John Suggs: Independent candidate intends to resist partisan politics
Published 8:20 am, Monday, November 6, 2017
WESTPORT — Bobby Kennedy was John Sugg’s boyhood hero. But, several months ago, Suggs withdrew his affiliation with the party of Kennedy to run as a petitioning candidate for first selectman.
“On my own initiative, hearing from my constituents about the partisanship of the RTM, I listened and learned from them and I resigned from the DTC in response to that,” Suggs, a District 5 RTM representative said.
“I used to think the Democratic Party had all the answer, but I’m wrong,” Suggs said. “Both parties contribute to the divisiveness we see each and every day. I’m convinced of it.”
Suggs’ turn away from the Democratic Party is just one among many twists and turns that have characterized his life. Raised in a large Catholic family in southern California, Suggs studied political science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and, after college, entered training to become a Jesuit priest.
“I took a year’s leave of absence and did a discernment process on it and really felt that I was being called to other walks of life,” Suggs, 56, said. After five years in training, Suggs officially left the Jesuit Religious Order.
Suggs became a homeless advocate and was recruited by the city of Los Angeles’ Ethics Commission to investigate government corruption. Speaking of his work on the Ethics Commission, Suggs said, “It taught me that I had no desire to run for political office, which is kind of ironic.”
While living in Los Angeles, Suggs met his future wife, Sharon, at a community organizing event, but she lived in New York City, and one of them would have to relocate if they were to be together.
Suggs took the leap and moved to NYC to be with his now-wife and work in the financial sector.
“I have been in the religious world as a Jesuit. I had risen my way there and mastered it, and seen it and owned it. I had also done the same in the nonprofit sector and the public sector, as well, with the city of LA’s Ethics Commission and other things. I had a lot of experience in all the sectors except for the private sector, so I decided to place myself in the financial sector because I knew I would learn things there.”
In 2003, while working for the financial services industry, Suggs and his wife had twin babies and moved to Westport.
Suggs quickly became involved in religious and athletic organizations in Westport and, just under 10 years ago, was elected to the RTM from the 5th District.
Of late, Suggs’ primary work on the RTM has focused on fighting back the Department of Transportation’s $42 million plan to renovate the Cribari Bridge.
“We preserve our Cribari Bridge because it preserves us,” Suggs said, because of “the fact that it doesn’t allow eighteen-wheelers.”
“We basically said, $42 million is nice, but it’s not nice if it destroys us, and so we said thanks, but no thanks, and got it taken off the list. With that action and the vote by the regional representatives, the motion was made by Selectman Marpe that basically stopped the project,” he said. “Can it come back? Yes, because the DOT’s got four years to put it back on the list, and that is one of the key reasons why I chose to run for first selectman.”
Suggs said he’s also running to implement what he calls his “common-sense solutions.” Included among the solutions is a plan to apply 50 percent of the savings from the municipal pension agreement to the education budget.
In his job as the owner of a business that connects adult adoptees with their birth parents, Suggs seeks to bring people together, and many of his “solutions” for the town center around a similar theme.
If elected, Suggs promises to lead a community conversation about what kinds of businesses motivate Westporters to “leave their computer screens and go downtown.”
On the topic of Compo Beach, Suggs said, “Our beach has problems, but the answer is not to blame out-of-towners. Given what’s happening around the world, we shouldn’t just give lip service to the principles of inclusiveness.” One of Sugg’s solutions” for the beach is to make sure money earned from selling beach passes to nonresidents goes to beach maintenance and improvements.
On Tuesday, the fate of Suggs’ solutions and his life’s work are in voters’ hands.