Published March 19. 2014 9:00AM Updated March 20. 2014 12:10AM
After more than two decades in the General Assembly, state Sen. Andrea Stillman has decided to forgo politics and try something new.
While she has had health issues this winter, the 56-year-old Waterford Democrat said Wednesday, “This has nothing to do with my health, it has to do with 22 years in the legislature. It’s time to do some other things, it’s time to look for some new interests.”
First elected to the 38th District House seat in 1992, Stillman served six terms there before moving up to the Senate, representing the 20th District for five terms.
In recent weeks, rumors have swirled about her health and the possibility that she would not seek another term.
“Yes, I’ve been hearing all kinds of rumors for some time,” Stillman said. “But I am well and this has nothing to do with my health. As most people know, I was dealing with health issues this past winter, but I’m just fine. I overcame that and I’m back at work. This just seems like the right time.”
Stillman serves as deputy president pro tempore and chairman of the Education Committee and vice chairman of the Transportation Committee. She’s also a member of the Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee and chairman of the General Bonding Subcommittee.
State Rep. Betsy Ritter, another Waterford Democrat, said Stillman will be missed.
“She’s not a loud leader, she’s a thoughtful leader and often in a group, her opinions and thoughts about things carry a lot of weight,” said Ritter, who filled Stillman’s seat when Stillman moved from the House to Senate.
“Andrea is good at articulating things, and making sure that discussions are balanced. She has high integrity, and she’s really smart. Her word is her bond,” she said.
Stillman said she will complete her term, which runs through the end of the calendar year.
“I’m still in office, I’m still there, and I will continue to work hard for the next nine or 10 months,” she said.
Stillman said she enjoys serving the public and that factored into her decision.
“I believe I’ve represented my district well in southeastern Connecticut, so this was not an easy decision for me, to give up something that I have worked so hard at and really enjoy,” she said.
But her husband, Howard, is retired and Stillman said she discussed the idea of leaving politics with her family before notifying party officials that she wouldn’t be seeking a sixth term.
Party conventions are in mid-May and Stillman said that allows time for prospective candidates to decide whether they want to run for her seat. The sprawling 20th Senatorial District includes East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem, Waterford and Bozrah.
“In all fairness to anyone who is interested, this is a big decision to make, so I wanted to give people time to do their due diligence,” she said.
Stillman would not speculate on who may vie for the seat and said her focus is on legislation she would like to see enacted before the end of the current session in May.
Over her tenure, she said, she is proud of her work on education, human trafficking and compulsive gambling, and her participation in the effort to block a natural gas platform in Long Island Sound. Former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell named Stillman to co-chair the task force aimed at stopping the LNG project.
“Protecting Long Island Sound has always been important to me,” Stillman said.
Senate colleagues also selected Stillman to serve on a panel in 2007 overseeing allegations against Louis DeLuca, a Senate minority leader arrested on charges that he asked a businessman at the center of a federal racketeering probe to threaten someone the senator believed had abused a relative.
“That was a big honor, that my colleagues thought I was a good person to be part of that panel. That they trusted me,” said Stillman.
Her focus, she said, has always been on doing what is right.
“People have allowed me to represent them all these years. They have put their faith and trust in me to make decisions for them in government,” Stillman said. “I’m just so honored, and I’ve never taken any of this for granted.”
Stillman was first elected to the 38th District House seat in 1992, after former longtime state Rep. Janet Polinsky vacated the seat.
Her family supported her initial run, Stillman said, and they support her decision not to seek another term.
A former recruiter for blood drives for the American Red Cross, Stillman said she was serving on Waterford’s Board of Finance when Polinsky suggested she may want to run for the seat.
“I never anticipated doing this, but the opportunity came along and I thought, why not?” she said. “It’s always had to do with people, and working hard to help people who are in need. I think that is what government is all about.”