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Samantha Parlato is a familiar name to East Haven, with her work as a justice of the peace, Chamber of Commerce vice-chair, and her new role on the Board of Education keeping her busy. (Photo by Matthew DaCorte/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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As a justice of the peace (JP), Samantha Parlato loves marrying people. She’s wedded friends and strangers, she’s wedded people in foreign countries and in her parents living room—she’s even married a lobster and mermaid. But there is one ceremony she’ll never do.
“I’m not going to jump out of a plane and marry you,” Samantha says with a laugh.
Samantha says that anything related to a wedding makes her happy, and she’s always excited for the couples. When she meets with the brides, she says she “goes overboard.”
“I have a book that I had printed out and it has a bunch of [ceremony] openings in it, then it has a bunch of ring statements and different vows and closings, so my brides and grooms customize their own ceremony,” she says.
Samantha enjoys seeing what the couples choose, and says the personalities are often reflected in the vows. She’s had many different wedding experiences including marrying friends, a few same-sex marriages, performing a ceremony in English for a couple that spoke only Spanish while someone else translated it, and she married a couple in her parents’ home.
For the first two years as a JP, she donated money she received from doing weddings to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as her father had passed away from leukemia.
Samantha is also the vice-chair of the East Haven Chamber of Commerce—a role she loves. She had known Chamber President Jennifer Higham, a wedding photographer for some time, so they brainstormed ideas for Samantha to get involved in a fun way. That led to a Business After Hours event at which the Chamber’s mascot, Leo the Lobster, was married to a mermaid, with Samantha officiating.
“It was very successful; it was lots of fun,” Samantha says.
When Mark Gravino became chairman of the Chamber, he asked Samantha be the vice-chair, telling her she was organized and someone who would be able to speak for him.
“We came up with a plan that he’ll run the meetings and then I’ll run all the events, a kind of trade-off,” Samantha says.
The Chamber is busy developing plans to increase membership and volunteer involvement, with lots of After Hours events on the cards, she says.
In between officiating weddings and her duties with the Chamber of Commerce, Samantha has another great passion—working with children. She is studying an associate’s degree in early childhood special education at Gateway Community College, where she expects to graduate in May and was recently inducted into the school’s Honors Society.
“We had a little ceremony and I felt ridiculous because I’m with a bunch of 18- and 19-year-olds—there were a couple of other older people—but it was definitely the highlight of the year, being inducted into the Honors Society,” she says.
A mother to three children—Sarah, Ryan, and Amy—Samantha was very involved with school parent teacher organizations and was even a “lunch mom” for a time. The principal at Overbrook School asked her to become a paraprofessional, and she worked in the school’s special education department for five years.
During this time, the town implemented the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) program, supporting a multi-tiered approach to social, emotional, and behavior support. Samantha was part of the PBIS team at Overbrook, attending meetings with the state and helping to develop strategies for students who needed extra support.
“Our program became very successful in our building,” Samantha says, noting that the school became a model and demonstration school for other schools across the state.
“So that became a big passion; that was my thing,” she says.
Samantha was elected to the Board of Education (BOE) in November 2017, posting the highest number of votes for any BOE candidate. She says it was a nice feeling, but also unexpected.
“I think working in the school system for so long, there were so many people that know me, and know how well I work with the kids.”
In her new role, Samantha wants to focus on making sure each child is given the tools they need to have a positive educational experience, and that students feel safe as school.
With her firefighter husband Frederick working odd hours and the many activities with which her children are involved, Samantha says with a smile, “I’m always busy; there’s always something.”
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