Libby Stacia: Everyone Needs to Be Heard
“You talk about everything at a bar. You sit at a bar, everyone always wants a beer, there’s no pressure to sell, they’re coming to you,” she says.
It’s the shared experience of people bonding over food and drink that has carried over into her time as selectman and as a sales insurance agent, with the overall philosophy of bringing people together, making sure that everyone has a sense of belonging, that they have a voice that will be heard, and that people are compassionate for one other, whether in agreement or not on the issues.
“I love people, and I’m always trying to think about how to bring people together, and make things work,” she says. “At the end of the day, everyone’s opinion matters. It’s OK to not agree, and you have to agree to disagree, and respect each other.”
If she were to end her time as selectman tomorrow, she knows that the one thing she’d want to be remembered for is that she was always keeping the interests of Essex close to her heart, and that she grew tremendously in the process.
“From where I started to where I am now, I’ve learned a ton. Just between the processes and the people I’ve worked with, I’ve grown a ton as a person,” she says.
For Stacia, the most rewarding aspect of her job as selectman is seeing the positive improvements that are made to Essex and its villages, such as the changes that were made to downtown Ivoryton.
“We did a complete revamp of the downtown area. We put in sidewalks and crosswalks, so when I see things like that happening, that’s the most rewarding,” she says.
The rewards further hit that personal note, as the original reason for running for selectman for the first time in 2011 was to give back to the area where she has multi-generational and familial ties. While Stacia grew up in Deep River, her mother and husband’s family are from Essex, and she has great-grandparents who lived in the area as well.
“This is the area that I grew up in, and I wanted to serve [Essex], and it is 100 percent why I still do it. It’s one of the best places to live,” she says.
Other than seeing through town projects, there are also more personal moments, especially when members of the community truly feel like they are being heard and cared for and express gratitude for the work the selectmen of Essex perform.
“I can think of a time when we were at a Board of Selectmen meeting, and I actually got a thank you note from a resident for something that did,” she says. “When you actually get a resident who took the time to write you a letter and say ‘Thank you’ for what you did, or having someone say that to you on the streets, that touches you on a level that is completely different.”
When it came to deciding to serve her town and running for selectman 11 years ago, the tri-town area again became a source of inspiration, particularly by the late Dick Smith, the former longtime first selectman of Deep River.
“Ultimately, I’d have to give him some of the credit for why I decided to run,” she says. “He was always a mentor and a friend, and I watched him serve the town for as long as he did.”
Her dedication to the local community and beyond can be found in other areas outside of public service. Along with her position on the Essex Historical Society Board of Directors, she sits on the boosters club for the girl’s lacrosse team at Valley Regional High School, for which her youngest daughter is a team member, and on the board for Kid’s Chance of Connecticut, a non profit organization that offers scholarships to Connecticut children whose parents may have been the victims of serious or fatal workplace accidents.
Stacia’s extended family ties to the tri-town have also translated into her time on the board of the Essex Historical Society.
“I love that work, because for the first time I’m actually working in the history part of the town, and I absolutely adore it. That’s a passion for me,” she says.
She’s also led the organization of the Scarecrow FestiFALL, giving her the fun opportunity to dress up as the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz.
“I love dressing up. Everyone who knows me knows I love it,” she says.
But outside of working on projects with and for the local community and the town she serves, Stacia has also found another place where the perfect batch to satisfy everyone can be made: breadmaking.
“I just love bread, and I love practicing with different kinds. I’ve made asiago bread, olive bread. Every spring I pick a new bread to focus on. Last spring I focused on focaccia. I just love doing it, and to me it’s just rewarding to give it out, too. This year I’m up against bagels,” she says.
Store-bought bread, particularly English muffins, will never be as good as a homemade version, according to Stacia.
“If you’ve ever had a homemade English muffin, it’s amazing!’ she says. “I’ve mastered them.”