NEWINGTON - A land-use development proposal that pits neighbors against each other and sparks political feuds: Does this sound familiar?
It’s the subject of former Newington Town Manager Frank Connolly’s new novel, “Hidden Agendas: Inside Town Hall.” Connolly, 76, will be at the Lucy Robbins Welles Library Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. to present his book.
Local readers may be curious about the story and its connection to Newington, where Connolly served as assistant town manager, then town manager, between 1981 and 1990.
The former town resident will be quick to share, however, that his book is loosely based on situations and people he encountered over three decades of service in three different towns, including North Coventry, Branford and Newington.
“I’ve given the presentation in other towns and people come out and ask, ‘Am I in the book?’ Or they say, ‘I know who that character is.’ But there are no specific people I wrote about. I just used personalities and situations I’ve known over my career.”
During a 20-year span, he kept notes as inspiration arose. It wasn’t until this past year that he put it all together and released the book with self-publishing company CreateSpace.
Connolly will also delve into the writing and publishing process during his upcoming visit.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Newington,” he said. “We lived in town for ten years, made a lot of friends and know a lot of people. Our children went through the Newington schools.”
He oversaw several significant projects during his tenure, including renovations of the library building.
“When I was there we built the Newington Industrial Park,” Connolly remembered. “That was the biggie.”
In the last decade, a national developer’s proposal to build on Cedar Mountain led to a grass roots movement by local residents, who joined forces to stop the project. It’s this type of project that was the focus of Connolly’s book.
“Hidden Agendas” is set in the fictional town of Covingford, Connecticut. Out-of-town developers looking to build a shopping center near a residential neighborhood confront the town plan and zoning commission, angry homeowners and local politicians. The issue turns into a firestorm, with back-stabbing, personal vendettas and behind-the-scenes schemes. Local reporter Janet Johnson follows the situation closely and provides an objective account. Letters to the editor are sprinkled throughout the chapters.
“There’s politics all over, but New England really spends a lot of time in local government,” Connolly said. “It becomes a way of life for a lot of people. Some just want to do their civic duty and for others, it becomes a blood sport.”
He and his wife live in Portland and spend winters in Florida. Now semi-retired, Connolly does consulting work as an interim school business manager and is an adjunct professor at New Haven University.
You won’t find him at any town meetings these days.
“I’ve been invited to get involved in local politics but I don’t,” Connolly explained. “I had my share of town meetings. It was night after night after night.”
He does follow what’s going on at the local, state and national levels, reading three different newspapers a day.
Connolly also wrote “Local Government in Connecticut” - a textbook that won the 2013 Wesleyan University Press Driftless Award. Both books are available on Amazon.com.
“The textbook details how local governments should operate, and the novel gets into how local government often operates,” Connolly added with a chuckle.
Lucy Robbins Welles Library staff look forward to featuring the author’s work. The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Library.
“We’re excited to have him,” Assistant Library Director Karen Benner said. “Frank was a very well-liked town manager here. A lot of people remember him.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go:
WHAT: Books & Bites Local Author Spotlight: Frank Connolly and “Hidden Agendas: Inside Town Hall”
WHERE: The Lucy Robbins Welles Library, 95 Cedar St.
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m.
HOW: Free, registration required