Westport DTC endorses new P&Z candidate

Greg Rutstein
Greg RutsteinGreg Rutstein / Contributed Photo

WESTPORT — The Democratic Town Committee endorsed a new candidate for Planning and Zoning commissioner in this fall’s election, following the withdrawal of its initial pick.

Jill Saluck withdrew her candidacy in an Aug. 15 letter, citing an “unforeseen conflict of interest.” DTC Chairwoman Ellen Lautenberg said Saluck chose not to pursue the seat at this time due to personal reasons. The DTC’s nominating committee reviewed candidates who expressed interest in the P&Z and picked Greg Rutstein, senior counsel at Westport-based hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, for the party’s endorsement.

“I think in large part because of his strong desire to become more involved in the town. The fact that he both lives and works in Westport,” Lautenberg said of the pick, “and really his enthusiasm for wanting to be involved in this election.”

Rutstein — who has lived in town for four years and has a daughter, 5, and son, 3 — said he had been interested in participating in town government, and he believes the P&Z combines his personal interests and love of Westport.

“I thought it was an excellent opportunity to use my legal background ... in a way that would benefit the town, in particular with the land that we own and cherish so deeply,” he said.

The 37-year-old has been an attorney for nearly 12 years and worked at several New York City law firms before serving as in-house counsel first at a New York City investment management firm and now at Bridgewater, where he has worked since 2011. He sees a similar skill-set at play in his work as an attorney as he would need for the commission.

At Bridgewater, Rutstein described balancing making sure the institution maintains its top-notch reputation, but also that it brings in new business, and he sees a similar balance for the P&Z. When applications are submitted for new developments or facilities in town, he said, they may make sense in some circumstances, “but we have to be very careful it doesn’t degrade the unique culture and landscaping that Westport offers.”

“I want to make sure that Westport maintains its reputation as an attractive, thriving community,” he said, “which I expect to come about through intelligent and creative solutions to some of the issues facing it, and some of those issues are traffic, below-market housing requirements and vacancies in the downtown and other commercial areas of Westport.”

Lautenberg said while Rutstein does not have much experience with the specific real estate issues the commission addresses, he is working to learn more, in particular from P&Z Commissioner Danielle Dobin, a fellow Democrat running for re-election this fall.

He has a temperament that lends to an ability “to listen, to learn and to articulate his thoughts well,” she said.

Saluck had been tabbed to run instead of P&Z commissioner, Democrat Alan Hodge. At the DTC’s caucus in late July, she was described as an energetic activist who has brought energy to the local party over the past year.

LWeiss@hearstmediact.com; @LauraEWeiss16