NAUGATUCK — There’s a first time for everything, even after eight decades.
On Sunday morning, Mariana Branco-Barnes was installed as the Naugatuck Portuguese Club’s new president and the first woman president in the club’s 77 year history.
“It’s an honor. I’m humbled,” Branco-Barnes said.
Branco-Barnes, 56, was born and raised in Naugatuck, a daughter of Portuguese immigrants. As a child, Branco-Barnes would come to the club every week for dances and other events. As the years passed, she became more and more involved in the club beginning with youth groups. Then once she was old enough, as a member.
“I decided I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps,” said Branco-Barnes about getting involved with the club.
Branco-Barnes said her father, who died in 2000, would have been full of pride to see her become club president.
“My father would be just so proud,” she said.
The morning began with the club’s meeting to close out the finances for 2012. Once that business was taken care of former president Rui Costa passed the keys to the club to Branco-Barnes and she, along with her executive committee, was sworn in.
The club’s president is elected by the members and the president then chooses the committee, Branco-Barnes explained.
Branco-Barnes said the fact the members elected her as the club’s first woman president is a show of respect.
“It shows to me that the members have respected the work I’ve been doing,” she said.
The executive committee is rounded out by Vice President Alberto Janeiro, Treasurer Antonio Marques, Assistant Treasurer Fred Valente, Financial Secretary John Rodrigues, Corresponding Secretary Talline Matos, Executive Administrative Assistant Flora Keefe, Permitte Andy Barnes and Vice Permitte David Silva.
Looking towards the year ahead, Branco-Barnes said the club will focus on a campaign to raise money to continue with improvements on an addition for the club that was built in 2005. She added she plans to reach out more into the community at large for social members and fund raising as the club faces some financial struggles.
Branco-Barnes feels it’s important to have a place where the Portuguese heritage can be preserved and celebrated. However, she wants to make sure the club isn’t just a place for Portuguese people, but rather an asset for the entire community.
Branco-Barnes is a customer service manager for the chemical services and solutions company MacDermid in Waterbury. She lives in Naugatuck and is married to Floyd Andy Barnes and has a daughter, Lana.