Wednesday, May 18, 2016



(Middletown, CT) Chairman Vincent Capece of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce has announced the 2016 recipients of the chamber’s Distinguished Citizen Award.

Each year, the chamber presents this award to individuals who serve as an inspiration to others, and are recognized by the Middlesex community as unselfishly giving his or her time and talent to produce a lasting benefit to the area. The Distinguished Citizen Committee chose the recipients from a list of over 230 nominees.

The Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce proudly announces that the 2016 recipients of the Distinguished Citizen Award are:

Darlene Briggs

Chandler J. Howard

Larry W. Marino

Chamber President Larry McHugh noted, “Once again, our Distinguished Citizen Committee has chosen three outstanding individuals. They are committed to making Middlesex County a better place to work and live, and we are extremely proud of all of them.”

The 2016 Distinguished Citizen Award recipients will be honored at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce 2016 Annual Awards Dinner to be held on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell.

For more information on the 2016 Annual Awards Dinner, please contact Johanna Bond at or 860-347-6924. 

About the Recipients:

Darlene Briggs

Growing up in Cromwell, Darlene Briggs was the first child of Ronnie and Bob Brigg's six children. She has fond memories of her childhood, remembering that most days were raucous and that level of revelry continues today.  On Sunday mornings, the Briggs family occupied almost the whole pew at St. John's Church. Darlene attended Cromwell Schools.  

As a teenager, Darlene could not wait to "get to work." Starting at the Belden Library, she was also a summer Park & Rec camp counselor, washed pots and pans at a convalescent facility, flipped fast food burgers, and enjoyed the glamour of operating a spotlight at a dinner theater.  It was also during Darlene's teenage years her father passed away, which years later set the stage for the Briggs-Pomfret merger combining a family of six kids with a family of five kids.

Darlene enrolled at Central Connecticut State University and majored in graphic design. She accepted a summer job in an A/V production house and it was "off to the races." That first job led to freelance opportunities at other graphics houses, advertising agencies, and corporate in-house departments.
A position opened at the Southern New England Telephone (SNET) Customer Communications Center in New Haven and this began Darlene's 12-year "inside corporate" adventure. Her team was responsible for the production and management of multimedia extravaganzas, customer presentations, sales meetings, awards programs, proposals, marketing and advertising for Network, Yellow Pages, Corporate Communications, and Wireless.

Darlene met her husband, David Kittle at SNET.  A colleague/friend Tony Palermo suggested that the town of Westbrook might be a good fit for the couple. Darlene and David signed up for a buyout from SNET and started their company, Cominfortainment -- communications, information and entertainment. They expanded the services they previously provided "inside" to the outside world. As part of larger teams, they manage and create content for sales, awards, shareholder, town hall, and analyst meetings country-wide.  Their company also creates and manages trade show, web and collateral materials. Clients include pharmaceutical, technology, industry associations, non-profits, and finance.

When they started their business the couple's accountant was the company's first advisor. Two of his suggestions were to take the summer off and join the Middlesex Chamber. They began attending Westbrook Division meetings. It was at those meetings that Darlene met and joined forces with "Mad Scientist and Sorcerer" Gerry Dyar. The sorcerer's apprentice rose to Chair of the Westbrook Division, Board of Directors and to serving on the Executive Committee. Another important chamber assignment was delivering her dad #2, Bill Pomfret to the member breakfast at 7:45 instead of 7:59 for the pledge of allegiance.

It was Darlene's distinct honor to become Chairwoman of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce in 2013-2014. Her post Chairwoman duties include representing the Chamber on the River COG. Through her continued involvement, Darlene hopes to bring the lower-county perspective to the Chamber.

As a business owner, chamber member and a Westbrook citizen she is an active member of the Town Center Revitalization/Economic Development Commission, Ad Hoc Energy Committee, Youth Assets and her favorite, the Tree Lighting Committee.

When not in "client land" you may find Darlene shuttling snacks and chairs to the beach for their family and friends, out and about in her neighborhood or on the links with the "Golf Devils."

Chandler J. Howard

Growing up in Stratford near the Bridgeport border, Chandler Howard sought leadership opportunities his whole life. Starting at the age of nine, he delivered the largest newspaper route in the town of Stratford. The route got so large that Chandler got his first taste of entrepreneurship by paying a few neighborhood children with bikes to join him in subdividing the route to ensure on time delivery and service.

