The House of Representatives took a few minutes during its special session Thursday to say goodbye to its leader.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, announced in May he would not be seeking re-election, ending his four-year tenure as the leader of Connecticut’s House. Thursday was the last time he would be on the dais in the House and his staff surprised him with a video tribute.
The video featured current and past legislators roasting Sharkey and sharing fond memories against the backdrop of an ocean where sharks would occasionally swim past.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, who has announced his intention to succeed Sharkey as speaker, told Sharkey: “You handled things that would have made others walk away or just cry.’’
Aresimowicz recalled how one of Sharkey’s immediate challenges upon becoming Speaker was leading legislators through the legislative process of “reacting to the Sandy Hook shootings.’’
“You led us through that difficult time,” Aresimowicz said. “You always had respect for the process, the chamber, and the members.”
Aresimowicz also joked that he’s not too upset with Sharkey’s decision because it gives him an opportunity to seek the position.
Rep. Linda Orange, D-Colchester, said she knew Sharkey would fit in his freshman year when he locked Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, out on a ledge during a debate. Dargan had climbed out the window of the men’s bathroom to smoke the cigar and Sharkey came and locked the window.
Dargan said he got Sharkey back by sabotaging his computer and getting him pulled over by the police.
Former House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, who recently returned as a lobbyist joked that being out of office isn’t as great as he may think.
Cafero said when you come back and visit the Capitol “you’ve got nowhere to park, you’ve got nowhere to sit, you’ve got nowhere to go.”
He said he came back to the Capitol and spent and hour and a half looking at the Genius of Connecticut from two benches.
House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, was often on opposite sides of issues with Sharkey, but on Thursday, she took a moment state her admiration.
“Many times we disagreed,’’ Klarides told Sharkey. “But, no matter what party we are from, we at are core are here to do the best for our towns and for our state. You have always operated as a leader.”
Sharkey, 54, told his fellow legislators that he appreciated their kind words. He added that the position was rewarding, but a challenging one.
“It’s a very difficult job to ensure as speaker the balance of fairness for everyone in the chamber,” Sharkey said.
Sharkey was unprepared for the video tribute. He said he explained his decision not to seek re-election both publicly and privately and struggled to find the words to thank his colleagues for giving him the honor to serve Connecticut as speaker.
He said it’s not a position he sought when he was elected or set as a goal for himself, but as things fell into place opportunities became available and “it felt right.”
But the “worst thing you can do is wear out your welcome,” Sharkey said.
Aresimowicz had one last parting suggestion for Sharkey, who works as a lawyer and a zoning consultant.
“It is time for you to enjoy your family, your career and your life a little bit.”
Christine Stuart contributed to this report.