Editorial: Hail to a new chief!

When the state legislature opened for a new session a week ago, it started facing some rather daunting challenges right off the bat — namely, an almost $2-billion deficit estimated over the next two years and Connecticut’s public safety, after the tragic events in Newtown. These weighty tasks begging for solutions and the many others required to keep the state moving forward in the right direction and in the best interests of citizens will no doubt take the collective efforts and wisdom of leaders from both parties and the governor’s office.

But if there is one veteran state lawmaker among the leadership in Hartford who can be counted on to make a difference and wage the good fight for good government, it is one of this town’s favorite daughters — Toni Boucher, the Little Woman Who Could — from “little Wilton,” a term of endearment that some townspeople still use today.

With little or no fanfare, as the legislature was convening last week, came the announcement that Sen. Boucher (R-Wilton) was named chief deputy minority leader by state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield).  Her long respected role as a thoughtful and dedicated legislator and evenhanded party leader with strong convictions just got rewarded with an even more elevated role in the halls of state government.

Her immediate concern was the state of Connecticut businesses. “Connecticut must recreate an environment where businesses can grow and families can prosper,” she said. “I continue to look forward to crafting policy in order to balance the state’s growing budget deficit while holding the line on taxes, reducing government spending, saving businesses, and growing jobs.”

There was no stopping to take in the spotlight or accolades for the high honor bestowed for this senator, who probably has been taken for granted because she has served so well in many important positions in town and in the state (selectman, on the local school board and state school board, former longtime state representative, etc.), and doing right by citizens is expected. And let’s face it, Hartford does not get the attention it deserves, while Washington (and even New York in this bedroom community) gets more than it should. Not that Ms. Boucher has not heard folks call on her to run for Congress every now and then. She seems genuinely less interested in politics and mostly motivated by getting things done,

“Toni Boucher’s energetic support and advocacy on a broad range of issues have had an impact on all our daily lives in Wilton. Her accomplishments are numerous,” touted First Selectman Bill Brennan in his endorsement last fall for Ms. Boucher’s re-election.

Ms. Boucher has been a hard-working, relentless advocate for the 26th District on issues ranging from education to train service and anti-bullying, and against the likes of wayward Super 7 schemes, shortchanging of school aid, high taxes, and much more. In her “hands-on” way, she’s held CL&P’s, Metro-North’s, the state Department of Transportation’s and others’ feet to the fire on behalf of residents, businesspeople, commuters, and many more.

Ms. Boucher has won the high regard and respect of wide-ranging citizens groups and organizations, from the Connecticut Business & Industry Association to the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters (which has given her a perfect rating) to the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance (which named her a “Children’s Champion”) and the National Order of Women Legislators (one of the oldest organizations addressing the needs of elected women at all levels of government, which selected her to serve as parliamentarian).

Somehow, the daunting challenges in Hartford seem a bit less so with Toni Boucher as part of the leadership. Partisans, ideologues and naysayers had better not stand in her way.