Person of the Week
Phil Sengle: From Start to Finish
Of all that Phil Sengle will be remembered for in Clinton, it’s possible his efforts on helping bring about the town manager form of government—and helping select that town manager—will be top the list. (Photo courtesy of Phil Sengle )
On Dec. 11, when Clinton’s Town Council unanimously voted to offer Karl Kilduff the opportunity to become Clinton’s first ever town manager, sitting in the audience in town hall observing the announcement with a big smile was Phil Sengle, one of those most instrumental in helping the town through its recent change in government.
Clinton made the switch from the board of selectman style of government to this form of government in November of 2019. A town manager form of government calls for a hired professional to serve as the chief executive of a town and to handle the day-to-day operations. That town manager is overseen by the elected, seven-member Town Council.
While serving a final term on the Board of Selectmen, Phil spent the majority of 2019 preoccupied with his role as the chairman of the Town Manager Search Committee (TMSC), an appointment he was keenly eager to take.
“I don’t want to sound self-serving, but I did it because I felt I knew the right questions to ask from being on charter revision commissions in the past and I knew I had the time and energy to do it,” he says.
The committee had voluminous amounts of material to get done by the time the charter change went into effect at the end of the year.
“It took almost a full year of work,” Phil says.
During that time, the TMSC helped hire a search firm to assist in the hiring process, wrote a job description for the position, helped vet candidates for the job, and helped organize the final interview round earlier this month. Phil is quick to give credit to all those who helped with the search process.
“This was not a one-man van, I had terrific people on this committee including Dennis Donovan, Carrie Allen, Hank Teskey, Anselmo Delia, and Tim Guerra,” says Phil.
Phil’s interest in bringing a town manger to Clinton can be traced back to the 26 years he spent living in the town of Plainville.
“I got very involved in things up there and we lived under three different town managers while I was there and I thought they were all wonderful,” he says.
In 2017 there were renewed efforts to bring the form of government to Clinton, and Phil became one of many citizens who spoke out in favor of the transition.
“I came to realize the partisan battles, which I admit I was a part of, were never really going to help Clinton; it wasn’t advancing things,” says Phil, a Republican. “I decided I didn’t want to be part of it anymore.”
Proponents of the change like Phil believe having a hired town manager will reduce the political squabbles that take place in town. After a failed attempt at changing the charter in 2017, the voters overwhelmingly supported the move in 2018.
“Its time has come, enough people supported it that it gained momentum,” Phil remarks.
Phil was born and raised in Berlin, Connecticut, and it was there that two very important experiences that influenced Phil’s life happened.
The first was that Phil developed an early interest in municipal politics. That story unexpectedly begins with ice fishing.
“I got concerned about the status of chain pickerel at that time since that is mostly what we caught,” he notes.
Phil contacted a state representative about fishing regulations and the rep met with Phil and recommended he write a letter to the local newspaper. Phil began attending town meetings, which he found interesting.
Additionally, Phil credits his father who was active in the town’s government with sparking his interest.
“The rest, as they say, is history,” Phil chuckles.
The second important thing that happened to Phil in Berlin is that he met his future wife and high school sweetheart, Linda.
Phil’s interest in politics is something that stayed with him. Phil says wherever he has lived he’s gotten involved in some capacity. In Clinton, Phil has served on the police commission, the Board of Selectmen from 2017 to 2019, and the Planning & Zoning Commission. He previously chaired the Republican Town Committee.
Phil worked for more than 35 years as an engineer and sales director for Bell Laboratories, AT&T, and Lucent Technologies.
Phil’s career took him to several different cities across the country—”I like to tell people I worked in Allentown before Billy Joel made it famous.”
Eventually, Phil retired from his job and Linda from a career in nursing and they began looking at homes closers to where they grew up. Ten years ago, they chose Clinton because of its shoreline location, a choice he clearly enjoys.
“I feel fortunate to be in Clinton. There’s a tremendous amount of good people and a tremendous amount of talented people here.
“I do love being near the shore and I do like that it’s a small enough to get to know a lot of people,” he adds. “I like that there’s a lot of opportunity for positive growth here.”
As for hobbies, Phil says he is an active member of his church and that he likes to golf. Phil is a proud veteran of the United States Navy, and has served as veterans chairman for Elks Lodge No. 1784. He also says he like to spend time with Linda and their five grandkids.
“I feel very fortunate in this life,” Phil says.