Drafted in the military at the age of 18, Chandler became a soldier in the jungles of the Vietnam War. When he left the military he jumped right into community service. He started a counseling center when he noticed that many Vietnam veterans were returning in a bad emotional state. Talking with veterans and their families, it was at that point he first noticed that he was good at communicating with other people.  When officials noticed his clinic and discovered that he was practicing without a license, Chandler had to retire his services, but the experience stuck with him. His work at the Red Cross in which he became volunteer of the year, drew the attention of People’s United Bank chief Nick Goodspeed who offered him a job as a part-time teller.
The teller job began Chandler’s long career in the banking industry. Attending college at night to earn his bachelor’s degree at the University Connecticut, Chandler rose through the ranks at People’s, becoming a senior regional manager in the span of 20 years. He also earned a Masters of Finance at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and developed as a manager. He joined Fleet Bank as an Executive Vice President in 1996 overseeing 6,000 people in the Northeast region after the merger with Bank of America in 2004. During his time at Bank of America, Chandler was a Consumer Executive for the Upstate New York/Connecticut/Northeastern Pennsylvania Division. After leaving Bank of America, Chandler led a community bank start-up based in New Haven. 

Chandler assumed his current position in 2007 as President and CEO of Liberty Bank, Connecticut’s largest and oldest full-service mutual bank with $4.1 billion in assets.  Chandler led the Bank to a 30 percent increase in branch locations, acquisition of two competitors, and expansion into Hartford and New Haven counties, and steady growth in new households. He oversaw an enterprise-wide core system conversion to improve customer experience and back-office efficiency. During this time, assets have grown by 25 percent, and overall financial results have significantly surpassed those of the average Connecticut-based bank; Liberty Bank was recognized as a Top Workplace in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015; and the Liberty Bank Foundation was recognized on a national level by the American Bankers Association for innovative service to the community. In 2014, he was named Leader of the Year by the Hartford Courant and Fox61.

Known for his involvement with community organizations, Mr. Howard has received numerous awards, including the Hartford Courant’s Tapestry Award for his personal and corporate commitment to fostering diversity; the Champion of Children Award from the Village for Families & Children; the Corporate Leader of the Year Award from the Christian Activities Council; and, most recently, the Whitney M. Young Service Award from the Boy Scouts. He is always a strong, visible supporter for the United Way.  Chandler Howard served as Chairman of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce in 2013.

Larry W. Marino

Born in Middletown, Larry Marino always divided his life into three parts. The first part of life is devoted to education, the middle third of life is devoted to work while the last third is dedicated to helping others. Larry believes that you always should do what you are capable of to help others and that is something he has lived his life a testament to.

Larry attended college at Loyola University of Chicago getting a degree in English while spending his last two years abroad at the university’s Rome Center campus. Upon graduation, he wanted to make a difference and he immediately signed up for the Victoria Teacher Selection Program, which gave him the opportunity to teach school in Queensland, Australia. During his time in Australia, Larry found time to coach a women’s and girls’ softball team. He also published stories and poems written by his students and performed in local theater productions. Larry holds a teaching certificate from Central Connecticut State University and holds a Masters in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

When Larry returned to the United States, he began his business career joining his father as part of the S.G. Marino Crane Service Corporation as Chief Administrative Officer. As one of two officers in the company, he grew a $2 million regional crane rental house into a $45 million crane and rigging services company, servicing the energy, power, industrial and infrastructure markets operating in 37 states in the U.S. and the Caribbean Islands. He developed strong banking relationships as well as strong vendor relationships with major manufacturers and suppliers, this was the catalyst to secure recapitalization with Capital Funding Group at GE Capital Corporation.  His stewardship of S.G. Marino Crane Service Corporation led the organization for sale to Barnhart Crane, a $250 million leading equipment services provider.

During Larry’s business career he knew that community involvement was essential to a vibrant and rewarding life. His company provided crane and truck rental to local non-profits in need and has sent volunteers and distributed bottled water during natural disasters in the United States.  Additionally, he worked with a team to help develop a better bobsled for the U.S. Olympic Team which resulted in Gold and Silver Medals for the men and women. 
Larry is an active participant in many local non-profits. As Exchange Club President, Larry chaired a local triathlon to raise funds for the prevention of child abuse. Through Rotary International, Larry’s family invited a young man from Venezuela to stay with them for a year as he completed his studies at the local high school. He has served on the Community Foundation of Middlesex County Grants Committee and was an Encore! Hartford Fellow. He was a founding member of the Portland Soccer Club and coached little league and soccer for 10 years in Portland. As Larry’s business grew he became an active member of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce. It was Larry’s honor to serve as Chairman of the Chamber’s Board in 2005.

A spark was lit in Larry when O’Rourke’s Diner, a 60-year-landmark in Middletown’s North End succumbed to a fire in 2006 when a steamed cheeseburger machine was left on overnight. The owner, Brian O’Rourke, unfortunately did not have fire insurance, but Larry made a commitment to Brian, the mayor and the loyal customers that he would help bring the diner back. A committee was formed and diner was rebuilt within seventeen months.

In Larry’s current role he serves as Director of Facilities and Safety at Adelbrook Behavioral & Developmental Services where he helps the non-profit which provides services to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, developmental disabilities, and mental health conditions and gives children and young adults the chance to live and work in the community.

When not working, Larry spends time with his wife Jane and four sons Daniel, Andrew, Christopher, and Ross. He enjoys hiking, tennis, books and theater and roots for the New York Giants and the Detroit Tigers.

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