Selectman candidate always pulled toward politics
WESTPORT — A former student body president of her Catholic high school in Dallas, Jen Tooker has always had a passion for public office.
Serviam, a Latin word and the motto of Tooker’s high school, Ursuline Academy, which means “I will serve,” continues to be a driving force behind the way she lives her life and her decision to run for second selectman, joining First Selectman Jim Marpe on the Republican ticket.
“I think when you’re educated, at least for me, as a product of 100 percent Catholic education, it’s in my blood to give back. That’s part of how I was educated is that there’s an expectation and a desire to give back and to serve and for me, public service was the route I wanted to do that,” Tooker, a University of Notre Dame graduate, said.
Tooker, 47, moved to Westport in 2008 with her husband, Mo, and children, Jack, Riley and Nicole — all Westport public school students. She has been a fixture in Westport since moving to town. After initially serving on the Conservation Commission, she was elected to the Board of Education in 2011 and then was voted onto the board of finance in 2013, the same year she retired from Gen Re.
“My sweet spot, my comfort zone, is certainly with numbers,” Tooker said of her natural progression to the finance board.
She volunteers on three educational boards — two based in Bridgeport — and is a member of the board of trustees for the Westport-Weston YMCA.
When she graduated from Notre Dame, Tooker parlayed the skills she learned majoring in economics and international relations into a successful 22-year career in various management and leadership positions at Gen Re that took her from New York to Chicago and the United Kingdom, and finally Westport. Her entire family holds dual British and United States citizenship.
Her first leadership job was in London, where she managed Gen Re’s international marine business. In that capacity, she oversaw all marine business the company did outside the U.S. and would insure ships. “We would put a price on whether or not a ship would sink. Everything from yachts all the way up to cruise ships and cargo ships, major cargo ships,” she said. “Or for the crew to get hurt.”
She was summoned back to the United States by Gen Re to lead marketing and communications for North America and was subsequently named the global manager for marketing and communications.
Although she thoroughly enjoys serving on the board of finance, Tooker said it was an easy decision when Marpe asked her to be his running mate.
“While the second selectman’s job certainly doesn’t have the purse strings of the town, it definitely has the viewpoint of really getting involved in operational issues and supporting the administration and being part of the administration that helps operationally run the town, and I think that is such a strong suit of mine,” she said. “I’m really excited to sort of see the town from one more viewpoint.”
Tooker said the town has done a good job keeping the mill rate “constant,” despite the dire financial state of Hartford. As second selectman, she said she would work to strike a balance between the unique services the town provides and limiting taxes. She said the town is undergoing a great deal of change, and it is an exciting time for Westport.
“There’s so much in progress right now. There’s so much in progress with downtown. There’s so much in progress with Compo (Beach). There’s so much in progress with Saugatuck and looking at that and preserving that as a unique community, but growing the vibrancy of it from a business standpoint,” Tooker said. “There’s so much going on that we’ve got a busy couple of years ahead of us.”