Statewide Role for Palluzzi

Shown here speaking in Hartford on behalf of Branford Community House's recent CL&P Summer Saver Silver Award, Parks & Recreation Director Alex Palluzzi has been involved with Branford Parks & Recreation since age 5. Recently,  Alex was elected president of statewide Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association.
Shown here speaking in Hartford on behalf of Branford Community House's recent CL&P Summer Saver Silver Award, Parks & Recreation Director Alex Palluzzi has been involved with Branford Parks & Recreation since age 5. Recently, Alex was elected president of statewide Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association. Photo courtesy of Energize CT

He's made his mark in Branford Parks & Recreation and, now, Alex Palluzzi also represents 122 "park and rec" departments/commission statewide.

Earlier this year, Alex was elected president of Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association (CRPA), representing about 600 professionals. Alex and his team were elected to the two-year term by a constituency that obviously approves of his philosophy of achieving goals through teamwork and transparency.

Once upon a time, Alex's mentor, the late Joe Trapasso, told Alex he might want to think about joining CRPA. That tip, like many others from Trapasso, has helped make a huge difference in Alex's life.

"Joe was one of the first members and leaders of CRPA. Years ago, he wanted to me to get involved, so I did. I know Joe's proud-he told me I would be CRPA president one day."

This year, Branford Community House celebrates its 50th anniversary and Alex says it couldn't have been built without Trapasso's dedication and desire.

"When this place opened up on Feb. 3, 1963, there really was nothing like it around. Other towns had old schools for rec centers. This was built specifically for this purpose."

Alex basically walked in the door as a kid, and never left.

"When I was five, my parents brought me here on a Saturday for Games for Fun," says Alex. "By the time I was in 8th grade at St. Mary's, I was volunteering for Joe."

Alex volunteered for seven years, worked here part-time for seven years, and was hired full-time 31 years ago. With a college degree in the profession, Alex was in his early 30s when Trapasso recommended him for the position of Branford Recreation director. Now in his 21st year at the helm, Alex finds his role has changed quite a bit-and so has the Community House and its programming.

"I really have learned from every administration I've worked for," says Alex, who reports to the first selectman's office.

Alex says First Selectman Anthony "Unk" DaRos is responsible for getting Branford at the forefront of many park and recreation programs, from supporting the need for the town's first skate park to getting on board with Alex's effort to go green with park and sports field maintenance.

As for programming at the Community House, when Alex was a kid, "You couldn't do anything until you were five. When I became director, the first thing I did was to get toddler programs started. We've been at the forefront of early childhood programming, and the reason for the success is we have good programs, a great team, and great staff."

As an adjunct professor of sports and recreation management courses at Southern Connecticut State University, Alex knows the value of having a core group of professionals running any organization. He's proud of his Branford staff.

"We have the right formula to make a great team. Each of us has a specialty and it's just a really good mix. Everyone who works here has been here for years, most of us at least a quarter century. I thought this job would get easier as the years go by, but we're engaged all the time."

A challenge the department recently took on, with excellence, was retrofitting the 1960s building to make it more energy efficient. Branford Community House recently earned a Summer Saver Silver award from Connecticut Light & Power for reducing the building's carbon footprint by 14 percent.

Summer's a busy time for Alex, and this year, more than ever. Although plans are still being finalized, he has an announcement to share with residents-this summer Branford will offer summer swimming at an outdoor community pool. In response to a recent survey of residents, the program will be based on residency, with no extenuating membership fees.

"Hospice gave the town a great opportunity and Unk made it happen," says Alex. "We're going to be opening it on weekends from noon to 6 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, Memorial Day through Labor Day, with our own lifeguards and within our own budget. We still need to work out a few things like getting passes, but we're very close to finalizing everything," says Alex.

Alex and his wife, Karen, raised their children Megan and Dylan (now both in college) here and Alex is happy to have volunteered for many events, programs, and efforts to help foster the town's family-friendly community. An active member (and past chairman) of Branford Festival and Branford Fireworks, Alex co-founded with Bill O'Brien Alex the Branford Sports Hall of Fame and is also active on many other boards and programs, including the relatively recent, yet wildly successful, Branford Jazz Festival.

As he nears his 55th birthday, Alex can already look back and say he's been involved with Branford Parks & Recreation for 50 years of his life. He's looking forward to continuing in the role. One day, he may consider a run for town selectman, but Alex says it's definitely not in cards for the 2013 race.

While his parents, Alex, Sr., and Jeanette of Branford, have always been supportive, Alex smiles as he says his mom would worry too much if he got involved in today's political climate.

"I'm still young enough to have the energy to get involved at some point, when the time is right. There's a lot we've been able to accomplish for Branford Parks & Rec and right now, I'm looking forward to seeing some more things through."

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