borglum were honored at a festive dinner at Trackside and lauded by their fellow Democrats — along with a few Republicans — and the guest speaker, Gov. Dannel Malloy.
“Celebrating long service and honorable service is an important thing,” Mr. Malloy told the crowd of about 80. The efforts of people such as the Herots and Mr. Borglum send “a message to our children and grandchildren of public service over time with no recompense.” Their actions show the importance, he said, of “how much remains in our community bank than our own bank accounts.”
Last year Mr. Malloy participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking of Wilton Commons, built just north of Trackside and he referred to it as “a wonderful complex, a reminder of what we do … building stronger communities.”
Mr. and Ms. Herot and Mr. Borglum were recognized for years of community service in many capacities.
In a resolution honoring her, Ms. Herot was described as “a leader whose selfless acts of community, her civic values, her wise and informed counsel, her ability to organize and herd cats if necessary have well served our town government and community…”
She was recognized for her service as a former selectman, member of the Board of Education, trustee of the Wilton Library Association, and a member of the League of Women Voters. She also served on two Charter Commissions and is presently a justice of the peace.
Carole Young-Kleinfeld, the Democratic registrar of voters and a member of the Wilton League of Women Voters, described Ms. Herot as “a role model for many of us in the league. … I am just grateful to know her and to work with her.”
Margaret Creeth has also worked with Ms. Herot on the league. “She’s always been so dedicated … she’s such a hard worker.” Ms. Creeth recalled a study the league undertook a few years ago to examine the economic situation in Wilton. “She was very instrumental in making that study happen,” Ms. Creeth said.
Selectman Ted Hoffstatter said Ms. Herot “welcomed me into town government. … She has been very helpful to me … there’s a lot of wisdom there.”
For her own part, Ms. Herot said she was “absolutely overwhelmed” when she was notified of the award.
“I was very humbled because that room was just filled with people who are giving a good part of their lives to serve the community. To be among them was a great honor.”
She said the award is “a wonderful tradition and I am looking forward to many years and many more honorees and I can be there and applauding them for what they do.”
Her husband Fred, was equally humble in his reaction.
“I felt I was simply doing what I enjoyed,” he said of his years of community service, “and I was delighted” with the honor.
The resolution honoring Mr. Herot described him as “a man of few words and many civic deeds.”
Among those deeds were many years spent as chair of the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Commission; chair of the Park Development Commission; and member of the Wilton Water Commission and Water Pollution Control Authority.
He also helped found the Wilton Arts Council, has served as an election worker, was president of the Wilton Town Association, sat on the board of the Wilton Playshop, and belonged to the Wilton Kiwanis and League of Women Voters.
Mr. Herot was also once a Republican, serving some 40 years ago as chairman of the Wilton Republican Town Committee. Then things changed.
“It was the time of Watergate,” he recalled earlier this week. “I enjoyed the people I was with, but the crowning blow was when word got around I was ‘an extreme moderate.’ I didn’t think it was applicable.” The split was without animosity, he said, adding “the party left me.”
Among those feting the Herots was their daughter Amy, who said, “I feel incredibly proud … I can’t say I’m surprised.
“They’ve been role models in being part of the community … it’s the duty of a citizen, a moral obligation. It’s a passion. I’m delighted to see them recognized.”
Former Selectman Richard Creeth cited the Herots’ “wisdom, knowledge and experience.”
Wilton Democratic Town Committee Chairman John Kalamarides said “Fred and Louise have been a power couple a long time. Their dedication to the town is extraordinary. They are at the top of anybody’s list to honor.”
Karen Birck was the member of the award search committee who nominated Mr. Borglum. She worked with him on the 2008 high school renovation project, which was completed significantly under budget, and said she “realized what a wealth of knowledge” he was.
“He is a very modest guy who would never toot his own horn and that’s the reason we should honor him,” she said.
On a poster set up to honor each nominee, one well-wisher wrote of Mr. Borglum, “A true Mr. Wilton. No one else deserves it more than you.”
Among those joining in the celebration were Mr. Borglum’s wife Cecelia and his children. His son Andrew said, “It’s quite an honor for my dad. He gives tirelessly of his time. … I’m very proud of him.”
Mr. Kalamarides echoed those sentiments, calling Mr. Borglum “an unsung hero,” a man who has “never been in the headlines much,” but worked on numerous building committees.
Mr. Borglum is the longest-serving member of the DTC in memory, having been with the committee since the 1960s. In addition to a long tenure on the Council on Public Facilities, he is also captain of the Democrats’ softball team, which plays once a year at the annual Frivolity Bowl on July 4. He served many years on the Council on Public Facilities, the Area 9 Cable Council and as a poll worker on Election Day.
When asked a few days after the event how he felt about the award, Mr. Borglum said, “I guess I was overjoyed but felt there are some other people that deserved it more than me. As I got into the spirit of things I guess I’m glad I was given the opportunity.”
Of the many building projects he worked on, Mr. Borglum said the Clune Center was one of the most interesting.
“To walk along the catwalk up high … I remember walking on that.” While attending the memorial concert for Dave Brubeck last month, Mr. Borglum said he was “sitting there and listening to the music and trying to decide if the acoustics are that good.”
Although Mr. Borglum attended grade school in Wilton, he did not have the opportunity to attend high school here, since there was no Wilton High. As a result, he attended New Canaan High School and developed strong community ties to that town as well. He was a member of the New Canaan Kiwanis Club.
“I’m a man of two cities,” he quipped.
At for the award ceremony, Mr. Borglum said he was “quite taken aback” by it all, adding “it was nice to have the governor come down. For him to take time out to do a little politicking and put us in the mood.”