By Anne M. Amato

First Selectman Jim Marpe this week appointed Dewey J. Loselle III, currently the chairman of the Downtown Steering Committee, to the administrative job of town operations director.

Loselle, a campaign aide in Republican Marpe's successful bid to win the first selectman's post last November, will be paid an annual salary is $90,000. That money is allocated in the recently approved budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

"I am most pleased to have Dewey working with me in the first selectman's office to assist me in carrying out the expanded mission I outlined during the election campaign," Marpe said in a press release Tuesday announcing the appointment.

He was chosen from among seven applicants for the job, according to Marpe.

Marpe, when announcing a search committee for the job in May, said he had identified "at least 10 projects that would benefit from the focused attention of such a position."

"I don't see a need for the job -- they haven't demonstrated a need," said John Hartwell, the Democratic Town Committee chairman. Hartwell said the job "should pay for itself."

"I want to see if they can look back in a year and see there was a real saving" with the position, he added. "If it doesn't pay for itself in a year, then it should be eliminated."

Last November, shortly after Marpe won election, he appointed his campaign manager, Bob Zappi, to the administrative job of operations manager, with an annual salary of $125,000. Zappi, following criticism, withdrew from that position less than a week later.

At that time, Marpe, who is paid $101,000 a year as the town's top executive, said Zappi's appointment was "viewed as partisan in nature, which was never the intention."

But then-Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jim Ezzes said Zappi's hiring "was totally inappropriate and nothing but political patronage."

In appointing Loselle this week, Marpe said the 22-year town resident had "already has been making significant progress in enhancing the livability of our town" as the downtown committee chairman.

A bi-partisan search committee unanimously recommended Loselle for the operations director post. That committee was chaired by Pete Wolgast, a former executive assistant to First Selectman Doug Wood. Former Board of Education Chairman Don O'Day, senior corporate executive Steve Parrish, communications specialist and town volunteer Karen Hess, and town Personnel Director Ralph Chetcuti also served on the committee.

"The high quality of applicants for this opening was amazing," Wolgast said in the statement. "As it turned out, Dewey has all of the experience and ability to be an outstanding success in his new role as operations director. I am certain that he will be a huge benefit to the first selectman in his goal of improving the operations of Westport's town government."

"I was very impressed with all of the candidates and the decision on whom to recommend was not easy." O'Day said. "After careful consideration, we chose Dewey based on his very impressive resume, his considerable knowledge of Westport's governing structure, and his recent work leading the Downtown Steering Committee. He has shown he can get things done while reaching out to as many people as possible."

The operations director position is designated in Section C4-3 of the town charter giving the first selectman the ability to employ someone to whom he can delegate authority in certain areas of government, the release said.

During the past several months, the town went through a formal personnel selection process. As part of that process, the town personnel director developed a job description, publicly posted and advertised the position, and set up the group interview process.

Loselle has more than 30 years of experience in local and state government, including as division chief for the New York City's comptroller to evaluate programs and agencies, as assistant New York City commissioner for budget and finance, and as an elected member of the town's Representative Town Meeting, although he lost his bid for re-election last November.

He has a bachelor's of arts degree in government from Boston University, a master's in public administration from New York University with concentrations in public policy and finance, and continuing education studies from Deloitte, KPMG and other entities.