Westport Democrats endorse candidates for November
Seeking to maintain control of every elected board in Westport's town government, the Democratic Town Committee unanimously approved Tuesday night its slate of nominees for the November municipal election.
The top elected job of first selectman, however, is not on this year's ballot. That post is held by Democrat Gordon Joseloff, whose current four-year term ends in 2013.
This year, six Democratic nominees will stand for election or re-election to municipal boards and commissions.
Board of Finance member Kenneth Wirfel, a litigator, will run for a second term, while Janis Collins, a management consultant, will run to replace Democrat Allyson Stollenwerck, who will not seek another term on the finance panel.
The Democrats will have another newcomer, Michael Gordon, run for election on the Board of Education. He will run to succeed fellow Democrat Faith Taylor, who will not seek a second term. Incumbent Mark Mathias, a technology executive, will run for a third term.
Jim Ezzes, the Democratic Town Committee chairman and a residential building contractor, will run for a fifth term on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Currently the ZBA chairman, he has served on that board since 1995.
All of the candidates ran unopposed for their nominations and all were endorsed by the DTC's leadership. Since the Westport DTC does not caucus, only committee members were allowed to vote for the nominees.
As the town grapples with mounting pension and Other Post-Employment Benefits liabilities to its municipal employees, Wirfel and Collins stand for election at a critical fiscal juncture.
"We have to address the growth in our pension and OPEB obligations," Wirfel said. "That will be key because we need to keep taxes stable as we pay for these obligations."
Collins agreed with Wirfel. She added that her experience as the chairwoman of the Parks and Recreation Commission gives her a strong understanding of the town's budget review process. The Board of Finance votes on the town budget each spring prior to final approval from the Representative Town Meeting.
Johnson, who serves on the Parks and Rec Commission, formerly worked as a director in PricewaterhouseCoopers' financial advisory services group. She identified downtown revitalization as a top goal for the P&Z.
"We're blessed with this amazing river that runs through our town," she said. "It's going to be really exciting to see, as we move forward with the redevelopment of the library, and as we move forward with the revitalization of the downtown, how we can maybe bring some of the waterfront back."
Gordon served as a special assistant on education policy in former President Bill Clinton's administration. He is also the founder and chief executive officer of a strategic communications and public relations firm. He told the Westport News that he viewed critical thinking and problem solving as the fundamental skills that Westport students needed to develop.
"The fact that Singapore Math has come to our schools is a good sign," he said. "I think the more we give our children those critical thinking and problem-solving skills, the more successful they'll be. That's where the world is heading."
Democrats currently hold majorities on the Board of Finance, Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Assessment Appeals.
"We always work together as a team," Ezzes said of the Westport Democrats. "We sort of followed a template that was set up by (former first selectman) Diane Farrell. We take a very collaborative approach. When you serve on a board in town, it's not about politics."