Guendelsberger takes 'sabbatical' from New Milford politics
If Bob Guendelsberger leaves a legacy in New Milford, it may be for his years of service and dedication to the education of the town's children.
Mr. Guendelsberger announced last week he will not seek a sixth term on the Town Council.
It is a seat he's held since 2001, following 12 years on the Board of Education.
For many of his years in politics, he has served actively on the Republican Town Committee.
The longtime local attorney said it is time for a "sabbatical."
"The high school, Sarah Noble -- that's my legacy," Mr. Guendelsberger said, reviewing his 34 years of public service.
From 1991 to 2001, he was the school board chairman.
Mr. Guendelsberger was originally a proponent of renovating and expanding the old high school during the mid-1990s.
However, once the referendum drew near in 1997 for a new high school and the renovation of the old high school to Sarah Noble Intermediate School for grades 4 through 6, he championed the cause throughout town.
Mr. Guendelsberger also said he had guided the purchase of 11 acres of property near John Pettibone School by Kimberly-Clark in 1997, directing the $1.4 million selling price to the purchase of the old Larson Farm property where New Milford High School now sits.
As part of the deal, K-C granted continued use of the 11 acres for recreation by the town.
"It was a win-win," Mr. Guendelsberger said. "I was out almost every night with (Superintendent of Schools) Ray Avery, wherever people gathered, presenting the plans" for the school projects.
"Bob is probably the strongest leader we've ever had on the Board of Education," said RTC member Tom Pilla. "He's put in a lot of years doing an exceptional job for the community."
Mr. Guendelsberger has also served on the Republican Town Committee for 34 years, 10 of those as chairman.
The years have often been rocky, drawing political fire.
"I am probably the most hated Republican in town," he said. "It comes from the years I threw mud at Democratic candidates for first selectman while Cliff Chapin held that seat.
"Cliff didn't have a mean bone in his body," Mr. Guendelsberger said. "so I took that role at election time."
His residency in the town has been questioned since the late 1990s.
Allegations continue to this day that he actually lives in Brookfield -- where he asserts he has an "unwinterized summer home."
But Mr. Guendelsberger said he wouldn't change a stand he's taken or a decision he's made over the years.
Democrat Liba Furhman was mayor during Mr. Guendelsberger's time on the Board of Education.
She lauded him for his bi-partisan cooperation during that time.
"Just like in current times, 20 years ago gaining community support for education budgets was difficult," Mrs. Furhman said. "I remember Board of Finance Chairman Chip Devin, Bob, and I gave a joint press conference to support the budget one year. It's an example our current Congress could follow."