When it comes to quietly and efficiently assisting the community and his own political party, many who know him might compare local CPA Alan Clavette to The Energizer Bunny — he just keeps going and going. Mr Clavette’s legacy of service to both the community and the Newtown Democratic Town Committee will be recognized when he becomes the group’s third honoree at the 2013 Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey dinner.
The event will be Thursday, June 13, at The Villa Restaurant, 4 Riverside Road, beginning at 6 pm. According to organizer Rich Boritz, all are invited, regardless of party affiliation.
Among his contributions, Mr Clavette has served as president of Newtown’s Rotary Club, chairman of the board and treasurer of the (former) Family Counseling Center, which is now Newtown Youth & Family Services. He has also served as vice president and director of Newtown Chamber of Commerce, been the president and treasurer of The Exchange Club of Brookfield, has been a member of the Campaign Cabinet for the United Way of Northern Fairfield County, and volunteered as a coach for Newtown Soccer Club.
He volunteered on the first Fairfield Hills Master Plan Advisory Committee, as well as serving on the Newtown Tercentennial Committee.
Currently, Mr Clavette is vice chair of the Newtown Zoning Boards of Appeals and a member of the Board of Trustees for Newtown Savings Bank. He actively participates on the Board of Directors for The Connecticut Institute for Communities, and is a board member of the Newtown Rotary Foundation.
In that capacity, he helped the Rotary take the lead just hours after the 12/14 tragedy, to help establish a fund that continues to provide financial and other means of support to the immediate victims, survivors, responders, and others affected by the mass shooting.
“While we formed that fund, it was also important that we established a clear mission about what our funding would cover,” Mr Clavette recalled during an interview with The Bee. “That mission has guided us all the way through.”
In his capacity, Mr Clavette and Rotary colleague Dan Rosenthal review every request for support made to the fund. Early on in the process, that work took many hours each day and he still spends three to four hours a week handling the review of requests.
While the tragedy is like nothing Mr Clavette had ever experienced, he looks back on how it has united the community.
“It has brought Newtown together in a remarkable way,” he said. “If we can somehow find some good from this evil event, that would be it.”
And in his travels, both locally and outside the region, Mr Clavette has been approached by those who learn he resides in Sandy Hook.
“Everyone I talk to is in awe of what we’ve done here,” he said.
A Political Late Bloomer
The unassuming accountant admits that while he registered to vote at age 18 as a Democrat, like his parents, he did not follow politics at all until he and his wife Mary moved to town in 1992. Gaining an immediate and positive reputation as an accountant, he was first approached to serve as treasurer for the state senate campaign of Gary Fetzer.
Around the same time he agreed to join the local DTC under the strong encouragement of Mary Jane “Bunny” Madden. A short time later, when the DTC’s treasurer died, he was courted to serve and agreed.
“That was in 1997, and I’ve been serving in that capacity ever since,” he said. “Generally, since then, all of my political involvement has been local.”
Among his professional circles, however, Mr Clavette has made an impression at the state and national levels. Since 1998, he has been an active member of the state CPA Society, where he chaired its State Legislation Committee. In that position he helped Connecticut conduct “a complete revision of the Uniform Accounting Act.”
In part, those revisions increased the professional requirement for CPA studies to 150 hours in Connecticut, and served as a national model that eventually required CPAs to complete a fifth year of schooling before candidates could become officially certified.
“That work gave me some grassroots lobbying experience,” he said.
His work locally earned Mr Clavette a three-year appointment to the American Institute of CPAs, where he has served on the prestigious Tax Legislation & Policy Committee. In that capacity, he conducted regular conference calls with colleagues, and traveled to Washington, D.C., two to three times each year.
During those trips, he was engaged in “reviewing all federal legislation related to tax law and CPAs from a technical as well as a political vantage point.”
“Our mantra has been ‘tax simplification and fairness in tax law.’ And I believe our voices were heard,” Mr Clavette said. “We helped influence the language of the country’s last three major revisions to the tax code, although Washington didn’t pay too much attention to the ‘simplification’ part.”
‘The Voice Of Reason’
When he considers the role he plays in the local DTC, Mr Clavette fashions himself as “the voice of reason.”
“I’m a fairly fiscally conservative Democrat, and as treasurer I’m involved in all facets of party operation and campaigns,” he said. His duties include ensuring every local candidate for public office is in conformity with state campaign finance laws, which he admits are pretty complicated.
“In my position, you tend to be the one who says, ‘You can’t do that under the law.’ You find yourself constraining some of the more creative ideas in a campaign,” he said.
He counts former Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey honorees Earl Smith and Herb Rosenthal among his most influential friends.
“Earl has been a great mentor. He taught me a lot about politics while always driving me to do the right thing.”
He describes Mr Rosenthal as embodying the “true meaning of community involvement.” And as a mentor, Mr Clavette regards the former first selectman and school board chairman as “a master of political strategy.”
He advises younger people who care about Newtown, the state, and nation to pay close attention to the “political game.”
“It may be a turn off, but unless you learn that game and then get involved, you cannot influence positive change,” he said. When thinking about an example of such a person, Mr Clavette looks to Governor Dannel Malloy.
“I don’t always agree with him, but he is forceful in getting things done — whether popular or unpopular,” Mr Clavette observed. “And it’s often the unpopular things he tackles that influence the greatest positive change.”
Besides his wife, Mr Clavette is proud of his three daughters, Aimee, a special education teacher; Natalie, a pediatric critical care nurse; and WestConn freshman Stefanie.
Tickets for the event are $60 per person. Anyone interested in attending or learning more about the dinner may visit the DTC’s website, newtownctdemocrats.org, or by calling Jim Juliano at 203-426-0065 or Mr Boritz at 203- 270-7936.