The Bethany Democratic Town Committee is proud to announce that Janet Brunwin is the 2014 Citizen of the Year recipient. This bi-partisan award is given to a special member of the community. Janet Brunwin is such a person.
Janet is a 25 year resident of Bethany. She has volunteered with the local soccer league, was Chair of Bethany’s Board of Finance, is the current Chair of Bethany’s Family Harvest Festival, is a member of the Lion’s Club where she is a past Chair of the Membership Committee, is on the Long Term Financial Planning Committee, is a member of the Senior Tax Relief Committee and is also currently serving on the Airport Committee. Janet’s background is in finance and she has utilized her financial acumen in each of these endeavors to ensure that the fiscal house of Bethany is in order.
“Janet exemplifies all that is good in Bethany.” First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski said. “She has the unique ability to work with people from varied backgrounds and varied viewpoints. Janet brings out the best in those she is with.”
When Janet concluded her tenure with the Board of Finance in July 2013, she was its Chair and had been so for 6 years. Janet is proud of all that the Board of Finance was able to achieve during that time. In collaboration with First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski, the Board of Finance kept any necessary tax increases to a minimum, provided a more transparent, informative and understandable budget to the Town, maintained Bethany’s excellent bond rating, and hired an outside auditing firm to ensure accountability. Janet managed the fund balance for Bethany. She and her team refinanced Bethany’s bonds so that the Town could save money.
Janet’s leadership style is one of collaboration. She entertained discussions about all aspects of the budget. “In order to be effective, you need to understand the perspectives of so many different constituencies. The schools, the fire department, the library, the boards and commissions, just as an example, all have needs that must be heard and understood. All of those needs must then be balanced by the Town, the ability to prioritize and a vision for the future of Bethany”, Janet said. She certainly understood what it meant to run an annual budget Town Meeting in a professional manner – listening to everyone’s suggestions, questions and concerns.
Janet and her husband Phil, who have been married for almost 25 years, first made their home in Bethany in 1988. Janet and Phil, who is a luthier (a custom guitar maker), live in and have lovingly restored the Downs family homestead. When Janet and Phil saw the house with its many out buildings, they knew that they would make their home in Bethany. This former dairy farm was the only place they wanted to get married. So, in the middle of their restoration, Janet, Phil, their families from Wisconsin and England and many friends converged upon their Downs Road home. Janet and Phil have a son, Jack, who was brought up in Bethany. He attended Bethany Community School and the Amity Schools. While Jack was young, both Janet and Phil became fully immersed in Jack’s soccer endeavors – traveling all over the country to support their son in his tournaments. Jack played soccer throughout his school years. Janet’s professional “know how” was put to good use when she became the Treasurer of the Woodbridge Soccer Club – an organization devoted to Bethany and Woodbridge children. Despite the fact that Jack is now a senior at Skidmore College, Janet has continued to support the Woodbridge Soccer Club by remaining as its Treasurer.
Janet is the Senior Director of Finance at Laticrete International, a manufacturer of tile and stone installations systems and construction materials, at Laticrete’s international headquarters here in Bethany. She manages the accounting department, is responsible for all of the financial aspects of the company including but not limited to banking, insurance, financial reports, analyses, acquisitions and budgeting. Janet has a B.S. in Financial Accounting, has a MBA and is a Certified Public Accountant. Before joining Laticrete in 2002, Janet spent 7 years in public accounting and has worked as a financial manager for several manufacturing companies.
Janet said that the combination of working at Laticrete and becoming Chair of the Board of Finance changed her life. She saw a marriage of a company that supported the town in which it is located and a town that supported its businesses. Janet said that “Bethany is a lot more than where I live. It is a community – my community. I am honored and thrilled to live here, work here and be involved in volunteering in the Town.” Janet reports that the people she has met and worked with in Town have been the most rewarding of all.
Janet’s involvement does not stop with the Board of Finance. In 2009, Janet became involved with the Bethany Harvest Festival and is now its Chair. The Harvest Festival is in October and is exactly what a harvest festival in New England should be. There is food and face painting, pie eating contests and pony rides. There are crafters of every sort – from jewelers and quilters to music and karate demonstrations. Clowns and critters such as snakes, rabbits and chickens make an appearance. There are dog agility demonstrations and tractor pulls. There are massages and soccer demonstrations. A major addition last year was the bus tour of Bethany. There is often a tag sale, a horse show, children’s games and petting zoo. A variety of musical groups entertain. There are often barrel races and food of every sort. Vendors sell books, jewelry, baseball cards, doll clothing, cosmetics and cooking wares. Janet is looking forward to growing the Harvest Festival even more. She hopes to expand the activities to include many for older adults, in addition to the children’s events. Last year almost 1,000 people attend the event.
Janet got involved with Bethany’s Lion’s Club 7 years ago. She says that it is a privilege to be part of such an important service organization. Janet chaired the membership committee in the past. Currently, she participates by reading to children at Bethany Community School, serves food, helps park cars, and works on the annual auction and many of the other events sponsored by the Lion’s Club. “We Serve” is the motto of the Lion’s Club, a motto Janet says she tries hard to uphold.
First Selectman Derrylyn Gorski asked Janet to be a member of the Long Term Financial Planning Committee – a committee that Janet, as Chair of the Board of Finance, helped to create two years ago. Janet just recently joined the Committee and is looking forward to implementing the recommendations set forth by the Committee at its town-wide meeting in October 2013.
Janet sees her appointment to the Airport Committee as an extension of her association with businesses in town. She sees the airport project as a means to improve the commercial base in Bethany. The airport property, according to Janet, is the center of the commercial district. There is a need for a town center and Janet sees the airport property as the means to fit that need. Janet is particularly looking forward to the fundraising phase of this project.
“I am so pleased to have been able to contribute to the Town of Bethany – to my community - and to work with incredible and caring people”, Janet said. “I am humbled to be in the company of those who were chosen as Bethany’s Citizens of the Year in the past. This is an honor that touches me deeply and that I will never forget.”
The Citizen of the Year Award is given out at Bethany's annual Spaghetti Supper. This year the Spaghetti Supper will be held on March 29, 2014 in the Town Hall. Wine and cheese are at 6:00 p.m. Dinner starts at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 for adults, $8.00 for Senior Citizens and $6.00 for children. Please call Carol at (203) 393-0350 if you want tickets. They can also be purchased at the door. All are welcome. Come celebrate with Janet Brunwin as she is given the Citizen of the Year award!