Town Council Candidates
Already a trusted leader in West Hartford, first-time candidate Adrienne “Ace” Billings-Smith is seeking election to Town Council on November 2. She is an attorney and a flight attendant, as well as a passionate and engaged volunteer and activist working tirelessly to make our town a better and more equitable place for all. Follow her campaign at facebook.com/aceforwh.
From giving a renewed energy to Unity Green, bringing awareness to important history as the organizer of our first ever Juneteenth celebrations, or through her work as the design leader of the art committee for Blue Back Square with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired mural, the results of Adrienne’s leadership are visible throughout our town center.
Ace is also a trustee at the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society, a board member of the Town of West Hartford Civilian Police Review Board, the founder of Concerned Parents of Color of West Hartford (CPCWH), and is the first Community-Leader-in-Residence for the UCONN History Department.
With her infectious and boundless energy, she knows how to motivate and mobilize people to get things done. Ace is an advocate for equity and representation in leadership, education, and the LGBTQIA+ community.
Adrienne is a graduate of the University of Central Florida where she was a four-year letter winner and decorated player on the women’s basketball team. She continued her education at Florida Coastal School of Law and was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 2014.
Adrienne, her wife Susie, and their son Russell reside in the Bishops Corner neighborhood. Their favorite West Hartford activity is exploring the trail and enjoying the animals at Westmoor Park.
Carol A. Blanks
A former Chair of the West Hartford Board of Education, Carol Blanks was elected to Town Council in 2019. She is seeking re-election on November 2. You can follow her re-election campaign at facebook.com/CABlanksforCouncil.
Blanks and her husband, Charles, have resided in West Hartford since 1996. Their three daughters Channen, Cynthia, and Kaye all graduated from Conard High School. Blanks is Chairwoman for the Public Safety Committee and was instrumental in utilizing resources to provide protection, testing, and vaccination locations for town staff, town residents, businesses, district staff, and students against COVID-19. Blanks initiated a plan with the Mayor, Town Manager, and Chief of Police to create the Police Civilian Review Board. She is also a member of the Public Works and Facilities Committee, and member of the Special Advisory Committee on Social and Community Recovery. She is a member of the West Hartford Democratic Town Committee and served as Commissioner for the State of Connecticut Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission. She also coached girls’ basketball for West Hartford Youth Basketball League.
Blanks earned degrees in Allied Health Administration and Respiratory Care from Mount St. Mary’s College and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Hartford. From 2002 to 2005, she was a plan liaison for the Connecticut Department of Social Services. In 2005, she became a program director with the Connecticut Department of Public Health. She became manager in 2019 for the Contracts and Grants Management Section with the Connecticut Department of Public Health. She has worked in state government for over 30 years.
Seeking re-election to Town Council on November 2, Shari Cantor is the current Mayor of West Hartford. She joined the Town Council in 2004 and served as Deputy Mayor from 2011-2016. A registered CPA, her previous work experience includes public accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Cigna. You can follow Shari’s re-election campaign at facebook.com/ShariCantorWH.
A native of West Hartford and active community leader, Shari has served as a Trustee of her alma mater, University of Connecticut, since 2013. She currently chairs the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) Foundation Board of Directors, serves as the Governor’s Appointee to the Board of Directors of the American School for the Deaf, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Hartford Stage and the West Hartford Art League. She also serves on the Advisory Boards of the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford and Playhouse on Park, among others.
Shari received the Hartford Business Journal’s “Women in Business” Award in March 2021 and was inducted into the University of Connecticut School of Business Hall of Fame in March 2017. She was recognized as a “Wonder Woman” by the Malta House of Care Clinic in 2016, a “Best Community Leader” by Hartford Magazine in 2012, and as West Hartford Rotarian of the Year for 2011-2012.
Shari has been married to her husband Michael for 36 years, and together were named as one of the Top 50 “Power Couples” by the Hartford Business Journal in February 2021. They are the proud parents of four sons, all of whom are graduates of West Hartford Public Schools, and one daughter-in-law – Josh and Theresa, Sam, Ben and Jacob.
