WESTPORT — Members of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) unanimously elected Dr. Velma Heller RTM Moderator and Jeff Wieser RTM Deputy Moderator Tuesday.
Heller, elected to the town’s nonpartisan legislative body for nine straight terms, served as RTM Deputy Moderator from 2013 until August when she was elected moderator to complete the position vacated by her predecessor, Eileen Flug, who left to become Westport’s Assistant Town Attorney.
District 7 representative John Klinge led the moderator nomination process as the RTM’s senior member. A 20 year RTM member, Kling said, “I have to clarify that the senior member of the RTM does not mean you’re the oldest. I will not divulge the winner of that award.”
Heller, a District 9 representative, was the only RTM member nominated moderator at the Dec. 5 meeting in Town Hall. District 2 representative Neil Phillips gave a nominating speech in support of Heller’s election.
“Anyone who knows Velma, or who has worked with Velma, knows that she is a tireless, thoughtful, pragmatic and respected individual,” Phillips said.
Phillips cited Heller’s credentials as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, vice principal and principal in the Westport school system for over 20 years and her current position as a full-time faculty member in the Sacred Heart University Graduate Education Program.
“Her style of leadership does not speak to ego but rather to the inclusion of many different viewpoints and consideration of fact-based analysis,” Phillips added.
District 3 Rep. Jimmy Izzo gave a seconding speech in favor of Heller’s nomination. First Selectman Jim Marpe also expressed his support for Heller’s moderatorship and called her, “someone who can really mentor other people and be a calm voice in the heat of the moment.”
Once elected, Heller welcomed the RTM’s 12 new members and called for respectful and informed decision-making in the burgeoning term. “We may have varied approaches to gathering and interpreting information and we may come to different conclusions. However, given a climate of trust based on respectful dialogue, this variation may well enhance the depth and breadth of our conversations and insights,” Heller said,
The 32 RTM members present also unanimously elected District 4 representative Jeff Wieser as RTM Deputy Moderator. Louis Mall and Wendy Batteau, representatives of districts 2 and 8 respectively, both spoke in support of Wieser’s nomination.
Batteau cited Wieser’s 30-year career in international banking, current role as President and CEO of Westport’s Home with Hope, and numerous other volunteer positions in her speech seconding Wieser’s election.
“All of these activities speak to his intelligence, generous heart, talent for working well with a wide range of others, and his excellence in achieving goals diplomatically,” Batteau said of Wieser.
The RTM will next meet at 7:30 in Town Hall on Jan. 8, 2018.