Just one month shy of her six-year anniversary, Sandy Dennies confirmed she is stepping down as Wilton’s chief financial officer in November. Her departure will coincide with the end of Bill Brennan’s term as first selectman.
“I gave my paperwork to Bill in July,” she told The Bulletin on Tuesday, adding she and Brennan had been talking about the end of her service for a while. With a changing administration, coming up with an end date was difficult.
“I didn’t want Bill to be alone,” she said, and so she “decided to go when Bill goes.” Of the incoming administration she assured, “they’ll be fine.”
Dennies said Brennan, Board of Finance Chair Warren Serenbetz, and Selectman Dick Dubow will sit on a committee to look at candidates for her position. A search is underway by the National Executive Service Corps, the organization that brought Dennies to Wilton. This way, she said, “whoever is going to be taking the [first selectman’s] office will have some insight into the qualities of the candidate.”
When asked if she was retiring or just moving on, Dennies said, “My kids laugh when I say I’m going to retire.” But after six years in Wilton and the previous 27 as a municipal executive in Stamford. Dennies is ready for something different.
“Sincerely, I will be 64 in September,” she said. “At this juncture in my work life, I really want to do something that will help somebody else.
“I’ve been very fortunate in achieving what I have in local government. There must be something I can do that will make a difference in other people’s lives. That has more appeal than continuing in local government.”
She said when her adult children asked what she wanted for the future she said, “more sunshine and fresh air, I want to do something that will help somebody else, and I want to be happy going to work.
“I’m keeping my options open.”
When Dennies came on board Sept. 28, 2009, she said her job was to “inform the boards in a clear, concise, transparent manner” about the state of the town’s finances, so they can make the appropriate decisions.
Much of her time here has been spent “bringing the town into the current century. A lot of systems needed to be updated,” she said, particularly the financial system and the public safety system that was “giving me a run for my money.” The public safety system encompasses the systems used by police, fire, ambulance, etc. It was updated to NexGen, which is the most popular program in the state.
“Public safety came first,” she said. The came the tax program, which was upgraded from a small provider serving only nine communities to a provider that covers most of Connecticut. Departments in the town annex were upgraded as was the HR/payroll system. She also worked to get the town self-insured with the Board of Education.
“We’ve done a lot,” Dennies said. “The town is in much better shape at this juncture and I feel pretty good about that. The next administration will come in and build on that.”
She added that she and Ken Post, the school district’s director of financial planning and operations, have talked about working more cooperatively on the financial side and reducing overlap where it occurs.
“I feel really, really good about where we’re going,” Dennies said.
When asked if she had any other thoughts on her tenure here, she paid tribute to those she has worked with.
“Bill Brennan has been an exceptional person to work with,” Dennies said. “He has an incredible ability to manage and work with people. He reads everything, and is up to speed. He is very concerned with the appearance of downtown. He is leaving the town a better place. He’s just been a wonderful person to work with.
“The employees in the town of Wilton are exceptional,” she continued. “It is a very small staff. I went from a staff of 86 in Stamford to 15 in Wilton. Everybody is a multi-tasker who puts their all in.
“The people of Wilton are very lucky to have the department heads they do. No one I know of is here to rip off anybody else. They treat every dollar as their own. They deserve a lot of credit, especially with the changes in the systems we have. Change is difficult, but everybody has worked with us to move forward. … Their work ethic and their willingness to work with me definitely made a huge difference. They need to be recognized, truly.”
With just a few months left, Dennies will tie up any loose ends and then, she said, “I am looking forward to having time over the holidays with my family,” which has been difficult in the past because it is also the beginning of budget season, “and exploring my options in the future.
“It has given me a new lease on life to be able to think about that.”