After a dozen years in the Representative Town Meeting, District 9 member and educator Velma Heller has graduated to the No. 2 position on the local legislative body.
Heller was unanimously voted in Tuesday night as the RTM's new deputy moderator, succeeding Eileen Flug, who is the new moderator. Flug took over from former moderator Hadley Rose, who resigned last month because he is moving to Simsbury.
"I'm delighted to do this," Heller told RTM colleagues. "I've done many other jobs on the RTM, and I think it's always interesting to try something that's a little bit different, a little bit new, something that provides new experiences. Although I have worked with three different moderators so far, I know that I'm going to enjoy working with Eileen because we have worked together on so many different projects."
Heller has been an RTM member since 2001 and represents District 9, which encompasses the town center. She is the chairwoman of the Education Committee and also serves on the Rules and Special Ethics committees.
A town resident for nearly 50 years, Heller was a longtime educator in the Westport school district. She started in 1970 as a part-time teacher at Bedford Junior High School, focusing on reading, college-preparation and special-education courses. From 1977 to 1983, she was the principal of Greens Farms Elementary School. A stint as associate principal at Long Lots Elementary School followed. During the 1980s, she also led the revamp and expansion of the town's continuing-education program.
In 1989, she was appointed as the district's director of curriculum and research. She became vice principal of Bedford Middle School in 1992. In 1999, she was named the district's director of supervision and evaluation. She retired in 2001 and now is an assistant professor of education at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
Jonathan Cunitz, District 4, nominated Heller for the deputy moderator post.
"After 12 years on the RTM and a devotee of Hadley Rose, she knows how our meetings should be run," he said. "She is respectful of others when they speak and focuses on the issues of each agenda item."
Jeff Wieser, District 4, seconded Cunitz's nomination of Heller.
"She's a champion of the education system in Westport, yet she is a voice of moderation in what can often be an emotionally charged discussion on issues associated with our wonderful school system," he said. "And we have seen Velma sum up many challenging debates on other issues, offering a reasoned solution to conflicting opinions on wide-ranging subjects."
No other RTM members were nominated for the deputy moderator's post.
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