For twenty-two years, Carol Leahy dedicated her professional skills and personal talents to protecting historic places in Westport. Until her retirement, Carol was the town’s first Historic District Commission (HDC) Staff Administrator and Certified Local Government Coordinator. She defined this position and set a pattern of supporting efforts to preserve Westport’s historic character. At the 2019 Awards Celebration, State Senator Tony Hwang and Westport HDC Chairman Randy Henckels, pictured above, attended to honor Carol’s achievement.
As HDC Staff Administrator, Carol made sure that HDC members had the information they needed to carry out their responsibilities and to keep them informed and closely connected to the rest of the Town administration, to state and federal agencies, and to private preservation organizations. She processed countless Certificate of Appropriateness applications, guiding applicants through the unfamiliar approval process.
In a more general sense, Carol was the public face for preservation on a daily basis. She was the first person to meet with property owners and developers seeking to work on historic sites and was often cited in news reports. The successes, she reports, were not always dramatic. With an opportunity to talk, one-on-one, with applicants, she could explain the economic and cultural benefits of preservation and help them explore alternatives to demolition.
Beyond processing individual applications, Carol was able to help the town carry out preservation through other state and federal programs, including updating Westport’s Historic Resources Inventory — the basic list of historic resources in the town. With updates commissioned by the town, the inventory now contains more than 1,500 listings. And, Carol initiated and helped guide the creation of additional Local Historic Districts and Properties, as well as new listings on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
The Jainschigg award commemorates Janet G. Jainschigg, a founder and benefactor of the Connecticut Trust as well as a regional leader in historic preservation. She was a mentor and inspiration to many and, although a volunteer herself, always insisted on the highest standards of professionalism. As a preservationist in both the public realm, Carol Leahy exemplifies the professional excellence that the Janet Jainschigg Award celebrates.