On Saturday morning, State Rep. Mary Fritz, one of the most cherished and respected politicians in the state, including the 90th District she served (Cheshire and Wallingford), died at the age of 78 after battling an aggressive form of cancer. According to a report in the Meriden Record-Journal, Mary's family will receive relatives and friends in The Wallingford Funeral Home, 809 N. Main St. Ext., Wallingford CT 06492, on Wednesday (July 13), from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Thursday (July 14) at 10 a.m., at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 382 Hope Hill Road, Yalesville. Interment will be in St. John Cemetery in Wallingford. In lieu of flowers, gifts in her memory may be sent to the Mary G. Fritz Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o The Wallingford Funeral Home.
On July 3, 2014, the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee’s PR Committee filmed its first Spotlight On Cheshire video show and Mary Fritz was gracious enough to be the show’s first guest as she prepared for another election campaign. It was my privilege to interview Mary as she described some of her many accomplishments and in the video she explains why it was so important for her to help her constituents in any way she could. Here is the link to the video - http://bit.ly/29s3hkd. (you may have to drag the gray bar located below the video in order to center the video)
Below is my PoliBlog on what Mary Fritz meant to Cheshire and why she will be missed.
State Rep. Mary Fritz had a passion to serve in the House of Representatives and only one item fueled that passion - the opportunity to help people.
With the passing of Mary Fritz, residents of Cheshire and Wallingford have lost a true friend and champion of their interests and needs at the State Capitol. All of Mary Fritz’s accomplishments are too lengthy to list in this one story as she constantly worked hard on issues that impacted her communities including the economy, education and the issues of senior citizens.
One of her recent accomplishments was pushing for legislation that would help Cheshire get a 50 percent reimbursement for upgrading its water treatment plant to limit the release of phosphorus. Her impact on Cheshire was felt as recently as Saturday morning during a ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate the completion of a new linear trail extension between West Main Street and Jarvis Street. Mary Fritz was responsible for getting a tract of land at the Jarvis Street entrance that is being used as a parking lot for linear trail users. She was also instrumental in helping the town get its turf field at Cheshire High and helped local businesses.
“Mary Fritz was an outstanding legislator who always went to bat for the town,” said Ernie DiPietro, chairman of the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee. “No one did a better job helping people. If you wanted to discuss an issue she always got back to you.
“She did a lot for the farmers in town and got them grant money. She always went to bat in Hartford for our local growers and she is the person who pushed to have Cheshire officially known as the bedding capital of the state.”
Praised as the greatest advocate for the state's green industry in the Connecticut legislature, in 2012 Mary Fritz won the Bill Milikowski Founders Award, the highest annual honor of the Connecticut Greenhouse Growers Association (CGGA).
"Virtually every greenhouse grower in Mary Fritz’s Cheshire-Wallingford district is on a first-name basis with this remarkable legislator," said CGGA Executive Director Bob Heffernan in a press release at the time. "For nearly 30 years from her seat in the legislature, Mary has defended our growers time and time again. Because flowers and plants are more than half of all of agriculture in the state, Mary has uniquely understood her responsibility and took it on with great strength and determination."
"There are 187 legislators in the Connecticut legislature. But each of them knows who carries the weight for the green industry, who's the true expert on all our issues, and that's none other than Mary Fritz."
When I first met Mary Fritz, it was at a Cheshire Democratic Town Committee meeting in 2011. I was about to make my debut as a politician as a Cheshire Town Council At-Large candidate that fall. She told me she was happy to see a new person enter local politics and when I asked her for advice, the first word out of her mouth was “doors.”
“Ads in newspapers, public forums, calling voters and even standing on corners waving to people, that’s a part of all the hard work to get elected,” she said. “But the most important thing is to knock on doors and let people see you. Door knocking lets you connect with voters better than anything else that is out there. People need to see you and know who they are voting for in an election.”
Relentless and constant door knocking in the 90th District (Cheshire and Wallingford) during election time was the cornerstone of Mary Fritz’s success. It’s a big reason she served as a state representative for 32 years.
Fritz was elected in 1982 and lost her bid for re-election in 1984. She won the seat back in 1986 and went on to win 14 consecutive elections.
Another reason for the political longevity is her desire to connect with residents didn’t begin and end during an election cycle. Whenever residents in her district had concerns with an issue, Mary Fritz went out of her way discuss the issue with the resident. It wasn’t uncommon for her to invite constituents to her home to discuss an issue.
“Many people do not realize that Mary Fritz was a true public servant who viewed her 32 years as a State Representative as a mission to help anyone who came to her,” said CDTC vice chairman Judy Villa. “Mary spent countless hours at her kitchen table with people seeking her advice and assistance with family problems, trusting her to find answers and agencies in local and state government that could provide for those in desperate need.
“Mary drafted legislation that addressed violence against women and also co-wrote and marshaled the latest law mandating the surrender of firearms to the courts in cases of protective orders. Her concern for the well-being and safety of families was only part of her dedicated service to Cheshire and Wallingford. Her legacy is that she made Connecticut a better place to live.”
Mary Fritz was assistant deputy speaker of the House and served as deputy speaker and deputy majority leader. The many committees she was on included the Planning and Development Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
In March, she announced she would retire at the end of her current term as state representative. On June 10 there was a surprise retirement party for Mary Fritz.
Here is the bottom line – Mary Fritz was a member of the state legislature who went far and above the call of duty for her constituents. She will certainly be missed.
Dan Nowak is chairman of the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee's Communication Relations/IT Committee, a volunteer position. He is a Cheshire Parks and Recreation Commissioner and has been a sportswriter at the New Haven Register for 36 years.