Westport RTM moderator to step down, will not run for reelection

RTM Moderator Velma Heller on Aug. 22, 2017 at her Westport, Conn. home. Heller has announced that she will not run for reelection to the RTM after serving about 20 year

RTM Moderator Velma Heller on Aug. 22, 2017 at her Westport, Conn. home. Heller has announced that she will not run for reelection to the RTM after serving about 20 year

Laura Weiss / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Velma Heller said there’s no one incident or decision that stands out during the 20 years she’s spent as a member of Westport’s Representative Town Meeting. Rather, what stands out is the way the body has formed a sort of family over the years, working together to serve the town.

“I feel like our RTM is a nonpartisan RTM and, as a result, I feel like we work very collaboratively,” said Heller, who has also served as the body’s moderator for the past four years, and as its deputy moderator for the four years before that. “My RTM family over the years has been very important to me.”

Heller recently announced that she wouldn’t run for another term on the body, meaning the RTM will need to select a new moderator after the next round of municipal elections are complete. Heller, 84, said she’s looking to step down to spend more time with her family and generally enjoy life.

Her fellow RTM member, Sal Liccione — who, like Heller, serves the town’s ninth district through the body — said her departure will be “a great loss for the town of Westport.”

“She put me on some great committees,” he said. “I learned a lot from her during the last couple of years. We’re going to miss her.”

Before joining the RTM, Heller worked for Westport Public Schools for roughly 30 years. After she retired, her son and husband — both of whom had served on the RTM — encouraged her to run. She said was too late to get on the ballot, so she ran as a write-in candidate and ended up winning.

Heller later “un-retired,” and worked at Sacred Heart University until a few years ago. She said she has been involved with many committees during her time on the RTM, including a stint chairing the education committee.

Though she said the RTM has accomplished so much during the time of her involvement that she has a hard time pinpointing certain events or incidents, if she had to choose something she was particularly proud of, it might be the decision to add sidewalks on Imperial Avenue a few years ago.

“But really, there were so many things we’ve done over 20 years,” Heller said. “There are so many opportunities to do things good for the town.”