Mary Katona: Public Servant 1922-1982

Mary Katona Portrait Painting of Mary Katona at Town Hall

Well-known illustrator Stevan Dohanos painted this portait, which hangs in Fairfield Town Hall, after Katona's death.

Portrait of Mary Katona

This portait of Katona appeared in the program for a testimonial dinner held in her honor in 1982.

Mary Katona served as Fairfield’s Town Clerk for 21 years, from 1961 until her death in 1982. In addition to being one of Fairfield’s most popular politicians, she was a leader within the Hungarian community and was active in many community organizations.

The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, she grew up in Bridgeport’s West End and on the poultry farm that her father bought on Black Rock Turnpike. She would later say that “it was the egg route I used to have that laid my political future.” After finishing her education, she got involved in town politics and in 1958 was elected as a state representative, helping to spur the revitalization of the local Democratic Party. She was the first woman Democrat to represent Fairfield in the legislature, and one of a handful of women nominated by either party that year. Her election as Fairfield’s town clerk in 1961 made her the first woman to hold that position in thirty years, and she earned the community’s trust for her even-handed and effective service. She would go on to be re-elected 10 times; in fact, her reputation was so strong that she often outpolled her running mate, First Selectman John Sullivan, and in certain races no one could be found to run against her.

In addition to her service to town government, Katona gave much of her time to non-profit organizations such as the International Institute of Connecticut, the Fairfield YMCA, the Greater Bridgeport Heart Association, and the Park City Hospital. Proud of her heritage, she was also a leader in the local Hungarian community. She has been remembered through a scholarship at the University of Bridgeport as well as through the town’s the Mary Katona Memorial open space land.