Sen. Kissel Praises Former Legislative Aide Randa Utter

February 3, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Journal Inquirer

Tolland woman leaves Capitol behind

By Mike Savino

Journal Inquirer
Tuesday, February 3, 2015

For someone who never aspired to become involved with politics, Randa Utter always seemed to resist reasons to get out, whether it was moving to a new state or losing her vision following surgery.

But after serving as a legislative aide for 20 years, the Tolland resident retired Friday.

Utter, who used to live in Enfield, began working for Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, in 1994 after volunteering with his campaign the previous year.

For Utter, the position meant a return to a field that she thought she left behind after moving with her late husband from Washington, D.C., a few years earlier.

“When I moved to Connecticut, I actually thought to myself, ‘This is my chance to get away from politics,” Utter said.

Utter worked as a congressional liaison for the Appalachian Regional Commission in the nation’s capital, a post she held for 10 years under both the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

She had been working as an administrative assistant for a private-sector firm when her boss was appointed to the commission and asked her to follow.

A native of Washington, D.C., Utter said she never really envisioned herself being involved in politics as an adult.

Utter moved to Connecticut in the early 1990s when her husband became postmaster of the Enfield post office.

She worked with Lego Group in Enfield, but remained in politics as a member of the Republican Town Committee. She also was a campaign volunteer for both Kissel and former U.S. Rep. Nancy L. Johnson.

Kissel then asked Utter to be his legislative aide, working with constituents who need help dealing with state agencies.

“You know, sometimes dealing with bureaucracy isn’t easy, and we can’t always help, but sometimes at least we can help facilitate things for a constituent,” Utter said of her role.

She eventually became the aide for Sen. Leonard Fasano, who just this January became the Senate minority leader, when he first entered office in 2003.

“I would tell you, with all due respect to all the aides in this building, I honestly believe I do have the best aide in the Capitol,” Fasano said Friday while presenting her with a proclamation.

Shortly after Utter started working for Fasano, she began having vision problems and a doctor found a benign brain tumor.

The doctor said she needed surgery to remove it, and that there was a “small chance” — Fasano said 5 percent — that she could lose her vision.

Utter did lose her vision 11 years ago, but Fasano said he was happy to agree when she asked for a chance to show she could overcome the handicap and continue to serve as his aide.

“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that she could do the work,” Fasano said.

Kissel also said that Utter served constituents well, both before and after the surgery.

“Her strength and determination to overcome adversity has been an inspiration to everyone at the state Capitol,” Kissel said. “Randa’s sole focus has been on serving taxpayers in north central Connecticut and throughout the state.

“It has been an honor to work with Randa for the past two decades,” he added.

Utter said she is able to get around the Capitol thanks to both her memory and her guide dog, Roger.

“I know how beautiful this room is,” she said of her memory.

She said she remembers which offices are on each floor and typically can tell where she is in relation to her destination by the sound of various things, including vending machines.
But Utter, 62, said she’s now ready to retire and relax.

“I love it here, but I feel like I’ve done my bit and it’s time for me to unwind and chill out,” she said.

Utter said she plans to exercise more regularly and listen to audio books, but suspects she’ll likely end up volunteering again at some point.

While working as a legislative aide, Utter said she also has been working to protect open space in Tolland, where she lives with her husband, Don.

And she suspects that her next cause will be to help preserve some of the town’s historical buildings.