2015 Citizen of the Year: Jay Sandak and Mary Sommer

Jay Sandak and Mary Sommer are an inspiring, dynamic couple that has contributed so quietly so much of themselves to our City for more than three decades with their unique, steadfast and winning combination of commitment, insight and integrity.

Jay and Mary are engaged legal professionals whose spirited hands-on community service is in their DNA: It’s who they are. And their impact on our community has enabled each and every one of us to benefit from their wisdom, philanthropy and volunteerism whether we’re aware of it or not.

Jay, a native of Stamford, is a partner at the law firm of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey with a full-time alternate dispute resolution practice with an emphasis on mediation. He is also president of the Herbert & Nell Singer Foundation. His involvement in Stamford not only reflects a love of where he grew up, but also a strong focus on improving the health, safety and quality of human services for people living and working here.

Jay’s leadership experience here is vast, ranging from Board and Committee positions with the Child Guidance Center, Hands for Life, Shelter for the Homeless/Pacific House and United Way of Stamford to the Stamford EMS Foundation.  As the foundation’s first Board president he was instrumental in introducing paramedic corps services for the City and, in doing so, brought Stamford Hospital and St. Joseph’s to work together to provide these services.

Mary, who moved from private practice to the bench in 2008 when she was appointed a Superior Court Judge for the State of Connecticut, is well-known for her passion on children’s mental health and legal rights, education and public/private initiatives.

In addition to the many organizations that have benefited from Mary’s service on advisory boards for child advocacy programs, juvenile justice activities and prison literacy programs, she has been a Board member and prominent supporter of the Child Guidance Center, past president of the board at King & Low Heywood Thomas School, and currently serves on the boards of Connecticut Appleseed Foundation for Law and Justice, Fairfield County Bar Foundation, Ferguson Library Foundation, Hope for Haiti, Inc., and is a trustee of the College of New Rochelle.

While a lot of their service is done separately, the projects Jay and Mary have collaborated on are many from scouting to building schools in Haiti after the earthquake. In particular, they are well-known as a family for having turned their home into a huge bakery for 10 years for the Jackie Robinson Park of Fame annual Christmas celebration held at the Yerwood Center, for which they would bake up a storm, delivering dozens and dozens of cakes, pies, brownies and cupcakes.

Jay and Mary, who also both have acted as Corporation Counsel for the City, live in the Westover area where they raised their three sons, David, Tom and Steve. And guess what? David, Tom and Steve are walking in their parents footsteps in their respective communities, sharing that Sandak-Sommer DNA that we’ve been so fortunate to receive!