Shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, longtime Republican Registrar Ellie Klapatch read the oath of office to her successor, Sharon Krawiecki.
As about 30 people watched in the City Council chambers, Krawiecki repeated the time-honored words and, with that, took over the job that Klapatch has held since 1970.
Krawiecki, who's served as a deputy registrar for several years, said she's looking forward to the new job.
But, she said, she's not going to stick around for as long as her predecessor.
Klapatch served the city with "such diligence and grace," Krawiecki said. "The town's a much better place for having someone like that."
The city has two full-time registrars, one from each party, who are elected every two years in what amounts to an uncontested election.
The registrar's office's major job is to keep tabs on who is eligible to vote, about 34,000 people locally.
Klapatch, 82, said she could have worked another decade. She said she's healthy and sharp enough o handle it, she said, but she wants some time for family and friends.
She said she knows she'll "miss the people here at City Hall," whom she said have always been friendly. "Nobody ever made me feel unwelcome," Klapatch said.
Krawiecki is one of two full-time registrars at City Hall, earning about $46,000 annually. The other is Democrat Bob Badal, whom Klapatch praised as a nice man who works hard.
Klapatch, the first woman to run for mayor, an unsuccessful bid in 1987, said she is "very delighted" to have Krawiecki take her place.
"She's worked with me for three years. She's learned firsthand so she's experienced" with the many rules that govern voter registration and elections, Klapatch said.
"She and Bob will work very well together," Klapatch said, continuing the nonpartisan tradition of the office.
Klapatch said she's proud of helping so many people over the years – and pointedly mentioned that she never asked for anyone's political affiliation before offering a hand.
"Ellie's been a model in cooperative, bipartisan manner," said Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat. "She stands for what he voting process is about and the encouraging of people to become registered voters."
Former Mayor William Stortz, a Republican gave Klapatch a big smile after the ceremony.
"As they say in New Britain," Stortz said, "you done good."
Klapatch first served as the Republican registrar in Bristol in 1952, when it was a part-time job. She said it proved so much work that she didn't run again until it was made a full-time position.
In GOP circles, Klapatch has long served as a sort of mother hen, the expert to rely on for information on decades of city politics and arcane election rules.She's met every Republican president and presidential contender since Thomas Dewey in 1948 and is friends with
governors, senators and scores of political figures across the state.
Klapatch was the first woman to run for mayor in Bristol, a long-shot bid in 1987 that she made because she didn't want Democrat John Leone to get a free ride for re-election. She constantly pleads for her party to make sure it has candidates in every possible race so that voters have a choice.
Klapatch said Wednesday that she isn't going away. She said she'll continue to attend party functions and take an active role in GOP politics.
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