State Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, announced Friday that she is retiring from the state Senate effective January 2011 and that she will not seek re-election in November 2010.
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“After nearly 50 years in public service – beginning with the Manchester League of Women Voters in 1961 and ending with my seventh term here in the Senate – I feel it’s time to spend more time with my family, including one grandson whom I’ve seen play soccer just once in the past three years,” Sen. Handley said. “I have loved every moment of my time in Manchester and here at the Sate Capitol, and I truly believe that I have helped improve people’s lives. But I’m 73 years old, and the legislature ceased being a part-time body a long time ago. While I’ll miss my colleagues in the legislature and staff and the advocates and the good causes they are devoted to, I won’t miss the midnight sessions and the six-hour meetings.”
In reflecting on her career, Sen. Handley said her fondest memories include advocating for the passage of the Project CONCERN referendum in Manchester – a move to bus black Hartford public school students to Manchester – in the spring of 1968. While the referendum failed, the Board of Education later voted to institute that policy on its own. Sen. Handley said a group of religious leaders who worked in favor of the referendum later went on to form the Manchester Area Conference of Churches (MACC), which is still active today.
Sen. Handley said she also took special pride in heading Manchester’s Earth Day events, the passage of the civil unions and marriage equality laws in Connecticut, and in securing state funding for a variety of 4th Senate District projects, including Manchester’s Head Start building, Northwest Park, renovations to the Youth Services Bureau and Spruce Street firehouse, and the transformation of Glastonbury’s former oil tank farm into Riverfront Park and its Community Center.
Sen. Handley said she also enjoyed working to transform Connecticut’s “Filthy Five” coal- and oil-burning power plants into more environmentally friendly, power-producing sources for the state.
“My greatest legislative disappointment was the governor’s veto of our bill to end Connecticut’s death penalty,” Sen. Handley said, referring to House Bill 6578, an act replacing the death penalty in Connecticut with life imprisonment with no parole which passed the state Senate on May 21, 2009 but was vetoed by Governor Rell on June 5.
In the state legislature, Sen. Handley also helped pass various managed care reforms, including the state HUSKY Health Care Plan to provide health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of children and their parents.
Sen. Handley served on the Manchester Board of Directors from 1987 to 1989 and again from 1991 to 1996 as the town’s Deputy Mayor. She has been a member of Manchester’s Human Relations Commission, the Cheney Historic District Commission, the Martin Luther King Day Committee, the Substance Abuse Council, the Housing Rehabilitation Review Committee, the Special Olympics Committee, World War II Commemoration Committee, the Manchester League of Women Voters, the Unitarian Universalist Society and the Manchester Democratic Town Committee. She has also served as chair of the Earth Day Committee, the Heritage Day Committee, the United Nations Day Committee, Project Concern and the 1st Hispanic Mission of Manchester.
Sen. Handley taught History at Manchester Community College for 30 years before retiring in 1997. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Connecticut College and earned her Master of Arts degree from the University of Connecticut. She was raised in Manchester, where she still lives. She has two married sons and six grandchildren.