Former First Selectman Richard Parrett’s legacy is visible all over town, from services like home trash pickup and a paid fire department to expanded fields and parks.
Parrett, a local attorney, served as first selectman from 1969 to 1971, the first Democrat to be elected to that position in North Haven.
He died May 9 at age 86 in Naples, Florida, where he moved in 2015 after retiring from Hamden law firm Parrett, Porto, Parese and Colwell.
Tributes to Parrett started the Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday, June 7 with several members of the Parrett family in attendance.
His law firm partner John Parese said Parrett brought energy and imagination to his work.
“He was very proud of his profession and very grateful that he could put his talents to productive use for his clients,” he said.
Current First Selectman Michael Freda said Parrett was “a consummate gentleman, and a man that I really grew to respect greatly when I took office. And he, for me, was very helpful.”
Freda said Parrett shared some of his experiences as first selectman when Freda was elected initially, a gesture Freda said he appreciated considering they were of the opposite political parties.
Parrett was born in New Haven in 1932 and served in the Air Force during the Korean War, according to his obituary. After earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut in 1958 and his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University in 1960, he worked as a special assistant for the United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. in 1960 and then established his law firm.
Parese said Parrett was “a somewhat surprising winner” when he was elected first selectman in 1969. He won by slim margin, Parese said, and lost re-election by an even slimmer margin two years later.
Parese said he reviewed archived minutes from town meetings in 1969 and 1970.
“I learned that Parrett’s election actually inspired the creation of the self-styled Concerned Citizens Council, whose primary, and possibly only, concern was to try to slow (Parrett) down from spending money,” he said.
Some of the significant things that occurred during Parrett’s term include building new fields and expanding parks, establishing an aging commission, the creation of a senior center on Poole Road, creating the memorial library on Elm Street, establishing a paid fire department and starting town-wide residential trash pickup through Public Works.
All this while first selectman was considered a part-time position, Parese said.
“The fact that all of that was done in a two-year span while the day-to-day operations of town government continued is pretty remarkable,” Parese said.
Although Parrett lost his re-election bid in 1971, he was elected as Third Selectman. He did not run for public office again, but continued with civic activities, including serving as town attorney from 2008 to 2009.