State Rep. Terrie Wood becomes justice of the peace
State Rep. Terrie Wood, R-141, recently added another job to her resume -- justice of the peace.
Simply put, Wood became a justice because she wanted to marry people.
"I love a good wedding," Wood said, laughing.
But when looking at the big picture, Wood said being a justice is another form of outreach and connecting with people.
"I think that's nice," Wood said. She said she found out about the position through an advertisement over the summer, and she put her name in for nomination.
Both the Republican and Democratic town committees advertise their openings for justices for the coming year. Wood said justices are usually people who have contributed and volunteered in the community. In order to become a justice of the peace, a person must be nominated by his or her political party, said Justice of the Peace Marc Thorne.
While justices may be affiliated with a political party, Wood said, that's not why couples choose a justice to marry them.
"They pick someone they know," she said.
She added that justices can accept fees, but most designate the money to a nonprofit organization of their choice. Wood said her charity probably will be one that oversees the environment.
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"When I am asked to do (a wedding), then we'll see what I feel people can contribute to," Wood said.
She said she's excited to be able to perform weddings. One of the aspects she's had to learn is about the difference between a single-, double- and no-ring wedding ceremony.
Thorne, a Democrat who has been a justice of the peace for eight years, said the position is a little bit of a political honorarium, but recommended Wood not just consider it as such, but rather "something she can contribute to the commonwealth."
Thorne's wife, Barbara, also a Democrat, has been a justice for eight years, and felt similarly to Wood when she signed on.
"I've been a member of (the board of selectmen), I'd been a counselor and it seemed like an extension of my other activities, in a way," she said. She added that she would advise Wood to use her own good judgment.
Unaffiliated Justice of the Peace Edward Axelrod, who has been a justice for more than 30 years, said he would advise Wood to really enjoy the position.
"You become part of the people's lives," Axelrod, who became a justice to officiate at his cousin's wedding, said. "It's lots of fun and you really get to know the families."
Republican Justice of the Peace Carolyn Schoonmaker said Wood should "go with the flow."
One of the eight-year justice's early weddings required some improvisation on her part. The bridegroom, who was from Cosovo, met his fiance through the deli he owned in Bridgeport, and Schoonmaker said it was interesting talking to him because he wasn't sure what to expect.
"His best man arrived, and we went through what a wedding is like in the U.S.," Schoonmaker said. "When the family and bride and everybody arrived (that day), I was told that they wanted to honor the deceased grandparents. ... I had no warning of this, and we also had just had 9/11, so the only thing I could think of doing was say `Let's have a moment of silence.' "
Schoonmaker said she couldn't imagine what she would have said about two people who had died whom she'd never even met.
"It was quite traumatic at the time," Schoonmaker said. "But once we got out of that, I was able to say `now let's celebrate,' so that was able to bring it around to a happy occasion."
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