By Dan Shine
“Today—West Haven a town—tomorrow, a city.”
–From the Town Crier, 1961
It seems that the best way to conclude this series on West Haven’s centennial as an entity unto itself would be to pause and recall one last chapter in the story.
As previously related, as of 1921 West Haven had finally become a town in its own right, and was no longer part of some other locality. As one of the oldest settlements in the state, it was ironically the last one to incorporate as a town.
For the next forty years, West Haven continued to grow and develop steadily through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II and the onset of the Cold War. The town attracted new families, and new housing developments began to spring up here and there. New schools were built to serve the educational needs of developing young families. Significant industrial expansion took place. Along Campbell Avenue the main shopping thoroughfare, residents could easily satisfy their every need, from automobiles and appliances to clothing, furniture, entertainment, sporting goods and groceries of most any kind. Clearly, West Haven was going places.
In accordance with all of this, the year 1961 began with discussion of a new Charter Commission and the development of a brand-new City Charter. Should they hire a city manager, or replace the Board of Selectman with a mayor in an executive function?
All of this and many more details were debated and the results were set down in the form of a proposed city charter which was the subject of a referendum on June 27 of that year.
By a five to one plurality, the charter was approved, and West Haven would become a city with a mayor at the helm.
In a subsequent election, Gregory Morrissey, the young Democrat who was then serving a term as first selectman of the town, became mayor of the city. He was sworn in on New Year’s Day, 1962 during ceremonies at Harry M. Bailey Junior High School.
At last, West Haven’s transition—from small farming settlement, to village, to borough, to town, and finally to city—was complete.