A large crowd was on hand as Jim Marpe was sworn in as Westport's new first selectman in the Town Hall auditorium Monday night.

Marpe was joined by the several dozen other town officials elected in the Nov. 5 election taking an oath of office, including Avi Kaner and Helen Garten as members of the Board of Selectmen.

Marpe, a Board of Education member who stepped down late last year to focus on his campaign for the town's top job, told the audience that he had been preparing over the last two weeks for "this transition" to the first selectman's job.

He said that, during that time, he found himself "reminded of the extraordinary responsibilities and expectations of a selectman in Westport."

In recognition of the future challenges Marpe acknowledged the contributions by "our predecessors, Gordon Joseloff, Shelly Kassen and Charlie Haberstroh," and thanked them.

Joseloff, the town's first selectman the past eight years, decided not to seek re-election and Monday was his last day on the job.

Marpe said he's also had a chance to meet "many of our town's dedicated employees" and has "developed an even greater appreciation for their commitment to the important and sometimes dangerous work they do." He said he is "looking forward to working with them to make Westport a truly `citizen-centric' community -- a town that continues to work for all its citizens."

Marpe, a Republican, said it's time to "switch from the politics of an election campaign to representing all the people, and to focus on what we have in common -- not what divides us."

"I am looking forward to working with all our elected officials here tonight in a spirit of teamwork, cooperation and consensus-building to accomplish that," he said.

Joseloff, who served as the master of ceremonies for the inauguration, said it was a nostalgic evening for him, after devoting 22 years of public service to the town, eight as first selectman.

"It all ends tonight at the stroke of midnight," he told the audience.

State Sen. John McKinney, who administered the oath of office to Marpe, thanked Joseloff for "his leadership in this town." He said Joseloff was "always striving for the best" for Westport.

Addressing remarks to Marpe, McKinney recalled that he had been impressed election night when, after Marpe was declared the winner, that he "put away the Marpe/Kaner banner and replaced it" with the town seal.

"That's the Jim Marpe I've known for years," McKinney said. "He's always doing what's right for the town."

Kaner, sworn in as a selectman by state Sen. Toni Boucher, said he and Marpe had dinner prior to the inaugural ceremony. "I told him that, beginning tonight, if there's an incident on the Merritt or I-95, it's your phone that will ring," Kaner said of the round-the-clock demands on a first selectman, drawing laughter from the audience.

Kaner said he remembered the first time he ran for office -- the Board of Finance, of which he most recently was the chairman -- and how he wanted "to give back to the community."

Garten, a Democrat and Board of Finance member who lost the first selectman contest to Marpe on Nov. 5, was sworn in as the Board of Selectmen's third member by Town Clerk Patty Strauss. Garten did not make any public remarks.

Marpe is a retired business executive who served as both chairman and vice chairman during his tenure on the school board. He defeated Garten, who was the chairwoman and vice chairwoman of the finance panel, by a vote of 4,316 to 3,458 in the municipal election.