Zappi quits as top aide to Marpe over 'partisan' perceptions
Updated 5:57 pm, Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Bob Zappi, the campaign manager for newly elected First Selectman Jim Marpe, has stepped down as town operations manager less than a week after Marpe appointed him to the $125,000-a-year job.
"Effective today I am withdrawing as the Marpe-Kaner transition leader and future operations manager for the town of Westport," Zappi , the former Republican Town Committee chairman, said in an email Tuesday afternoon.
"When Jim Marpe asked me to be his campaign manager in September 2012, I agreed because of his reputation, interest in moving the town forward with real change and his leadership ability," Zappi added. "He wanted to bring Westport town government proven organizational approaches demonstrated successfully every day in the private sector and in municipalities like New York City.
"Unfortunately, over the past few days, the discussion has been focused more on me rather than the benefits that this new leadership style would bring to you, Westport residents," Zappi added. "This is misdirected, hence my withdrawal."
Marpe, who is paid $101,000 a year as the town's top executive, said Zappi's appointment was "viewed as partisan in nature, which was never the intention."
"People of both political parties were very angry and concerned that the office of the first selectman would be used purely for political purposes when the first selectman represents all of the people of Westport," Ezzes said.,
Marpe said that because of that perception Zappi felt he could not make the contribution he wanted to both Westport and Marpe's administration.
"Therefore, he has chosen to withdraw," Marpe added. "This action is a testament to Bob's character and devotion to the town of Westport."
Marpe said he also thought Zappi was "concerned about some of the public commentary that had arisen and to his credit recognized it would create some difficulties moving forward."
Marpe admitted that in his "enthusiasm to get going for Westport," he moved quickly in hiring Zappi.
"The opportunity to take advantage of Bob's 30-year track record of helping Fortune 500 companies enhance their organization and operations was compelling," he said of Zappi's appointment to a town job that had not been filled in 16 years.
"The transition from campaign mode to governing would have been seamless based on the trust, respect and success Bob demonstrated during my campaign. I chose Bob because of his proven abilities, knowledge of town government and the people who lead it," Marpe added.
Marpe said he still is considering filling the operations manager vacancy left by Zappi's resignation. "How quickly we move forward on that position is yet to be determined," he said, adding it's not something he needs to tackle right away.
"I will step back and re-evaluate the specific needs of this office and will proceed in a more consensus-driven approach," he added.
Marpe, in announcing Zappi's hiring last Friday, said his role would have been to assist him in working with town department heads on various matters -- like the annual budget -- and increase the oversight of town operations. He said Zappi's job would be similar to a chief of staff and called his salary would be "commensurate with other similar positions in other towns" and "at the mid-point for department heads" at Town Hall.
"He will work on executing the strategies and goals that I have laid out," Marpe said at that time, adding the "authority" of running the government "still resides with me."
Zappi, last Friday, said he was "excited about working with Jim and implementing his agenda."
At that time, Zappi said being hired for a town job was not a topic of discussion with Marpe during the campaign. "I can't say we talked about it directly," Zappi said. "But as we were getting closer to election, we knew (Marpe) would need help to implement his agenda" if he won Nov. 5.
Marpe said he and Avi Kaner, his running mate and the town's second selectman, ran on a promise of bi-partisan consensus, "and we intend to fulfill that promise."
"Our broad-based support during the recent campaign clearly demonstrated the desires of Westporters to put the town ahead of politics," he said.
As for Zappi's decision, Marpe said he continues to believe that his "abilities and skills would have been a good thing for the town -- a positive thing."