WESTPORT — The Board of Education has elected Candice Savin, a three-year board member, as its new chairman.

Savin, a Democrat, fills the chairmanship vacated by fellow Democrat Mark Mathias who retired from the board following November’s elections. She has served on the Board of Education since 2016 after being appointed to fill a vacancy.

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“I’m honored by my fellow board members and I’m really humbled by the importance of the work of this board,” Savin said at Tuesday’s BOE meeting. “My goal as chairperson of this board includes transparency, accessibility and a more cohesive vision for the future of education in Westport.”

Savin said while it has been a challenging year, she knows the BOE and all of the town stakeholders continue to only want what’s best for Westport.

“We all share the value of outstanding education and focusing on what unites us will ensure our schools thrive for the next generation and beyond,” she said.

BOE member Lee Goldstein said over the years she’s worked with the BOE, she has been appreciative of Savin’s willingness to engage with the community.

“She listens and she responds to the community,” said Goldstein, who nominated Savin. “She’s open-minded and considers the problems and solutions from all the sides.”

BOE Vice Chair Jeannie Smith, who seconded the nomination, said over the years she has experienced Savin’s leadership firsthand. Smith noted Savin’s work on the teaching and learning committee, as well as helping to hire Staples High School Principal Stafford Thomas.

“I’m confident that Candi’s expertise will prove to help our Board of (Education) move forward productively with the best interest of all the children of our Westport Public Schools,” Smith said.

Savin was ultimately elected by a 6-0 vote, with BOE member Vik Muktavaram abstaining.

While he voiced support for Savin, Muktavaram said he favored voting for a slate instead of one individual. This would include nominating Savin to chair, re-electing BOE member Elaine Whitney to secretary, and electing BOE member Karen Kleine to vice chair.

Muktavaram questioned how the board could change if two out of three leadership positions remained the same.

“I believe we have to put what is best for the board and the school district ahead of our friendships and our desire to not upset individuals,” he said, adding the importance of change at the leadership level. “There’s a clamor for change in leadership on the board. All four candidates for the Board of Education ran on the platform of change. Secondly, leadership is not only about individuals but also the team of individuals that compliment each other.”

Muktavaram clarified he did not oppose Savin’s nomination, but believed his slate was the best combination of skills for the board moving forward. To this end, Muktavaram also voted against the re-election of Smith as vice chair.

Smith was re-elected by 6-1 vote, and the board unanimously re-elected Whitney as secretary.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com