Iris Papale’s legacy will be difficult to match. As the first woman elected to the Wallingford Town Council, she was a trailblazer who was also notable for her longevity in politics and her bipartisanship.
Papale, who died Oct. 6 at age 86, was a councilor for 32 years. She was the longest continuously serving councilor when she retired. After she decided not to seek re-election to the council in 2007, the Democrat went on to serve as an alternate on the Board of Ethics.
She was noted for an independent yet respectful nature. As the Record-Journal recently observed, she didn’t always vote along party lines.
Democratic Town Committee Chair Alida Cella said Papale exemplified “a person involved with the party, but always put her community first.”
Papale was described as having friends on both sides of the aisle and as a great advocate for the people, with a philosophy of making government work for people and the town. She was remembered for work on various boards and charities and as a mentor to officials, volunteers and town staff.
Former Democratic Council Chairman Mike Brodinsky recalled Papale’s “friendly demeanor, warm smile and respectful manner, regardless of any acrimony that may have been swirling around the Town Council and the political parties."
Papale was a strong supporter of educational services, public works projects, police and fire departments, said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.
“Wallingford has lost just a wonderful person, an absolute superlative citizen,” he said. “People like that make an impact because they show the rest of us how to do it.
“She wanted all aspects of the community to be an A-plus,” he added.
That’s a high standard, and there’s always plenty of work to be done, but Papale’s approach serves as an example, and an inspiration.