Published January 09. 2013 10:00AM Updated January 10. 2013 10:55AM
Hartford - State Rep. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, the new Speaker of the House, asked in the "spirit" of Newtown that every legislator treat each other with respect so that the General Assembly can continue working in a bipartisan manner.
Sharkey was nominated today by former Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan, incoming House majority leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and House minority leader Rep. Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk.
"It is my opinion that the gentleman about to be elected is a fine and decent man," Cafero said.
Cafero said that Sharkey respects people no matter where someone comes from or what they believe. There were many instances where Sharkey has "defended to the death" things he doesn't believe in for the sake of fairness in the House, he said.
Sharkey took his time getting into the chamber, jokingly saying he was hiding in the bathroom when he arrived.
Sharkey pledged to faithfully work for the state by saying "I do."
He thanked his family for attending and said he couldn't have done it without his wife, who sat wiping tears from her eyes behind him. He said that his sisters who "keep him in check" and brother who is an "infamous educator" from Massachusetts were also in attendance.
He said Donavan had done a great job.
"He is a great negotiator and he stayed true to that commitment throughout the year," Sharkey said.
Sharkey said it was his goal to keep bipartisanship strong.
"It's a unique place, it's a family where the right thing usually trumps politics," Sharkey said. Washington could learn something from the Northeast, he said.
At the end of his speech, Sharkey took a moment to reflect. "This is awesome," he said.
Shortly afterward, Sharkey introduced the new deputy speakers, four of whom are from Southeastern Connecticut: Ernest Hewett, D-New London; Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford; Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, and Linda Orange, D-Colchester
Cafero announced his Republican deputy leaders, which were Arthur O'Neill, R-Southbury, and Pamela Sawyer, R-Bolton.
Earlier today, legislators and their families packed into the House and Senate chambers to take part in the first day of the legislative session. Extra police were on standby, elevators were packed and doorways were bottle-necked.
Freshmen and veteran legislators were flanked with grandparents, fathers, mothers and children.
State Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich, had his father, Dennis Riley, and brother, Chris Riley, by his side. Riley recalled serving as a state Senate aide and said he was excited about his new position.
"It is bitter sweet, coming full circle," he said.
His wife, Rep. Melissa Olson-Riley, has served in the House for 10 years and she will have about five more minutes as the deputy majority leader, he said.
The swearing in began in prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.
Family members in the balcony gazed down with their hands over their hearts.
Another local freshman representative, Tim Bowles, D-Ledyard, stood proudly with his 88-year-old father, who flew from Saratoga, Calif., to watch the ceremony.
"The flight was fine until I got here, where there was so much snow," John Bowles said.
Tim Bowles said he was looking forward to serving his constituents effectively even though he was a freshman.
"I feel excited, this is a tremendous opportunity," he said.
As each representative's name was called there were varying responses. After a "present" from Bowles, a "here" from state Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, and a "present" from Riley, there was a "glad to be here," a "here for Newtown" and a "still here" from others.
After all 151 representatives were standing, some smiling, others looking solemn, they were asked to pledge that they would work to help the state to the best of their abilities.
Everyone said, "I do."
Then representatives turned to look for nearby family members and gave out hugs and kisses.