Longtime Newtown resident Anna Wiedemann believes the measure of a person cannot be defined by their political persuasion. So it is fitting that the Democratic Town Committee’s Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner honoring her for service to the community and its citizens will be open to everyone — regardless of party affiliation.
Case in point: Republican First Selectman Pat Llodra said she is eager to attend; she sent in her reservation the minute she heard about the event.
“The Wiedemann family are such mainstays of the community,” Mrs Llodra said. “And Anna is such an extraordinary model citizen. I know its taken many years to get her to agree to accept recognition for all her good efforts, and I’m glad because we need to applaud and celebrate her.”
Whether it is jumping in to assume a vacant seat on the Board of Education, serving local seniors on the Commission on Aging, helping to recruit candidates for local office, or organizing meals for a family whose mom or dad or child has fallen ill or is injured, Anna Wiedemann is and has been a “go-to” individual for more than a quarter century.
Even before she and husband Dan relocated to Newtown from College Point in Queens, N.Y., Ms Wiedemann was a popular person to approach for information about what was going on in the neighborhood, she said, because she made it a point to know and understand local issues.
“Our house in Queens was like information central,” Ms Wiedemann recalled. “Everybody would call me because we had so many social contacts. I didn’t go to a lot of meetings, but while I considered myself aware and informed, I did not get into politics.”
She said that back in Queens, all she had to do to find out things, or to share information, was to go out onto the front stoop and the neighbors would gather around. But once she moved to Newtown 26 years ago, she had to find ways to get involved to rebuild a social network because everything was so far away from everything else.
Ms Wiedemann said that she became a registered voter as soon as she turned 18, but did not begin working behind the scenes politically until she arrived in Newtown where she immediately registered as a Republican. But after a period of time, she switched parties and became close friends with current DTC Chairman James Juliano.
“I’m not as active now as I used to be, but I would still do anything for Jim Juliano,” Ms Wiedemann said. “I have a huge degree of respect for him.”
When she joined the Democratic party 15 years ago, Ms Wiedemann said she had already developed a style that considered, but was not necessarily influenced by, a person’s political affiliation.
“I guess I still don’t look at myself as political, or as a Democrat. When I consider candidates who are up for office, I always look at what they have to offer to the town,” she said.
At the same time, she has limited tolerance for those who flirt with political service to feed their own egos, or to serve themselves before their community.
“I know there are always some well-intentioned candidates, but they are uninformed because they never bothered to attend a meeting of the board or commission [on which they are seeking a seat],” she said.
While she considered herself a responsive Republican, once Ms Wiedemann switched parties she dug right in quickly, rising to a position of leadership and considerable responsibility with the DTC.
“There’s no point in joining if you’re not going to be involved,” she said. “So I started helping by doing election season phone calls. Then I started building and maintaining our database and attending caucuses.”
Coincidentally, one of her responsibilities for many years was helping to plan the annual Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner.
“It’s kind of ironic that I’m the one this year, because while I helped with planning in the past, the dinner almost always fell during our regular vacation week so I’ve only been to one or two over the years,” she said.
Among her growing responsibilities with the DTC was identifying, recruiting, and assisting candidates interested in serving in office. And once those candidates were qualified, she assisted many with fundraising duties.
During her tenure, Ms Wiedemann served as the DTC’s secretary and eventually as its vice chair, continuing her work on the membership and candidate’s committees.
“As people came to join, or expressed interest in serving the town, I would help by introducing them around, while helping decide where they might serve.”
A Diverse Background
A former American Airlines secretary and real estate office assistant, Ms Wiedemann transitioned to working for the school district as an office staffer in the Newtown Middle School Guidance Office where she spent 12 years.
She also worked at Sandy Hook School, and served as its PTA chair “long after all my kids were in college.” More recently she has worked staffing budget referendums and elections as a local poll worker and moderator.
These days, she considers herself to be moderately active “on the fringes of the community,” spending much of her time caregiving for her three grandchildren.
Since she became a Democrat, the Wiedemann household has endured “a Yankees / Red Sox situation” because husband Dan, a former Legislative Councilman, remains an active Republican and Republican Town Committee member.
“I’m very passionate, and he’s much more objective so there is a pretty good balance between us,” she said.
When asked about the hundreds, or maybe thousands of meals she has cooked for local families, or delivered as a Meals On Wheels volunteer, she responds by saying, “I’ll do for you, so someday you can do for someone else.”
Among the many other local groups that have benefited from Ms Wiedemann’s dedication and talents are the local VNA Board, a volunteer with the Newtown Relay For Life, the school district’s Character Committee, and as a member of the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers.
During the past quarter century, she has been active at times with the local Lutheran and Congregational Churches, St Rose of Lima, and the New Hope Community Church.
“I’ve volunteered with the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, and even coached soccer one year, as well as being in charge of hiring and scheduling referees for the local rec basketball league,” she said. She has also been a member of the local Women’s and Junior Women’s Clubs, Women Involved in Newtown (WIN) and the Spay & Neuter Association of Newtown.
Turning to the matter of this year’s JJB Dinner, as one might expect, Ms Wiedemann says, “I thought there were a few more worthy people that should be honored.
“But since they want to honor someone not just for their political service, but for citizenship and community service, I agreed,” she said. “I never wanted to be in the limelight — I just want to do — and then move on to the next thing.”
Remaining tickets for the JJB Dinner are $60 per person, which includes a buffet dinner, dessert, beer, wine and soft drinks. Space is limited and no tickets will be sold at the door.
To make a reservation contact Jim Juliano at 203-426-0065 or e-mail email@example.com.