By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Miss American Teen Mackenzie Gardner received a citation and other congratulatory gifts from Mayor Nancy R. Rossi recognizing Gardner’s “crowning achievement” during a long-overdue reception at City Hall on Aug. 28.
Rossi was joined by a delegation of city and Board of Education leaders to bestow the citation on Gardner, whose yearlong reign ended Sunday.
Gardner won the Miss American Coed pageant Sept. 4, 2022, at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Ballroom in Orlando, Florida.
She is a 2021 graduate of West Haven High School and was a co-captain of the girls ice hockey team. She is a junior at the University of New Haven.
Gardner’s father, Scott, beamed with pride as the group of officials honored his daughter in the third-floor conference room of City Hall, just before the evening’s City Council meeting.
Gardner was also joined by friends and other loved ones, including grandparents Harold and Pat Bellmore and great-aunt Patricia B. Libero, who introduced the “hardworking” Gardner.
“(Mackenzie) is task-oriented, personable and an all-around good kid,” said Libero, a Republican member of the school board. “She continues to strive to be the best person of herself and keeps on pushing herself to be better and better.
“So in keeping with the drive to be the best she can be, for the first time since 1933 when Marian Bergeron won the 1933 Miss America pageant, West Haven has a natural pageant winner, Miss American Teen. During the past year, Mackenzie has represented Connecticut and West Haven at many, many events. It is so very appropriate that we as a West Haven community celebrate her success, as her success is West Haven’s success.”
Rossi then lauded Gardner before reading and presenting the citation to her.
“Your determination, sacrifice and desire for excellence have placed you among the most talented teenagers in the United States,” said Rossi, who also presented Gardner with a blue tote bag containing a signed copy of the 2021 centennial book, “City of West Haven: Village to Town,” along with centennial coins and lapel pins.
“You have represented our city with class, dignity and courage by demonstrating the best of the American spirit and Westie pride,” the mayor said. “Our community is proud of you and your accomplishment.
“I also applaud your commitment to setting an example for young people to follow and to helping others in our community.”
After Rossi’s remarks, Councilwoman Meli Garthwait, R-2, presented Gardner with a flower arrangement on behalf of the council.
Gardner was gracious to the crowd, especially when speaking about her hometown.
“Truly I don’t think I would be the person I am today without the lessons that West Haven has taught me, as well as them being able to rally around me and give me new opportunities,” Gardner said. “I’m really grateful to be able to bring this back to West Haven, and I hope to do all that I can to make you guys proud.”