Democrats back slate to ‘take back’ P&Z, finance panels
Updated 10:23 am, Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Democratic Town Committee members Tuesday night unanimously endorsed their slate of candidates for the Nov. 3 election. They hope to hold their majority on the Board of Education and “take back the Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Finance,” said DTC Chairman John Hartwell.
”We have to be smart and focused,” he told several dozen committee members assembled for the nomination session in Town Hall.
The primary battleground in this year’s municipal election will be for control of the town’s major boards and commissions, since First Selectman Jim Marpe, a Republican, and the other members of the Board of Selectmen are at the midpoint of their four-year terms.
Hartwell and Sheri Gordon, currently a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, were endorsed for the Board of Finance. Incumbent Janis Collins has decided not to seek re-election, said Hartwell.
Paul Lebowitz, who serves on the Representative Town Meeting, was endorsed for the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Candidates endorsed for the Nov. 3 election by the Democratic Town Committee include:
Board of Finance: John Hartwell, Sheri R. Gordon
Board of Education: Michael Gordon, Mark Mathias
Planning and Zoning Commission: Paul Lebowitz
Zoning Board of Appeals: James C. Ezzes
For the Board of Education, the committee endorsed incumbents, Michael Gordon, who serves as board chairman, and Mark Mathias.
Jim Ezzes, a former chairman of the DTC, was endorsed for the ZBA where he has served for the past 20 years, 18 of them as chairman.
“We have a terrific group of people, but we need everyone to be all in,” Hartwell said.
Mathias nominated fellow school board member Gordon, saying that in the short time he has been chairman, Gordon has accomplished many things, including bringing transparency to the school budget. “He’s non-partisan, proactive and makes sure all members are heard,” Mathias said.
“He does his homework and is a logical thinker who puts his heart and soul into this position,” he added.
Gordon, who nominated Mathias, said he “sets the bar high,” adding he’s “thoughtful and insightful” and is the “resident technology adviser” on the board.
Selectman Helen Garten nominated Sheri Gordon, saying she represents a new generation of Westporters. “She has good judgment,” Garten added.
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136, nominated Hartwell, saying he started his career in financial services. “John is in love with numbers and loves data,” Steinberg said, adding Hartwell will be a strong campaigner not only for himself but for the entire Democratic slate.
“This is an opportunity for change in town,” Steinberg added.
RTM member, Neil Philips, District 2, nominated fellow RTM member Lebowitz, District 6, for the P&Z slot, saying that he has seen “first-hand the level of commitment Paul possesses.”
“He asks the tough questions” and “listens to all view points,” Philips said. “He’s concerned with preserving the small-town character” of Westport, he added.
Sheri Gordon nominated fellow ZBA member Ezzes, citing his many years of service and noting Ezzes wasn’t at the committee meeting because he was chairing a ZBA meeting taking place at the same time.
Following the endorsements, Mathias said the town’s schools are in good shape, and that the school district is “revered by communities and towns around the world for what we do here.”
Sheri Gordon said there is a “lot of money coming to Westport, but we have to figure out how to spend it wisely” to be “fiscally responsible.”
“I’m ready. Let’s go in,” said Lebowitz about his campaign to win a seat on the P&Z, which of successful, would return the panel to Democrats’ control.