A tough choice
The town has three choices for first selectman this year: incumbent Gordon Joseloff for the Democratic slate, challenger Gavin Anderson for the Republican spot and three-time candidate John Izzo hoping for a write-in win.
The race for first selectman was much more low-key than in years past, and all candidates coexisted amicably throughout their campaigns.
The three first selectman debates would perhaps more accurately be described as "discussions." With few exceptions, the candidates were in synch on many of the topics, and the phrase "I agree" was frequently used. Understandably so. The two men have worked together in town government for years, and are in close contact on a number of issues concerning the town.
Each candidate handled himself professionally and politely at all times. It was a nice change from the typical denigration and cat-clawing so often seen in elections past.
The race for first selectman was, by all accounts, a very gentlemanly and above board, and for that, all three candidates are to be commended. Even the candidates` campaign supporters managed to keep emotions in check, and really stick to the issues (with a few exceptions).
Both Joseloff and Anderson managed to keep partisanship down to a minimum. In their interviews with this paper, both candidates agreed that partisanship has little place on a local level -- it`s the people and ideas that count.
We agree, and that`s why we are delighted that these two outstanding individuals have offered up their services to the town, both interested in doing what`s best for its people, neighborhoods and environment.
However, as the voters must do Nov. 3, we must also make a choice between them. This year, the endorsement choice was not made easily. Not because the staff at the Westport News was divided in its opinions of the candidates, but because, in the case of Anderson and Joseloff, it was hard to clearly distinguish one campaign from the other.
Both provided credible examples of the work each has done for the town, and both brought with them a number of great ideas we hope to see implemented in the near or distant future.
Yet Joseloff`s campaign had a slight edge over Anderson`s: He has already proved that he can successfully manage the town, and has done so for the last four years.
The Anderson/Kristin LaFleur campaign has focused largely on the topics of education and finance, and the corresponding deficiencies in the current administration.
However, Joseloff is balanced by Second Selectman Shelly Kassen, who has a background as a financial manager, both in her previous role on the Board of Finance and her background as a certified public accountant. The team has proven that it can keep taxes down in the face of nationwide financial disaster, with a 0 percent tax increase for this fiscal year. True, it was an election year, but it was also the year the economy tanked.
In the campaign literature and the few times LaFleur has had to publicly voice her opinion, she has focused heavily on education (no doubt stemming from her tenure on the Board of Education). However, clanging the education gong does little to turn our heads. Joseloff`s record in this area is also quite strong, going back as far as his days on the Representative Town Meeting, serving on its Education Committee, and his creation of the School Maintenance Committee.
In addition, Joseloff has shown that he is committed to protecting the town`s seniors, protecting the town`s environment and protecting the town`s identity, while reaching out to surrounding towns to share services or just ideas.
Anderson has said that he will be just as committed to these same things, and no doubt he`d be a qualified and successful first selectman. But to coin a phrase, why change horses? If things are running smoothly, why risk losing that? There just weren`t enough radical changes proposed by the Anderson/LaFleur campaign to warrant a change in administration, in our minds.
One area where Joseloff really stands out from not just from his opposing candidate, but also from his peers in town government is his smart implementation of technology in and around town. Because of his efforts, Westport is way ahead of surrounding towns in its use of technology -- from posting town meetings online to free WiFi in areas all around town. Moving into this ever-expanding information age, these innovations are not insignificant.
For these reasons, our endorsement goes to Joseloff and Kassen.
It seems to us that Anderson would be an excellent supplement to the Joseloff/Kassen administration, and we hope that he will join them as third selectman. To use a football analogy, we envision Joseloff as head coach, Kassen as offensive coordinator, Anderson as defensive coordinator and maybe Izzo would be suited for special teams. We also hope LaFleur will continue to fight for Westport`s students.
While we applaud Izzo`s devotion to the town and his willingness to roll up his sleeves and get to work, it seemed to us that his role in this election has not been to gain the majority of votes for himself, but to send votes to one of the other candidates. Over the years Izzo has proved his commitment to the town, and it`s always nice to have someone who cares so much and wants to be involved.
All of this year`s selectman candidates are applauded for their intelligent and constructive contributions to the campaign and, we hope, the future of Westport.
Please get out and vote Nov. 3.