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FILE - In this July 7, 2013 file photo, First Selectman Pat Llodra, of Newtown, Conn., speaks to members of the media on "Newtown Day" at Yankee Stadium before a baseball game between the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles in New York. Llodra announced her retirement Thursday, May 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
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Town leader to step down 5 years after Sandy Hook shooting

FILE - In this July 7, 2013 file photo, First Selectman Pat Llodra, of Newtown, Conn., speaks to members of the media on "Newtown Day" at Yankee Stadium before a baseball game between the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles in New York. Llodra announced her retirement Thursday, May 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — The woman in Newtown’s highest elected office announced she will step down, five years after she helped lead the community through the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra said her decision was a difficult one and took half a year of contemplation.

The 75-year-old Republican said her love of the job never waned, even when the town was devastated and overwhelmed after 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

“I leave office with a heavy heart,” Llodra recently wrote to the Republican Town Committee, announcing she won’t seek a fifth, two-year term in November. “It is work I truly love, even on the most difficult of days. The work speaks to my heart and soul — and continues to provide challenge. But, it is time for me to call it a day.”

She said she was proud of numerous accomplishments. But she likely will be remembered most for leading the town through the aftermath of the school massacre.

She testified before the legislature about lessons learned in dealing with things such as the mental health needs of the community, the massive influx of donations and the overwhelming media coverage of the shooting.

Since Llodra announced her retirement Thursday, praise has poured in from a variety of sources.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called her a remarkable leader.

“During the town’s darkest hours, Pat worked day in and day out to bring stability, peace and unity when her community needed it most,” Malloy said in a statement. “There’s no doubt that her service to the town of Newtown will forever be regarded as courageous, compassionate and resilient.”

Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, told The News-Times of Danbury, “The level of stability she was able to bring to the community, not just during the tragedy but in the months and years to follow, was incredible. She has been a constant presence, saying that this event was not going to define our town, and her leadership helped us to live that.”

Llodra said she and her husband, Bob, plan to stay in Newtown, and she wants to stay active in local politics.

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