Deputy Mayor Leon Davidoff has been a member of Town Council since 2007. You can follow his re-election campaign at facebook.com/Davidoff4Council.
Davidoff has served on every Council subcommittee and is the current chair of the Finance and Administration Committee and the Advisory Committee on Economic and Workforce Recovery. Prior to his election to Town Council, Davidoff was Chair of West Hartford’s Planning and Zoning Committee.
Beyond the political arena, Davidoff has actively served the community as President of the Newington Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer of the Aiken School PTO, and President of the Rotary Club.
A native of Newington, he studied government and economics at Clark University and received his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1987.
In addition to practicing law, Davidoff is also a longtime co-owner of The Paper Station, a gift shop and invitation printing service. He and his wife, Lexi, have resided in West Hartford since 1997 with their daughters, Becky and Lani. The Davidoffs belong to The Emanuel Synagogue.
Liam Sweeney has served on Town Council since 2017. You can follow his re-election campaign at facebook.com/Sweeney4Council.
A lifelong resident of West Hartford, Sweeney attended Morley Elementary School, King Philip Middle School, and Hall High School, where he was a captain of the Hall High basketball team. Sweeney is a graduate of Temple University. After graduating from Temple, he went on to work for Senator Chris Dodd and various other federal, state, and local elected officials.
Sweeney is now a principal at Penn Lincoln Strategies, a government relations and strategic communications firm. He is a founding board member of Active City, a nonprofit that helps to provide affordable sports recreation options for underprivileged children in the greater Hartford area. He also participates in the West Hartford Public School’s mentoring program and is a parishioner at St. Patrick-St. Anthony’s Church.
Sweeney and his wife, Whitney, live in the Morley School area with their children, Rory and Claire.
Ben Wenograd has served on Town Council since 2015. You can follow his re-election campaign at facebook.com/benforwesthartford.
A Graduate of Wesleyan University and Northeastern Law, as well as Duffy, Sedgwick, and Conard, Wenograd works for the American Federation of Teachers representing primarily healthcare workers and public school educators. During the COVID crisis, he has worked to ensure that the nurses, teachers, paraprofessional educators and other heroic workers were provided the personal protective equipment they needed to keep themselves safe, while providing essential services to the public.
A lifelong progressive activist, Wenograd negotiated one of Connecticut’s first union contracts to include domestic partnership benefits for Gay and Lesbian couples, helped defend health clinics from protesters while in law school, and stood with Stop & Shop workers when they went on strike in 2019. As a Council member, Wenograd successfully worked to expand affordable housing options and make aging in place more affordable by allowing Accessory Dwelling Units and joined with Desegregate Connecticut to pass statewide legislation.
An avid bicyclist and environmentalist Ben has worked hard to increase bike and pedestrian safety in town by expanding the number of bike lanes and crosswalks and supporting traffic calming initiatives, as well as supporting the goal of making West Hartford a carbon neutral community. During campaign season, he is known for riding his bike from house to house and uses a reel mower (human powered) on his lawn.
Ben is a member and former Executive Board Member of Congregation Beth Israel, and a member of the Board of Directors of Fellowship Housing. He lives with his wife, Shannon and his daughter, Sasha, a senior at the University of Maryland. His mother, Marlene, lives at Chatfield and his mother-in-law, also named Marlene, has just moved to town also living in Elmwood.
Board of Education Candidates
Jason Oliver Chang was unanimously selected by the Democratic caucus of the West Hartford Board of Education to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Sean Passan on June 2, 2020. He is seeking re-election on November 2. Follow all of our Board of Education candidates on their Facebook page and website.
Chang is an associate professor of History and Asian/Asian American Studies and serves as the director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute at UConn. He and his partner, Julie, are the proud parents of three children, all of whom attend Charter Oak International Academy. He holds a PhD in Comparative Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley; a Master’s in Comparative Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley; an MPPA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and a BA in Political Economy/Latin American Studies from Prescott College in Arizona.
Deb Polun was elected to the Board of Education in 2017 and is seeking re-election on November 2. She is currently the Chairperson of the Board, is one of its Financial Examiners, and has served on its Policy Committee. Follow all of our Board of Education candidates on their Facebook page and website.
