The state House of Representatives honored two well-known legislators who are retiring at the end of the year.
Rep. Jack Thompson, a Manchester Democrat who is one of the longest-serving House Democrats, is retiring after 26 years. Rep. John Hetherington, a New Canaan Republican, is stepping down after 10 years.
House Republican leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk, Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, and veteran Democrat Terry Backer of Stratford all stood Thursday to praise Thompson.
“I appreciate the remarks made by Representative Cafero. You’re very interesting to listen to – sometimes,” Thompson joked from the speaker’s dais. “It’s been an honor to be here this long. I never thought this would happen. … I’ll be back to say hello at hearings. I do have some continuing interest on issues.”
Thompson served with some of the giants of the legislature, including Rep. William Dyson of New Haven and the late Richard Tulisano of Rocky Hill. He worked closely with Dyson, the longtime co-chairman of the appropriations committee, and supported Dyson during his unsuccessful run to be House Speaker.
As Hetherington was in the chair on Thursday afternoon, he was moderating the debate between Cafero and Rep. Stephen Dargan, the co-chairman of the legislature’s public safety committee for the past 22 years.
When Dargan was ready to talk about the bill, Hetherington said, “Representative Dargan, will you prepare yourself?”
“I sure will, Mr. Speaker,” Dargan responded.
When Cafero and Dargan were going back and forth, Hetherington quickly interrupted Dargan and said, “Representative, will you go through the chair?”
The crowd laughed and applauded before the exchange continued.
“We don’t have that thing often, but when we do, we know how to use it,” Cafero said of the Speaker’s gavel.
Cafero said he arrived home late Wednesday night and his wife heard him rustling around at 4 a.m. Thursday morning. She asked him what in the world Cafero was doing.
“I said, ‘I’m looking for a bow tie.’ That was of the utmost importance to me,” Cafero said. “We had a little fun tribute to John by wearing our bowties today. … When he leaves the dias, this thing is coming off in a heartbeat.”
“I can’t tell you how much you have taught me,” Cafero said to Hetherington. “All of us who have known you through the years are richer for it. … I love you.”
Hetherington responded, “There’s no one from whom those words would mean more.”