Wilton columnist: Celebrating ‘Jack-itude’

Stephen Hudspeth

Stephen Hudspeth

Staff / Hearst Connecticut Media

Saying nice things about Jack Majesky — now that’s the easiest task on earth! And not just because he’s a very thoughtful and generous person but also because he’s one of the most effective folks around: Give Jack a job and you know it will be performed not just with excellence but far beyond.

So it was for his role in both the creation of Wilton CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and its almost two decades of operation since then. An occasion later this month for a wide array of invited guests to celebrate his work as he retires from his longstanding position as Wilton CERT’s executive director had to be postponed under coronavirus-protection measures. As a distant second-best-celebration, I’ll laud him here.

Jack always leads by example, and as one of the founding members of Wilton CERT, that example was crucially important in the creation of an entirely new volunteer organization that would not just survive but actually prosper. And, in fact, Wilton CERT has prospered to the remarkable extent of being one of the most highly regarded CERT units in all of our state, with a reputation for excellence that extends even well beyond our state borders.

The CERT model he had a major role in helping to create here is being replicated in other communities statewide. That’s in keeping with what has long been a mantra for Wilton, to be in a leadership role in propagating new ideas statewide: for example, in educational programs in our schools and our library, in public-private partnerships, in town-wide consolidation of functions for greater efficiency, in interfaith action for the good, and even in affordable housing especially in the early years of the roll-out of statewide programs.

Jack has been a leader and mentor for years, from assuring training that is rigorous and effective to making sure that members are kept as safe as possible on call-outs and are equipped properly for the tasks CERT is regularly called upon to perform. His member talks — filled with eloquence, wit, and clarity of organization — would entertain as well as inspire and illuminate, and his presence has always been a reassuring sign that things would run well with great professionalism.

What Wilton CERT does is well known to many in town because we regularly see its members rerouting traffic around accident sites and downed power lines and helping with traffic control for town events. Its members also do searches for lost persons, and in one very sad recent case, they were the ones who found the body of a missing person. They’re also equipped with the necessary folding beds and other supplies to turn town structures into shelters if the need should arise, and in any major emergency they stand prepared to support our first responders in whatever ways their services can be useful.

The concept of having such a volunteer force and an organization to train and support it arose out of the enormous tragedy of 9/11. The resulting awareness fueled national preparation with many dimensions including local ones in which residents mutually support each other in their home communities. Homeland Security promoted the CERT idea, but people on the ground locally were the ones needed to give it life. To recruit and train volunteers and equip and organize them properly to be ready to provide all of the required services is a major undertaking. Giving life to that vision in the form of Wilton CERT is something that Jack had a key role in doing (along with others whom Jack would want to be sure were acknowledged as well), as was his role in Wilton CERT’s major growth and development over the years, working side by side with T.G. Rawlins, whose own service was celebrated last year as he, too, retired.

It’s often said that one of the principal signs of good leadership is preparation for succession, and Jack has done a wonderful job in that, too, with raising up and empowering a very able corps of new leaders who are now firmly in place and giving them time to really grow into their new functions and to learn to operate well together. In doing so, he has seen to it that the mantle of leadership is effectively transferred to the next generation as Jack’s time in that role ends.

We are all the richer for Jack’s work, and while we can’t meet together to do so now, we can still celebrate his accomplishments and thank him for his outstanding service