Westport Dems lead in BOE race
WESTPORT — After a steady night of voter turnout, there are some new faces on the Board of Education.
With three seats up for grabs, Democratic newcomers Youn Su Chao and Lee Goldstein led the race with 4,003 and 3,913 votes, respectively, on election night. With 3,346 votes, incumbent Republican candidate Vik Muktavaram will hold onto his seat, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of the State’s office. Republican Liz Heyer finished with 3,307 votes.
Chao and Goldstein will occupy open seats left by Democratic BOE members Mark Mathias and Neil Phillips, who decided to step down before this year’s election.
“I’m thrilled and I think they’re the leaders we need to bring back our town’s faith in the Board of Education,” Selectwoman Melissa Kane said of Chao and Goldstein’s victories at Democratic Town Committee headquarters.
Goldstein has had previous experience as a BOE member in Bedford, N.Y. Goldstein has emphasized transparency from the board in her campaign, and a goal of developing a comprehensive facilities plan.
Chao has been an advocate for parents as co-president of Coleytown Elementary’s PTA.
Following the announcement of her victory around 9:30 p.m., Goldstein said she was excited to be joining the board alongside Chao.
“We can’t wait to work with the Board of Ed,” Goldstein said.
Chao said she and Goldstein have been committed from the beginning to be honest and transparent, adding their campaign focused on earning trust, not simply winning votes.
“Trust has been the centerpiece of our entire campaign,” Chao said. “The depth of the commitment of people behind us ... you have been unwavering. You have been steadfast.”
She expressed gratitude for the support and was proud of the campaign she ran.
“At the end of the day, I had to say I need to be able to look at my children’s eyes and say ‘This is how you run a campaign,’ ” Chao said, noting she focused on running a clean campaign.
“We’re excited to take our school district and our town into a positive direction,” Chao said to a gathered crowd. “Thank you for believing in us and believing in a positive message for the future.”
BOE member Candice Savin said she was thrilled to be working with Chao and Lee.
“They will be exceptional additions to our board,” Savin said. “I know we will work well together and I can’t wait to get started.”
Muktavaram has been a BOE member since 2016 after being unanimously appointed to fill a vacancy. In July, he was nominated by the Republican Town Committee alongside Heyer to serve on the board.
Muktavaram has said one of the most important issues in this election is ensuring Coleytown Middle School building is renovated on time, within budget and ready by August 2020. He has also emphasized the importance of finding a long term fit at Superintendent.
Entering the race, Heyer said she was determined to ensure Westport Public Schools maintained the necessary investments in infrastructure while continuing the district’s commitment to excellence. Muktavaram and Heyer could not be reached for comment following the vote count.
For the Planning and Zoning Commission, Democratic Town Committee nominee Paul Lebowitz led all candidates with 3,943 votes. Republican Town Committee nominees Catherine Walsh and Chip Stephens were also re-elected with 3,692 and 3,335 votes, respectively. RTC nominee Jon Olefson beat out fellow RTC nominee Al Gratrix for the final seat with 3,305 votes to Gratrix’s 3,169.
“Obviously there’s a lot of pressure with being first, and that is to do first-class things,” Lebowitz said following the announcement. “So, let’s hope that is the next four years.”
DTC Chairman Ellen Lautenberg said she was proud of the campaigns her party ran this year.
“It takes a team and a lot of teamwork,” she said. “That’s how this stuff happens.”
The newly elected officials will take office on Nov. 19.