As part of 2018’s celebration of Women’s History MonthGOOD Morning Wilton launched a month-long series highlighting the significant contributions by women of Wilton. We quickly realized a month isn’t enough time to highlight so many woman worthy of acknowledgment, so we decided to extend the series and continue to shine a spotlight on our outstanding community of women.

We invite you to meet Wilton resident Gail Lavielle, Connecticut State Representative.

Gail Lavielle, a Republican member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, was first elected to the House on November 2, 2010, defeating the incumbent Democrat. She represents the 143rd Assembly District, which includes Wilton, Norwalk, and Westport. Representative Lavielle, is the Assistant Republican Leader, the House Ranking Member of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee, and serves on the Transportation and Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committees.

She also enjoys a good belly laugh.

“Shortly after moving back to CT in 2008, I joined the RTC (Republic Town Committee) to get a better understanding of the community and what was going on,” Lavielle recalls. “After the 2008 election, I was asked if I would be interested in running for the seat next time around. I simply burst out laughing.”

As we know, Lavielle came around. It was a slow realization that she might actually want to run for the seat and she admits she would have never have gotten there on her own. “I needed all those people to suggest it and encourage me to consider it as an option.”

Once Lavielle was onboard with the idea, she was all in. Although she and her husband moved to Wilton in 2002 (after 14 years of living in Paris), there was a stint in Bentonville, Arkansas, and another one in Chicago, which interrupted their time in Wilton. In 2008 the Lavielles were finally established in Wilton, but running for office meant having a pulse on the entire district.

“I recognized I had to be more in sync with the people of the district, and that meant more specifically, getting to know Norwalk better,” she says. “I spent a lot of time learning about the city, talking to people, finding out what their priorities and concerns were.”

Lavielle also committed herself to getting up to speed on the legislative process. “I spent most of the 2010 legislative session at the State House. I went to committees and I watched and listened. I testified at public hearings, and it occurred to me that I could do this.”

On the surface, politics may seem an unlikely pursuit for a woman who holds a BA in English from Cornell and an MA in French from Yale, but Lavielle’s path to the Connecticut House of Representatives is proof that she is capable of doing a lot of different things, and doing them well.

First there was Lavielle’s acceptance into the investment banker training program at Morgan Guaranty Trust after focusing on humanities, language, and literature in college and grad school.

Then she successfully made the jump from investment banking to advertising, where she dug in and subsequently held the role of chief executive of a subsidiary of the Interpublic Group. Lavielle also served as Senior Vice President of Suez Environment, the world’s largest water and wastewater services company, where she managed people in more than 30 companies and worked closely with the financial community to improve its understanding of complex government contracts.

Many point to this diverse resume and skillset, as what makes her a thoughtful and effective legislator, one who has been lauded for her constituent outreach and responsiveness as well as her ability to “look for the solution…rather than get mired down in government bureaucracy.”

Lavielle’s seemingly smooth transition to politics may also be the result of how she approaches most thing in life. The questions that guide her are, “What are you doing for somebody else? What is significant in what you’re doing?”

In light of that outlook, it actually makes perfect sense Lavielle is where she is today. When asked about what she likes best about her job, she is quick to respond, “I really love working on individual constituent issues, because I can help people directly and make something happen for them right away.”

One of her many proud accomplishments is the role she played in the restoration of non-stop service to New York on the early morning Danbury line in 2014.

For decades, the 5:36 a.m. train out of Danbury provided through service to Grand Central. In early 2014 Metro-North changed the service, requiring passengers to transfer to another train in South Norwalk. Lavielle sprung to action in response to her constituents’ complaints. She rode the train and circulating a petition to collect signatures. Lavielle brought the signatures to the Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner and the President of Metro-North, and on May 11, 2014, through train service was restored. Not one to usurp the credit, Lavielle has always described what transpired as a team effort. The results delight her of course, given the positive impact it had on so many people.

Lavielle also takes great pride in helping to squelch Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposal to transfer all local authority regarding land near the stations to the state in 2015. HB 6851 would have essentially given “11 non-elected people the authority to do whatever they wanted in 500-acre swaths of any city or town in Connecticut with a rail or bus station, and no one in those municipalities would be able to do anything about it.”

Concern for her constituents once again inspired immediate action. Lavielle wrote testimony on it; she went to the Planning & Development Committee; she wrote an OpEd on eminent domain to help explain to her district the details of what was really going on in a way that the mass media was unable to do. Town after town after town got onboard – all of Fairfield County and even towns as far north as Newington were worried about the impact of this bill and became quite vocal.

“Killing that bill was important,” Lavielle says, “as it would have destroyed the ability of residents of every town in Connecticut to have a say and voice about the character of the town in which they live.”

It was Wilton’s small-town appeal that drew Lavielle and her husband in and motivated them to plant roots. “We absolutely the landscape. It’s simply breathtaking,” she gushes. “We have wonderful trails – the NRVT, Weir Farm, and Woodcock – and Wilton is just more naturally beautiful than other towns. I cherish that.”

As Lavielle looks ahead to her work in the coming months, she is acutely focused on the need to work together in the legislature to put Connecticut back on a sound financial footing. “I can’t stress the importance of this enough, because none of us can do it alone. There are 187 legislators in the General Assembly, and we must accomplish this as a body, facing the realities of the situation and taking the steps that are necessary to turn Connecticut’s economy around, restore its infrastructure, and ensure that everyone receives a quality education.”