STONINGTON — Reading words aloud that he himself affirmed more than two decades ago, Nick Kepple swore in his daughter, Jocelyn Kepple, as selectwoman at Town Hall Monday afternoon, surrounded by town officials, family and friends.
“Jocelyn, do you solemnly swear, or solemnly and sincerely affirm as the case may be, that you will faithfully discharge, according to law, your duties as selectwoman for the Town of Stonington to the best of your abilities, so help you God, under the penalty of perjury?” asked Nick Kepple, who served as selectman from 1985 to 1987 and first selectman from 1987 to 1989. He has also served as the judge for the Southeastern Corner Regional Probate District since 2011.
Flanked by her mother, Noreen, and her brother, Ben, Jocelyn Kepple, with right hand raised, responded “I do,” as applause thundered through the main hallway of Town Hall.
“Everything we do is a family event, we’re really close-knit,” said Jocelyn, 32, a Democrat and a sixth-grade teacher with deep roots in Stonington. She has served on the Democratic Town Committee for about five years and put her name forward to fill Kate Rotella’s seat on the Board of Selectmen when Rotella stepped down Jan. 1 to fill her position as state representative for the 43rd District.
With the addition of Jocelyn Kepple, the Board of Selectmen will gain the perspective of a teacher in the town’s public schools and a lifelong town resident, said First Selectman Rob Simmons, a Republican..
“I think it’s great to have someone who grew up here serving on the Board of Selectmen,” Simmons said. “She’s lived here her whole life, she knows the schools and through her family knows just about everybody. When we merge the middle schools, she’s going to be a valuable resource as we go through that process, informing the board as to how that process is going and what we need to do to make it a smooth transition for everybody involved.”
John Prue, a Republican, said Kepple’s educational background and lifelong residency in the town would bring a welcome diversity to the Board of Selectmen.
“The more diverse the board, the better the town is served,” Prue said.
Simmons also said Kepple agreed with the approach of putting Stonington as the top priority and working together in a bipartisan manner for the good of the town.
“That being the case, we should have a productive working relationship,” Simmons said.
Kepple’s mother, Noreen Kepple, who was director of education at the Stonington Community Center for 30 years, said being on the Board of Selectmen was a natural extension of Jocelyn’s personality and childhood experiences volunteering at the COMO and at village fairs.
“For Jocelyn, it’s a continuation of what she always did,” Noreen Kepple said. “When I taught at the COMO, she would help out with student programs and at all the village fairs that I worked, so community was something that was very much a part of my kids’ lives all the time. So, it’s kind of not even a stretch for her, it’s just what she does and she loves the Town of Stonington so it’s nice she’s putting that passion into a more active role.”
Nick Kepple said Jocelyn was providing a strong role model for the next generation.
“It’s important for people to be involved and I think it’s a wonderful thing to show young people that you can play a meaningful role in your community’s government,” he said.
Swearing his daughter in was “the thrill of a lifetime,” he said.
“I’m excited for her and the community and, obviously, so proud — I couldn’t be more proud,” he said.
Jocelyn said she was looking forward to getting up to speed and would follow her father’s advice as a member of the Board of Selectmen.
“He said just to be myself,” she said.
The Board of Selectmen will meet next on February 13 at 7 p.m. at the Stonington Police Station.