Westport First Selectman Marpe to seek re-election, picks new number two
Updated 12:55 pm, Friday, March 24, 2017
WESTPORT — First Selectman Jim Marpe will seek re-election without Second Selectman Avi Kaner.
“I certainly love the work I do, so that’s why it was a really easy answer. I just love serving the town,” Tooker said. “It was a no-brainer for me and a fantastic opportunity to work with Jim. His leadership style is great and to be able to continue to do great work in Westport for four years would be an honor.”
Although Marpe and Tooker are the only ones who have officially announced they are running for selectman, both Republican Michael Rea, vice-chair of the finance board and state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-136, have filed exploratory committees seeking an undetermined office with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
Marpe was elected in November 2013 with Kaner, who has chosen not to run because of his duties as the owner of Morton Williams Supermarkets.
A Westport resident since 1989, Marpe spent 32 years at Accenture where he lead the firm’s worldwide financial services merger and acquisition practice. Tooker worked 22 years for Gen Re, where she held leadership positions in marketing and underwriting for the reinsurance business. Although he considered a number of running mates, Tooker was always at the top of Marpe’s list.
“In the last four years we’ve kept our mill rate flat and yet we’ve been able to continue to deliver the quality of services that Westporters expect and we’re addressing a number of opportunities to improve our amenities and maintain them. There are things left to be done and I’d like to see them through and fulfilled,” Marpe said.
Marpe said he held off on the announcement because he wanted to get through the budget process first.
“I was planning to announce after the budget process was complete just to keep the politics out of the budget process, but when Mike announced, I felt it was necessary for people to understand I was planning to run for re-election,” he said.
Marpe did consider whether or not he wanted to run again. He said the job has been more taxing than his time at Accenture and he rarely has social interactions that don’t involve town matters. Rea said he had a conversation with Marpe last month about the first selectman race where Marpe seemed “ambivalent” about running and had not yet made up his mind.
“We had a conversation a month ago and he asked me if I knew of anyone who was running and I asked him if he knew of anyone that was running and we both came up blank. He said he hadn’t made up his mind,” Rea said.
Marpe remembered the conversation about the upcoming race a bit differently: “We had a conversation where we certainly talked about it. The conversation I remember was at least a couple of months and I was still in the process of deciding.”
Rea, who is a Westport native, founded the Festival Italiano and is a Vice President for General Re. He served on the Representative Town Meeting for 12 years. “My candidacy is not against Jim Marpe or his style of leadership. I’d like to characterize my exploratory committee as a positive effort…It’s about having the best and the best people to lead the town,” he said.
A member of the finance board since 2011, the 64-year-old Rea said he would bring a new look to the town’s highest office.
“I think the town is lethargic in managing our money and I think the financial crisis at the state level exasperated the situation and you see that now,” Rea said.
Zero-based budgeting and outsourcing certain government functions like IT, building maintenance and lawn maintenance would help reduce headcount and costs, Rea said.
“For us to move forward, the pressure is going to be there this year and the next and what we have to do is control our own future...we can no longer simply afford to just escalate off of the previous year’s budget and it’s one of the reasons I started off this budget session with zero-based budgeting and we should consider bringing in professionals that could help us go through the process. It would help us assess all of the cost and not just some of the cost,” he added.
Serving his fourth term in Hartford, Steinberg, who also grew up in Westport, has experience as a marketing executive.