Ms. Polun is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action, Inc. (CAFCA). In that role, she partners with the state’s nine Community Action Agencies and others to ameliorate the causes and conditions of poverty, empower people in need, and improve CT’s communities. Prior to this role, Deb has worked on policy matters impacting low-income residents in Connecticut for over 20 years, in positions with the Senate Majority Office of Connecticut’s Legislature, at the Connecticut Commission on Aging, and at the Community Health Center Association of Connecticut.
Ms. Polun’s community service includes serving on the West Hartford Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the League of Women Voters of Greater Hartford, the Jewish Community Relations Council, as a mentor for the West Hartford Public Schools, and various leadership positions at Congregation B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom.
Ms. Polun is a graduate of Tulane University (B.S., Psychology and Sociology) and the University of Connecticut (M.A., Social Psychology). She and her husband, Ian, have lived in West Hartford since 1999. Their two children, Jordan and Megan, were fortunate to have attended Aiken Elementary School, King Philip Middle School, and Hall High School.
Dr. Lorna Thomas-Farquharson won her first term on the Board of Education in 2017 and has served as Vice Chair since 2019. She serves on the Policy Committee and is an Ex-officio member of the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools. She is seeking re-election on November 2. Follow all of our Board of Education candidates on their Facebook page and website.
Lorna received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Spelman College and Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of Hartford. For over 20 years, she has strived to educate and empower individuals to address challenges and improve the quality of their lives. She is passionate about community outreach and demystifying stigma associated with receipt of formal mental health care. Lorna works as a program manager at Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood where she is fortunate to work with individuals who share a vision focused on equity, where all children are safe, healthy, learning, and thriving.
Lorna values community service and firmly believes in the African proverb “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.” She volunteers within the youth department at her church and is honored to have been elected in 2017 to the West Hartford Board of Education where she now serves as Vice Chair. Lorna values education and implementing effective policies that support development of well-rounded youth, where excellence is defined by thriving academically, socially, and emotionally and where the values of learning extend beyond the walls of a classroom.
Lorna and her husband are proud parents of two daughters who are West Hartford Public School students.
Clare Taylor Neseralla
Clare brings extensive experience in education, a commitment to working with children, and a track record of getting results. She and her husband, Brian, are current members of the Sedgwick Middle School community and are past Duffy Elementary School parents. Clare taught for 16 years at Duffy in both third and fifth grade.
Clare is the STEM Curriculum Coach at CREC Discovery Academy and supports teachers, students and families in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Clare worked for 20 years in media and marketing and ran her own marketing business for computer software companies before becoming a teacher. Her business foundation gave her a unique perspective in the classroom in creating real-world tasks. Clare’s interest in Global Education led her to travel to Japan and Brazil, to visit schools, meet with parents and connect with teachers across the United States. She is a winner of the NEA Innovation Award and brought GPS technology to the West Hartford District and was honored as Citizen of The Year by the West Hartford Fire Department. She also won the CEA Award for Teaching Excellence and three CECA Technology Integration awards.
Clare has worked with children for 23 years empowering them to make a difference in the world. She is passionate about special education and wants to help parents advocate for their children and be active partners in the PPT (Planning and Placement Team) process. She has been active outside of her STEM role at CREC and serves on the CREC Staff Senate, the Advisory Council on LGBTQ Affairs and completed Conversation on Race facilitator training. Clare received the CEA Human and Civil Rights Awards: Harvey Milk – Sylvia Rivera Award for Challenging Discrimination Related to Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.
An active community member, Clare has served on the Hello! West Hartford Board as Communications Director and Treasurer as well as the CECA (Connecticut Educators Computer Association) as the Treasurer. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communications from Central Michigan University and Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Hartford. She also has her sixth year certificate in education from STEM classes from Central Connecticut University, Leslie University, and Columbia NASA Endeavor program.
Clare believes that when real-world tasks are integrated, students learn cross-curricular skills and can collaborate toward authentic solutions. Whatever their future holds, students will have to adapt and problem solve. They will be rewarded for innovative outcomes. Clare makes a difference by planting seeds that will sprout throughout her students’ lifetime.