Republicans nominate Devlin in 134th District

Fairfield resident seeks seat being vacated by Tony Hwang

Longtime Fairfield resident Laura Devlin has been endorsed by local Republicans to run for state representative for the 134th General Assembly District, covering Fairfield and Trumbull — with the blessing of Tony Hwang, who is leaving the job to seek another elected position.

Laura Devlin

Laura Devlin

“I strongly support her,” Hwang said. “I know Laura as a responsible and practical person who practices a philosophy of public service above self.”

Hwang has held the seat for six years and is vacating it to run for state Senate. He said the district would be in good hands were Devlin to succeed him.

“I have known Laura for the past six years and I have valued and respected her perspective on the issues of transportation, jobs and economic growth,” Hwang said.

Devlin is a member of Fairfield’s RTM—representing District 3— a small business owner and former Metro-North commuter.

Her company does strategic communications consulting.

“I work with companies to leverage internal communications,” Devlin said.

So, if a company is going through changes with, for instance, restructuring or benefit enrollments, she helps them effectively communicate what is going on to employees.

“It’s really important for employees to understand,” Devlin said.


Metro-North woes

One issue that Devlin is personally familiar with is the unreliability of commuting by train.

“I spent many a year on Metro-North,” she said.

In fact, in 1988, when she moved to Fairfield, it was because she found the town to be her favorite on the New Haven line, which she needed to take to get to her job in Manhattan.

She learned that if she had a meeting in Manhattan that she should spend the previous night in the city.

“When you have an important meeting, that’s when there’s a problem,” Devlin said.

She feels there is still a lot of uncertainty with commuting by train from Fairfield.

“There’s frustration and now safety as concerns,” she said.

She wants to advocate — and vote for — improving the infrastructure of southwestern Connecticut.


The economy

Devlin said when the rails are reliable, that’s just one part of making Connecticut inviting.

“I think Connecticut can be a great place to work, live and retire,” Devlin said.

But a lot would have to change, she said.

“We are renowned as not being a business-friendly state,” Devlin said.

If people and businesses are going to want to be in Connecticut, the state needs to be more responsible with their money, Devlin said.

“The [state’s] tax and spend [way of handling money] is making Connecticut unaffordable for a lot of people,” she said. “Our citizens and our businesses are taxed at a very high level.”

Her son just graduated from college and she would like for him — and others — to be able to find a job in Connecticut and stay for the long haul.

“Connecticut is ranked the worst state to retire in,” Devlin said.

Devlin said that she would like to bring a “common-sense” budget policy back to Hartford.

“We need to have a transparent and accountable policy,” Devlin said.

She wants to examine current tax rates.

“[I want to] look at where money is spent and isn’t spent,” Devlin said.

She has already been part of budget talks in Fairfield and would like to do even more.

“Ultimately, we need to have a balanced budget that is a true balanced budget, and I would like to be a part of that process,” she said.


Fairfield’s natural beauty

Devlin is also concerned with maintaining the beauty of the town and working on environmental issues, such as tree work planned by United Illuminating.

Devlin said that on the surface it makes sense to trim and cut down some trees around power lines to help prevent power outages. But, she said the work that is planned is extreme, with not necessarily a good enough return.

“It will change the look of the town and have an environmental impact,” Devlin said.

She said that UI is planning to cut eight to 10 feet of trees on either side of lines — an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 trees.

“It’s an aggressive approach,” Devlin said.

She said that UI estimates that 90% of the power outages during Hurricane Irene in late August 2011 were due to trees falling on lines. And the planned eight-year schedule of tree cutting will only reduce the potential in future storms by 25%.

“It still leaves a huge vulnerability,” Devlin said.

“Clear cutting the trees is not the answer,” she added.

UI will be going door-to-door with consent forms for homeowners. The majority of the work in Fairfield in 2014 is in Greenfield Hill, according to Devlin.

“In 2015, it’s all over town,” she said.

Devlin wants residents to be informed and make their decisions knowledgeably.

“For trees on private property, the homeowner can say no,” Devlin said.

And UI can appeal.

The Fairfield tree warden must give permission for every tree on town property.

“The tree warden can also refuse to have a tree removed on public property,”
Devlin said.

UI can appeal those as well.

Another issue that Devlin wants the public aware of is that she said UI has not allocated money for tree stump grinding or replanting of trees in the areas cleared.

“Homeowners will be responsible for getting rid of stumps on their [own] properties,” Devlin said. “[And] property owners need a clear understanding of what would be a good tree to plant under a power line.”

But, before the needed tree cutting permit is issued, UI must tag each tree with a notice for 10 days.

“If removal of that tree is not contested in that time, a permit will be issued,” Devlin said.

Devlin has gotten together with other District 3 RTM reps about this issue. They will join with the neighborhood association, Greenfield Hill Village Improvement Society, in hosting a local meeting and information session to inform residents about the plan and help them get more information. The time and date is yet to be determined, and may be found at the Greenfield Hill Improvement Society website,

“Most trees in our community are overdue for trimming and many likely should be removed, but a clear-cutting approach would not be good for our community,” Devlin said.

The important thing is for people to be informed, Devlin said.

“To get it on people’s radar,” she said, so they don’t come home one day and find their street clear cut.


Community involvement

Devlin is also a member of the RTM Finance Committee and was previously elected to Fairfield’s Board of Assessment Appeals. She has been involved in supporting non-profit, educational and professional organizations, including the Fairfield 375 food drive.

“As a member of the Food Drive Committee, I led the outreach effort to all of the public, private and parochial schools, houses of worship, civic organizations and others across our town,” Devlin said.

She is a member of the American Sewing Guild and worked with the local chapter to sew the costumes worn on the 375th Anniversary float for Fairfield’s Memorial Day Parade.

As a coach for Dress for Success, she has worked with women to help them re-enter the work force.

“It was really gratifying to help empower women by helping them recognize skills that they may not see themselves and help them achieve a level of confidence that would help them in their job hunt,” Devlin said.

She has served on the board of the Fairfield College Preparatory School Bellarmine Guild and volunteered with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

She has been involved with Green Chimneys, which she calls “a wonderful non-profit organization that is recognized as a worldwide leader in animal-assisted therapy and educational activities for children with special needs.”

And she has been involved in the professional groups the Public Relations Society of America and the Society of Human Resources Management.

Devlin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and an executive master’s degree in HR Leadership from Rutgers University. She and her husband of 24 years, Phil Harkawik, have two children who were educated in Fairfield schools — William, a graduate of Fairfield College Preparatory School, and Elizabeth, a graduate of Fairfield Warde High School.

“I really care about our community,” Devlin said, “and I would be honored to represent the people of Fairfield and Trumbull.”

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