'Slow down': First selectwoman tells Wilton workers to take a break this summer

Many of Wilton's department heads, such as Director of Social Services Sarah Heath, pictured late last year with Sgt. Anthony Cocco of the Wilton Police Department, have taken little to no time off during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many of Wilton’s department heads, such as Director of Social Services Sarah Heath, pictured late last year with Sgt. Anthony Cocco of the Wilton Police Department, have taken little to no time off during the coronavirus pandemic.

Town of Wilton / Contributed photo

WILTON — After more than a year of nearly nonstop work during the pandemic, the town’s first selectwoman is telling her department heads to take a break this summer.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice is encouraging town employees to use their allotted vacation days, while calling for a temporary slowdown on projects and initiatives in July and August to promote mental health awareness.

“I often refer to it as people having a second job, their COVID job,” Vanderslice said Friday of the responsibilities sprung upon department heads during the pandemic in addition to their usual duties. “It really was just seeing how overloaded people had been.”

Vanderslice is taking her first extended vacation since the onset of the pandemic starting Monday.

“Two weeks,” she said.

But she pointed out the vacation was supposed to start Friday, but she said there were too many loose ends she needed to tie up first.

Vanderslice said many town officials have not been able to take off during the pandemic, including Health Director Barrington Bogle, Town and School CFO Anne Kelly-Lenz and Police Chief John Lynch.

“They were all on heightened alert, seven days a week,” Vanderslice said. “Just think about running the police or the fire department during this pandemic, being exposed or possibly being exposed, just trying to manage. We have had a number of people coming in seven days a week and with people coming in and out, we still (needed) coverage.”

“We all just adapted,” said Sarah Heath, the town’s director of social services.

Heath said she felt the effects of having added responsibilities during the pandemic.

“I never felt completely spent, (but) I was tired because I was working extremely long days, and doing that seven days a week,” Heath said. “Because we help people for a living, it is sort of second nature for my department to want to and to be able to help people.”

One of Heath’s main focuses dating back to late 2020 and throughout this year has been facilitating vaccination opportunities for older adults in Wilton, while also providing general resources for them.

One of the hardest parts of the pandemic, she said, was the expectations of the public and working hard to fulfill them in a safe and efficient manner.

In the months of July and August, Vanderslice is content to let her department heads and municipal workers earn a collective breath to recover.

“There have been a whole bunch of initiatives we have done and that is great,” the first selectwoman said. “It needed to be done. But now, let's take these two months.”

As pre-pandemic norms are starting to return to the town and the entire state, Vanderslice is keenly aware of anxiety and stress levels.

“That time off mentally is really important. You don't want people burnt out,” she said. “That is what we are getting to or have gotten to.”

“It is very important to take care of your mental health,” Vanderslice said. “Slow down, take your time and pay attention to how you’re feeling mentally, as well as physically.”