Pellegrini reflects on the late Lou White
Published 12:00 am, Thursday, February 16, 2017
Editor’s Note: The following was written by Terry Pellegrini, who has been a prominent attorney in the greater New Milford area for nearly half a century and served as both town attorney and selectman in the administration of Louis C. White.
The death of Lou White brings to an end an important chapter in the history of New Milford, covering roughly the period 1970 to 1990.
Lou was a New Hampshire ex-pat Yankee and surprisingly, a Democrat. In 1969, the incumbent first selectman was Russ Carlson, a Republican.
In 1970-1971, a major issue in New Milford was the Route 7 sandstorms. These occurred when west winds blew sand from the “Kovacs” gravel mine across Route 7 in the area where Starbucks is now located.
This issue eventually caused Russ to lose the 1971 first selectman election to Louis C. White Jr. It was considered an upset at the time. At that time, New Milford was beginning to change over from a sleepy farm town to a more urban area. In 1970, the town still had no zoning.
At the time, I was a new attorney with the firm of Bradbury and Moraghan. Howard Moraghan and Lou were good friends.
The next two years went by quickly, and not without some speed bumps.
Lou and June were constantly trading barbs, and one famous headline in The New Milford Times read, “Mitchell blasts White and Pe
That being said, Lou, in my opinion, always had the best interests of the town in his sights. During this period New Milford adopted zoning (December 1971) over the opposition of many of the “old timers.”
In 1973, another election occurred. The slate was White/Pellegrini vs. Wes Seixas/Chapin.
It was my first and last foray into politics. Even though the ballot is set up each slate against the other, three selectmen are elected — Lou against Wes, me against Stubby.
Lou beat Wes by 600-plus votes; Stubby (whose family has been in New Milford since the last Ice Age) beat me by 600-plus votes.
The selectmen were the executive branch. We would meet in town hall in Lou’s office.
Every two weeks, all three of us had to sign all payroll and expense checks.
During this time we were also the highway foremen. Stubby and I would ride the roads, and Lou would keep track of workers.
At the time, New Milford had the most dirt road miles in the state.
My first personal encounter with Lou’s wrath occurred one day when I sided with Stubby against him. To him, I was being disloyal. I still vividly remember it.
Lou was a classic New England Yankee and hated waste. He would use a ruler to rip paper in half for notes.
Although Lou would disagree with me, I thought one of his biggest mistakes was when he refused to pay Bill McNulty $1 million for the landfill. This unfortunately led to the sale that eventually ended up as Waste Management, but that is a story for another day.
At the end of Lou’s last term, we had a roast for him, which I emceed.
The audience included the Mitchells and a large mixture of Dems and Republicans. I had run Lou’s last election campaign, which had also included a third party headed by Jeanne Garvey.
We had developed a campaign that was solid, and Lou won. At the roast I said that my job as campaign chair was simple. I merely had to figure out how to turn Ghengis Khan into Snow White.
Lou and I were estranged for many years as a result of my refusal to run his campaign against Cliff Chapin, who had become a good friend. Lou lost that election and blamed me. Lou never liked the word no. We reconciled several years ago.
Although most of today’s residents probably never heard of Lou, during his reign he was a formidable presence and always doing what he thought best for the town.
In his later years, Lou could often be seen riding around in his aged truck, his faithful dog sitting next to him, and his ubiquitous corn cob pipe protruding from his mouth, head nobly erect.
May he rest in peace.