Person of the Week
Bruce Glowac: A Life of Community Involvement
Through the Essex Foundation—and as part of a dream team of Essex businesses, groups, and individuals assembled by Steve Bogan—Bruce Glowac was recently able to help ensure that the unsightly Route 9 overpass at the entrance of Essex Village was cleaned up. The foundation is one of many ways in which Glowac, a selectman, serves his town. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier)
Sometimes you don’t have to go a great distance to go far. Bruce Glowac’s grandparents, immigrant from Poland, lived in a house close to what is now the driveway to John Winthrop Middle School. Bruce, the director of facilities for the Region 4 Schools, now has his office in John Winthrop.
The short distance from then to now does not describe the many ways that Bruce, who grew up in Deep River and now lives in Essex, has served the community, most recently as the president of the Essex Foundation, which spearheaded the financing of the project to paint the Route 9 overpass at Exit 3. Essex resident and longtime contractor Steve Bogan put together the unusual partnership between the community and the state of Connecticut that made the bridge painting a reality.
Bruce took over the leadership of the Essex Foundation, established in 1970, more than two years ago after the death of former head David Hyde. The foundation, Bruce noted, is often confused with the Essex Community Fund, but the two organizations work in different ways. The Essex Community Fund makes ongoing grants to local organizations on a yearly basis. In contrast, the Essex Foundation makes one-time grants, often providing seed money to underwrite community projects.
In the case of the overpass painting, the foundation started the financing with a grant of $5,000 toward the final cost of $18,500. Other contributors included the Essex Rotary Club, which also gave $5,000, as well as many individual donors. The Town of Essex provided police oversight during the painting and Essex residents Steven and Susan Bogan, owners of Blast All in Old Saybrook, donated their help to plan and supervise the project, along with the labor and equipment.
“We have liked to do things behind the scenes, no grandstanding,” Bruce explains of the work the Essex Foundation has undertaken. “We are always looking for new ideas. We don’t have any set projects, but we do have the ability to move quickly with projects as long as there are funds.”
Bruce cites the help the Essex Foundation provided to the town after the disastrous floods of l982, when the group was able to work quickly to get aid to local residents, including helping people to replace appliances destroyed by the waters. The foundation has also provided funds for weed control along the Falls River, and for the renovation of Clark’s Pond Park in Ivoryton and last year helped with the planting of cedar trees along West Main Street.
Bruce adds that the Essex Foundation is always eager to hear from local residents with ideas for improvements that would benefit the town.
Bruce has long been involved in the life of the community. He has been a member of many civic groups including the Essex Firehouse Building Committee, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Pollution Prevention Council, the Essex Land Trust, and the Valley Soccer Club. He served as Essex’ first selectman from 1991 to 1995 and had served as second selectman for three years before that. He returned to the Board of Selectman in 2013, and presently is the sole Republican with two Democrats, Stacia Rice-Libby and Norman Needleman.
Last year, Bruce lost a close race for first selectman to Needleman, who has just announced he will be a candidate for the State Senate seat now held by Art Linares, Jr. When asked if he would run for first selectman again, Bruce was noncommittal.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said, pointing out that Needleman would have to win the State Senate seat to make that an issue.
As he looks at Essex today, Bruce is eager to balance inevitable change with the preservation of the community’s small town character.
“That’s really why I got involved in politics. You can’t stop change, but we want the community to retain its identity,” he says.
His long experience in community involvement has taught him the value of listening to his neighbors.
“I always enjoyed listening to people’s opinions; some are good, some are bad, but I will listen,” he says.
Bruce says his interest in elective office started when he became a member of the Regional District 4 Board of Education in l996. He was upset at what he describes as the physical deterioration of Valley Regional High School as well as the lack of pride he sensed in students who attended. He remembered a far different spirit when he graduated from Valley Regional in 1970.
“It was a shame. The school was in such disrepair. We were so proud of the school,” he recalls.
Bruce married a classmate, Taffy Comstock, and the couple now has four grown sons. Bruce says a strong bond still exists among the people with whom he graduated from high school.
“At the time I never thought—I don’t think any of us did—that we were forming bonds that would carry through a lifetime, but that is what has happened,” he says.
The passage of years, he observes, wears away some of the sharp edges of high school relationships.
“I’m friends with people now that I was never friends with in high school,” he says.
Valley Regional, Bruce notes, has undergone a major renovation since he was a member of the school board in the l990s, as has John Winthrop Middle School. When the job of director of facilities for the renovated buildings became available, Bruce applied. He had previously run his own grounds care and maintenance management company. Bruce told then-superintendent John Gillespie he would take the position for not less than five years nor more than 10. Reality is different. Bruce has been in the job for 12 years.
The director of facilities is in charge of the overall maintenance of both John Winthrop and Valley Regional. (Bruce points out there is a difference between Regional School District 4, which includes not only the middle and high schools, but the Chester, Deep River and Essex elementary schools with their own school boards, and the Region 4 Schools, a phrase that applies only to John Winthrop and Valley Regional.)
His responsibility means that Bruce has to be ready for the inevitable after-hours calls, most recently for a freezer alarm that went off. On school vacations, Bruce occasionally hears somebody joking that as director of facilities, he has the week off. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
“We do our hardest work when the students are not here, on vacations and over the summer,” he says.
And in his spare time, Bruce is currently doing a little more hard work—renovating a bathroom in his home.
For more information on the Essex Foundation, visit www.theessexexfoundation.org.