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State Sen. Andrea Stillman's announcement Wednesday that she will not seek re-election in November means the region will soon lose an influential voice in Hartford and a strong advocate for social causes.
For 22 years, the Democrat has represented the interests of southeastern Connecticut - six terms in the House of Representatives and five terms in the Senate. Working in a system that awards experience, Sen. Stillman rose to deputy majority leader and co-chair of the Education Committee, playing a major role in winning approval for the sweeping education reforms approved by the General Assembly in 2012.
Sen. Stillman became a successful politician on the strength of her personality, a pragmatic approach to policy and a record of constituent service. She would have remained difficult to beat, but at age 56, Sen. Stillman said it was time to move in another direction and spend more time with her husband, Howard. Though the senator has had some health problems, she said that was not a factor in her decision.
In addition to her work on education reform, other major achievements for the retiring senator included strengthening drunken driving laws and playing a lead part in opposing and, eventually quashing, a plan to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound.
Sen. Stillman co-sponsored legislation that led to a ban in Connecticut on the sale of synthetic marijuana, a dangerous and unregulated product that causes some users to experience psychotic episodes.
Always outspoken on issues involving women and children, she was a trailblazer in bringing attention to a serious, but at the time little publicized, problem, when she worked in 2006 to create and subsequently chair the legislature's Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking.
Most recently, legislation sponsored by Sen. Stillman launched what is expected to be a successful effort to repeal the state's ill-conceived plan to legalize keno gambling.
A businesswoman - she and her husband owned and operated J. Solomon Office Supply in New London for many years before selling it in 2011 - Sen. Stillman was always sensitive to how legislation might impact small business.
A scramble will follow to fill the seat in the sprawling eight-town district, stretching from the shoreline towns of East Lyme and Waterford north to Bozrah, but for today the focus should be on acknowledging Sen. Stillman's long years of service to the state and region.