I first met State Senator George “Doc” Gunther my freshman year of college when I was interning at Shelton City Hall. Picking up the phone one day, I heard a man say: “Who the hell is this? Where’s the mayor?” When I asked who he was, he laughed and said, “Why it’s the greatest State Senator in the world! At least I tell myself that every morning.” I knew right away (as did everyone who met Doc) that this was not your typical politician.
Doc passed away last weekend at the age of 92, leaving behind a tremendous legacy. He was the longest-serving legislator in the history of Connecticut, with 40 years in the State Senate representing (at various times) Stratford, Shelton, Monroe, Seymour and Milford. But Doc’s impact was not just in the longevity of his service — it was in how he spent those years. He had a huge impact on environmental and healthcare policy in Connecticut, achieving bipartisan support for many of his initiatives. He shaped many local events as well, influencing the fate of Sikorsky Airport, the Stratford Army Engine Plant and Shelton’s downtown revitalization. But most of all, Doc did all this with a down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is style that so few political leaders have.