Person of the Week
Joyce Berardis: A New Job at Town Hall
After four years in the Deep River Town Clerk’s Office, Joyce Berardis has moved upstairs to serve as executive assistant to the first selectman. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
There’s something unexpected at the Selectman’s Office in Deep River Town Hall. It’s Joyce Berardis. Joyce took over in mid-August from a very familiar face, Gina Sopneski, longtime assistant to the first selectman.
Joyce says that some six months later, Gina’s whereabouts remains the question she answers most frequently.
“Those are big shoes to fill, She is so loved in the community and in town hall,” Joyce says.
Sopneski has not gone far. After 20 years at Deep River Town Hall, she took on a new challenge, secretary at Deep River Elementary School.
According to Joyce, Sopneski has been a of great assistance as she settles into the new position.
“When I have a question about anything I call her and she is always so helpful,” she says.
Joyce had already worked in Deep River Town Hall for four years as the assistant town clerk. She first heard that Sopneski would be going to a new job when she was at a meeting of her book club. She mentioned it to her husband. He advised her to apply, but Joyce thought there was a preliminary step. She read the job description before making up her mind.
She also spoke with Town Clerk Amy Winchell, who encouraged her to try for the position. In the end, Joyce recalls, it really wasn’t a difficult decision.
“I loved the clerk’s office, but in this job, I can help more people in town,” she says.
Still, Joyce divided her time for several months between the clerk’s and first selectman’s offices, so Winchell would be adequately staffed for last November’s election.
Joyce describes her new job as assisting First Selectman Angus McDonald, Jr., in whatever ways he needs.
“I try to be available for anything he asks,” she says, “Anything that helps residents of the town.”
McDonald has no complaints.
“Can’t live without her,” he said.
Joyce works on everything from postings on the town website and keeping up with the amount of email, which she says can be overwhelming, that comes into the selectman’s office to taking minutes at Board of Selectman’s meetings.
“I just want everything to get done correctly,” she says.
She has helped Deep River residents with the sometimes baffling process of signing up for COVID-19 vaccinations, along with town volunteers.
“There was a tremendous group of volunteers who helped people sign up,” she says. “That’s what I think is so wonderful about Deep River.”
Joyce’s background helps her as she tackles the work in the selectman’s office. A graduate of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield with a business and legal background, she worked for many years as a paralegal for a solo practitioner in West Haven. She describes it as a phenomenal job where her boss encouraged her to take increasing responsibility and expand her legal knowledge.
That knowledge is useful in her present position.
“It’s handy to know that legal jargon, in documents and reading statutes,” she says.
Joyce grew up in Woodbridge and her maiden name, Viglione, is a recognizable one from the television commercials for heating and cooling company her father started: Pick up the phone, call Viglione.
Joyce doesn’t think about that often.
“I’ve been a Berardis longer than a Viglione,” she explains.
She met her husband David at a Halloween party when she was 19 and he 22. She was dressed as a baby. He didn’t wear a costume at all. A friend asked her what kind of a man interested her. Joyce answered that she would know when she saw him. When David came in, she told her friend, “I saw him.” She adds they have been together ever since.
Joyce and family moved to Deep River some 20 years ago, looking for more space for the family, which included three children.
“It didn’t take long to fall in love with the town,” she says. “It’s a beautiful place, a wonderful place.”
Joyce and David’s oldest son, also David, is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy now stationed in California awaiting deployment, though Joyce does not yet know where. Her two younger children, Kim and Michael, are both students at the University of Connecticut. All three graduated from Valley Regional High School.
At home with Joyce and David are two dogs, both rescues. Luna is a Husky mix. Sophie’s origins are more mysterious: Joyce thinks she may be a mix that includes Bernese mountain dog or Australian shepherd. Hiking with the dogs is a regular weekend activity, frequently in Cockaponset State Forest in Chester.
Another weekend activity is baking, often a joint project with Joyce’s sister who lives in Middletown.
“We’re Italian so we bake Italian things,” Joyce says.
In early April, that included specialties like savory Easter pies, among them ricotta pie and rice pie.
Then there are baked goods for any time of year.
“Cookies, always cookies,” Joyce says.
The hours at Deep River Town Hall, with the work day starting at 8 a.m. in the morning, might faze a late sleeper, but Joyce says she is an early riser.
“I get up ready to come to work,” she says. “I am just grateful I was given this opportunity.”