Burnaska's efforts have not gone unnoticed. She is one of nine recipients of this year's Ella T. Grasso Women's Leadership Award and will be honored at a breakfast at the Aqua Turf on Oct. 11.
Burnaska was nominated by fellow town Democrats, Registrar of Voters Susan Koneff and Town Councilwoman Dee Dee Martin.
"I am extremely honored to receive one of this year's Ella T. Grasso leadership awards," Burnaska said. "Governor Grasso was a role model for all women in Connecticut who strive to increase citizen participation in our electoral process and who run for public office. Being nominated by Sue and Dee Dee is particularly special because I consider them the epitome of hard working, conscientious, caring and community minded individuals. It is truly a wonderful honor!"
In addition to having held Monroe's top job, Burnaska was on the Town Council and the Board of Finance and she currently serves on the Conservation Commission.
State and regional activities include being a member of the State of Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board, co-chairwoman of the Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area, a member of the State of Connecticut Water Planning Council Advisory Group, a member of the RYASAP Board of Directors and a member of Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED).
Burnaska is also a longtime member of the League of Women Voters.
'That's Just Karen'
"I have known Karen for over 30 years personally and politically, and there is so much to say," Martin said in her nomination letter. "So many words describe Karen, energetic, loyal, intelligent, inquisitive, stubborn, caring and on and on. But as the natural political leader, is where she is at her best, being Just Karen."
As Monroe's first selectman, Martin said Burnaska was "a model for leadership and integrity."
"You may not have been of the same party but she respected all views, knowing she was elected to serve and always remembering the commitment she had made to try to make her community better," Martin said.
"It takes forever to get through an event with Karen, she greets residents still with a robust 'hey, how you doing,'" Martin continued. "She knows your kids and if your Mom's been ill. She always had the ability to make residents feel she was one of them, that she cared and that she would work her hardest for them. You can’t teach that and you can’t fake that, that’s just Karen."
In her nomination letter, Koneff said, "Karen lists her proudest achievements as working with all segments of Monroe's population to improve the quality of life for its residents, as an elected official and volunteer protecting valuable open space and watershed land, and as a long time member of the League of Women Voters, informing people of the importance of voting and becoming involved in their community.
"In conclusion Karen Burnaska has been and continues to be an outstanding Democrat. She epitomizes the best of public service and devotion to her party and to all the citizens of her community and state. It is my distinct honor to put forward her candidacy for this prestigious, and well deserved, award."