11:30 a.m. NOTE:  This article has been updated to include quotes we received from officials after our original deadline. 

After six years as Wilton’s chief financial officer (CFO), Sandy Dennies announced she is stepping down from the post. Her last day will be Nov. 30, which is also the last day before a new first selectman will be sworn in to replace retiring first selectman Bill Brennan.

“Bill and I have been talking about my end game. We decided it would be a good thing to give him the support that he needs through the end of his term, before I called it a day,” she tells GOOD Morning Wilton.

She’s very proud of what she has accomplished here, laughing, “It’s been a busy six years,” as she lists the many things she oversaw and made happen.

“When I was hired, my charge was to bring Wilton into the current century. There’s been a lot of changes we’ve made to set the town in the operations that are more current than it was when I arrived. I’m absolutely pleased at the achievements we’ve made in my time here, that we’ve done as much as we’ve done. It’s definitely made a huge difference in the town. There were a lot of challenges,” she says, including:

  • Changing the public safety system to NextGen, used by every community in CT to share information
  • Changing the tax system to Quality Data System
  • Identifying an ERP system provider and changing over systems in finance and community development [DPW, Planning & Zoning, Environmental Affairs, etc.], and HR payroll in January
  • Changing the audit to a comprehensive annual financial report
  • Changing how Wilton pays its bonds
  • Closing out four 2002 school construction grants that had been open since that time with the money sitting up with the state
  • Segregating the WVAC (Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corp) not-for-profit organization and town systems, to facilitate reimbursements for services that are provided
  • Changed the advisor for the pension and OTEP and changed the custodian of the funds
  • Changed the alarm ordinance
  • Selected a provider for a new telephone system for the town and the Bd. of Ed.

All major accomplishments, given that she started working for Wilton during one of the worst financial crises.

“When I walked in, the amount of interest income that had been budget on the undesignated funds balance and the funds that we had in the bank was like $1 million. We came in with very little because of the collapse in the financial world. But we’ve done exceptionally [since then]:  We initiated a relationship with Janney Montgomery Scott and have invested a portion of the undesignated fund balance to try to regain some of that loss in interest income; we’ve begun laddering the CDs with Northern Capital, which has also gathered a little bit more in interest income; we’ve redone bonds a couple of times and reduced the interest that we’re paying on existing bonds twice.”

Timing her departure around the change in town leadership was definitely a consideration. She hopes that what she has built through her work will set the stage in a positive way.

“The next administration might want someone with other qualities in this office. Mine was to make change; I did. I don’t do debits and credits. I am focused on improving places and I think that I’ve done a lot to improve where we are. It stabilizes the town so the next administration will be able to build on that,” adding that there is no one else leaving the finance department so there will be a consistency while the town searches for a replacement.

[See our related story on how the town will replace Sandy Dennies, here.]

Dennies won many fans among town officials, who say she’ll be hard to replace.

“She’s been a valued Wilton employee and I’m grateful for her dedicated service,” said Deb McFadden, a current member of the BoS who is also campaigning to be first selectman.

McFadden’s colleague on the BoS, Dick Dubow had this to say about Dennies:  “Sandy’s leaving will be a significant loss to the town of Wilton. Over the past six years, she has led the town in strengthening financial controls, integrating computer systems, refinancing the town’s debt, expanding collaboration among town agencies, and attracting new sources of revenue. Her initiatives have helped maintain Wilton’s Aaa bond rating and helped reduce the burden on Wilton taxpayers. In short, Sandy leaves Wilton with a long list of accomplishments for which we are all grateful. I wish her well in whatever comes next in her life.”

Fellow selectman Michael Kaelin, who is running to stay on the BoS, agreed, mentioning that when the budget was in front of the BoS and if he had any detailed questions for Sandy, she knew most of the answers off the top of her head. “I am disappointed because I liked Sandy a lot and I was looking forward to continuing to work with her. But I respect her decision and if this is what she wants to do I fully support it.”

[Editor’s Note:  GMW.com also reached out to first selectman Bill Brennan, who is on vacation; BoS member Jim Saxe; and BoF member Lynne Vanderslice, who is also running for first selectman. No one replied with any comments before press time.]

UPDATE, Aug. 18, 8:45 a.m.Lynne Vanderslice emailed a comment from vacation:  “First I would like to congratulate Sandy on her tenure with the town. sandy was hired just as Wilton and its residents were dealing with the impact of the recession and the financial crisis. This put additional pressures on her position as the town’s CFO. Yet she was able to handle the pressures and also make significant changes to the department such as the implementation of new financial software. I applaud Sandy on her decision to pursue an avenue which will allow her to make a greater difference to mankind. I am confident she will find it even more rewarding than she expects.

UPDATE, Aug. 18, 11:30 a.m.⎯Bill Brennan emailed a comment from vacation:  “Sandy has done an outstanding job, accomplishing everything we asked her to do when we hired her.  Her summary is very accurate, but fails to mention her dedication and conscientious work ethic. Sandy worked unbelievably long hours to meet and exceed the demands of her critically important financial position.  She has been a pleasure to work with  and I wish her every future success.  I have known of her desire to shift gears and she was gracious to provide the Town with sufficient notice to enable us to find a qualified replacement.”

Dennies doesn’t have specific plans to work elsewhere right away. “Actually I’m hoping to take the month of December off because it’s been years since I’ve enjoyed the holidays. Getting the budget ready for when they came back after New Year’s. It’s been a while.”

After that, she may forego working in municipal government and instead focus on something more “humanitarian.”

“I would hope I’d be able to do something that I truly enjoy that will give me satisfaction as I go into the future that will hopefully make a difference for someone in this world.”

Even after 28.5 years in Stamford and four years in Bridgeport, Dennies calls Wilton her “crowning achievement.”

“I loved Stamford–it’s my home town. I’m exceptionally pleased I had the opportunity to do stuff there. But even though I had the same functional responsibility there, my job was different because in Stamford I had 86 employees; in Wilton I had 15. It becomes a very hands-on approach here. The town is small-staffed; everyone is a multi-tasker. Wilton is exceptionally lucky to have the department heads that they have. Everyone puts in 150-percent; they watch the money like it’s their own; they’re not excessive. You’ve got great work-horses that make the city run. I am so taken with the work ethic that town employees have in Wilton–it’s remarkable.”