As published in the Record Journal, Friday April 20, 2012
“When I met him, it was never about him.” Robert Parisi’s main question has always been “What are you doing for Wallingford?”
— State Sen. Leonard Fasano, about Robert Parisi, longtime chairman of the Wallingford Town Council
By Laurie Rich Salerno
WALLINGFORD — Veteran Town Councilor Robert Parisi will be honored for his longtime service to the Republican Party by the state GOP Monday at the group’s annual Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford.
The 14-year council chairman will receive the Fenton “Pat” Futtner Award, one of three major awards presented by the party each year.
“For the award you tend to look for unsung heroes — those that have been working primarily behind the scenes to help the party and help elect Republicans over a long period of time — Bob fit that criteria very well,” said Connecticut GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr. by phone from a national Republican National Committee chairman’s meeting in Arizona Wednesday.
Labriola, a Wallingford resident who has been a longtime member of the local party, said Parisi will be honored both for his 34 years as a councilor and other contributions to the town and the party, including work on several campaigns. Parisi has served in various roles including as campaign manager for Republican state Sen. Len Fasano since his first run in 2002.
Fasano, who lives in North Haven, said as soon as he was exploring a run for state Senate, he was told “the guy to meet is Bob Parisi.”
“When I met him, it was never about him,” Fasano said, saying Parisi’s main question has always been “What are you doing for Wallingford?”
The dinner, now in its 34th year, is particularly high-profile this time around. Ann Romney, wife of GOP primary candidate Mitt Romney, will be the keynote speaker on the night before Tuesday’s Republican presidential preference primary election in Connecticut.
“I think it’s phenomenal. It certainly makes it a doubly important occasion for me — to have someone like her there,” Parisi said by phone Wednesday. Parisi said Labriola called him a few weeks ago to let him know of his award.
“I’m very humbled by it — it’s very touching — to be recognized for what you’ve done,” he said.
Parisi, who was born and raised in Wallingford, has been involved with myriad organizations in the town through the last 50 years, including the Elk’s Club, Wallingford Kiwanis, Celebrate Wallingford and the Wallingford Girls’ Softball League.
His first involvement with the town government, he said, was just after college when he held the sometimes unpopular job of sidewalk inspector under Mayor William Bertini.
“I used to have to go around and inspect sidewalks that were cracked ... and issued a citation to the homeowner,” Parisi said. “It caused quite a furor.”
Parisi soon left the job and worked independent of the town — but still, in some capacity served under every mayor since, he said. Parisi is known for founding and heading the residential and commercial cleaning service Cleen-Rite Inc. After he sold the company, Parisi said he worked at Gaylord Hospital directing housekeeping.
Former Democratic Town Councilor Iris Papale spoke fondly of her years on the Town Council with Parisi. Papale retired in 1998, and was the second longest running councilor at the time after Parisi, with 32 years on the council. She and others talked about Parisi’s boots-on-the ground commitment to the community.
“Bobby Parisi does so much for the people in the town of Wallingford that nobody even knows about. If somebody has a problem — even minor things to some people, if their street wasn’t plowed — he’d go out there and check it out,” she said. “He’ll make sure that it’s done.”
The two were friends long before they got into politics, she said, and in her first term she wrote a check for one of his fundraisers.
“The next day I got a call from the Democratic Town Committee, they were very upset with me,” she said. “I looked at them and said — this is exactly what happened — ‘years from now, when I’m not even in politics, will any of you call to ask how I’m feeling? No, but Bobby Parisi will call me forever.’ ”
The Prescott Bush Dinner will be held at the Stamford Mariott and will also honor Ambassador Tom Foley of Greenwich with the top Prescott Bush Sr. Award, and retiring state Rep. Lile Gibbons, of Greenwich, with the Woman’s Leadership Award.
File photo / Record-Journal
Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi speaks to a civics class at Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford about the importance of education on Nov. 14, 2006. The 14year council chairman will receive the Fenton “Pat” Futtner Award at the Connecticut Republicans’ annual Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford on Monday.
File photos / Record-Journal
Wallingford Town Council Chairman Robert Parisi listens to Connecticut Independent Labor Union President Wayne Gilbert during an arbitration meeting at Town Hall on Monday, Aug. 7, 2000.
Robert Parisi sits in his office in July 1985. The 14-year council chairman will receive the Fenton “Pat” Futtner Award at the Connecticut Republicans’ annual Prescott Bush Dinner in Stamford on Monday. Ann Romney, wife of Mitt Romney, will be the keynote speaker.
Parisi speaks during a swearing-in ceremony at Wallingford Town Hall on Jan. 4, 2010.