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NEON: Board members will guide us to brighter future

NEON board member Attorney William Westcott listens to a discussion at last week's meeting after being elected chairman.
NEON board member Attorney William Westcott listens to a discussion at last week’s meeting after being elected chairman.

NORWALK, Conn.  – South Norwalk’s embattled anti-poverty agency is in the final stages of its reorganization phase and is ready to take on its challenges, according to a press release.

The newly reformed Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) board of directors – all new members – elected leaders at its board meeting last week, as previously reported here. NEON has released biographical information on its new board officers and listed the new members of the board committees.

• Attorney William Westcott, the chairman of the board, is a partner with Maya Murphy, P.C., the release said. In private practice since 1996, he has won acquittals in criminal trials that attracted media attention and brought successful appeals resulting in the reversal of wrongful convictions and new trials ordered for his clients, the release stated.  He also dedicates a portion of his practice to personal injury cases, obtaining recoveries for clients suffering loss from the negligence of others. Westcott has 15 years serving the community and has represented many residents pro bono or at a reduced rate.

• Vice Chairwoman Susan Weinberger, Ed. D., president of the Mentor Consulting Group, has devoted her entire adult life to addressing issues of under-served youth in Norwalk, the release said.  She has published numerous publications and articles. Additionally, she serves on the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County Board of Directors, Scholarship America Board of Trustees, and is founder of the Norwalk Mentor Scholarship Foundation.  Weinberger has 42 years serving the community.

• Christopher Ruzzi, treasurer, has significant financial services experience and is currently a commercial lender and client manager with The Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the release said. Mr. Ruzzi has volunteered his time for his children’s schools during fundraising events, school picnics and sports teams. Additionally, he was a coach for Stamford Youth Soccer and volunteered at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. He recently served on the Stamford Senior Center Board of Directors. Mr. Ruzzi has 18 years serving the community.

• Dale Ferguson, secretary, has extensive experience in the clinical/medical/research field, the release said. Additionally, she has 13 years serving the community, mostly working with women and children (at Victory Gardens, Malta House and Stoneage Inc). She has a BA from Fairfield University and she holds five certificates in grant writing and non-profit management from Fairfield University and Gateway University.

The committees are:

Governance Committee

TaShun Bowden-Lewis, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, Angela Edwards

Finance Committee

Alan J. Rossi, Christopher Ruzzi, Terry Adams, Katherine R. Williams, John J. O’Dea

Development and Fundraising Committee

John J. O’Dea, Dale Ferguson

Personnel Committee

Vanessa Parker, Rosemarie Michel, Cynthia Bowser

Head Start Committee

Katherine R. Williams, Cynthia Bowser, Rosemarie Michel, Robin Peterson, Angela Edwards, Elda Mas

Program Review Committee

Katherine R. Williams, Cynthia Bowser, Mike M. Meyer, Dale Ferguson

Ad Hoc Succession Planning Committee

Susan Weinberger, Ed. D., Mike M. Meyer, TaShun Bowden-Lewis, Cynthia Bowser, Alan J. Rossi

Westcott said he found be elected chairman humbling.

“Recognizing the challenges NEON has before it, our president and CEO, Pat Wilson Pheanious, put a great deal of energy into composing a new board that brings a wide variety of talents and experiences,” he said in the statement. “It is both exciting and humbling to be selected as chair by this accomplished group. It is my most primary hope that by electing officers and appointing committee members we have now reached the final stages of organizing NEON’s internal needs and that we will soon be maximizing our ability to administer successful programs in the community.  As is so often the case, I think our potential is obvious, but the real work that remains cannot be underestimated if we are to see the type of efficient implementation of our resources that would truly make a difference in all eight of the towns that are included in our service area.”

Pheanious said the slate of officers and the board as a whole was thrilling.

“These are people who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to our community and to the people our agency serves,” she said.  “They have the professional preparation and personal dedication we need at this time.   I am confident in their ability and respect their willingness to be of service.”

She said she also is proud of the accomplishments she has seen since becoming interim president and CEO last year. “Our executive leadership and staff are now looking forward to the hard work that lies ahead under the leadership of this Board of Directors,” she said in the statement. “With the installation of these officers we are fully supported by the vision, the talent and the good  sense needed to guide us into a sound and very promising future.”

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