George Wagner, assistant director of the Westport Public Library, is retiring. But saying goodbye to him after 23 years isn't easy, especially for friends like Stephanie Bass.
"Don't go, George. Who's going to save us when we goof up?" read a homemade picket sign Stephanie brought to George's farewell party at the library Friday night. Stephanie, who chaired the library float committee for five years, said she has known George for 15 years.
"George has saved me so many times and never made me feel bad for it," she said. "He's just a pleasure to deal with: He's always around, cuts to the chase and produces results immediately. It's going to take, like, five people to replace him."
During his time at the library, George has helped bring about change. Most recently, he drove the development of the new website and supervised the renovation of the McManus Room. He is also responsible for the library's As You Like It Café, oversaw the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale and helped keep the library open on Sundays—just to name a few of his contributions.
George and his family are heading south to Asheville, N.C. And although he said he's looking forward starting a new chapter in his life, the decision to retire didn't come easily.
"It's been an immense joy and pleasure to work in Westport," he said. "I can't imagine other libraries are as active as this one. And this is the most supportive community I've ever seen."
About 100 people, including Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, Library Director Maxine Bleiweis and former Westport Library Board President Martha Aasen, braved the chilly weather to wish George well.
And because George is moving South, Martha, a Mississippi native, offered him some words of advice. "Speak slowly, drop your 'G's' whenever you can and remember: You all, 'y'all,' is plural, never singular," she said with a laugh.