On Nov. 5, Westport voters will have a critical decision to make. Will we settle for ineffective figureheads that will oversee our town's steady decline, or do we want real, experienced leadership to place Westport on the path of success? While Westport remains a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family, our town is facing several major challenges. We must maintain a solid financial footing after recovering from a deep financial crisis; manage development in Westport while preserving our small town character; upgrade our deteriorating infrastructure and declining amenities; and ensure that Westport's schools are strong and safe. With so much at stake for our Town, it is essential we have the right leadership. We must elect Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner to the Board of Selectmen and the Republican team to lead our boards and commissions so that Westport can meet the challenges we face and make the most of the opportunities before us.

Marpe-Kaner experience

By electing Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner as first and second selectman, voters would guarantee that Westport is led by two of the most experienced leaders in our town. Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner have a combined 50-plus years of executive experience in the private sector, and they know what it means to manage complex budgets, make critical decisions, and bring people together to solve problems. They also have a clear and compelling vision for the future of Westport. Jim is the former vice chairman of the Board of Education, and Avi is the current chairman of the Board of Finance. They are accomplished and respected public servants who have shown true leadership on behalf of Westport. This recognized leadership has garnered Jim and Avi widespread and enthusiastic support across Westport.

Their Democrat opponents do not possess a proven track record of leadership. While surely well intentioned, Helen Garten and the Democrats proved ineffective in managing Westport's finances following the financial crisis. Under their supervision, the town grossly miscalculated by tens of millions of dollars our post-employment benefit liabilities. This devastating mistake severely jeopardized Westport's financial health. Westporters wisely elected a new Republican majority on the Finance Board to clean up the mess. The results have been tremendous: Westport's finances are stable, our credit rating is strong, and this has been accomplished without overburdening Westport's taxpayers.

Finance Board momentum

It is critical that voters keep this momentum by electing Jennifer Tooker to the Board of Finance. As a current member of the Board of Education and a successful business leader, Jen has a deep understanding of Westport's finances and an unwavering commitment to fiscal responsibility. She is dedicated to protecting the long term financial stability of the town and supports the full funding of our employee obligations, paying down long-term debt, and pension and retiree-benefit reform. On the Board of Education, Jen has been a strong advocate for excellence in our schools within responsible budget parameters, and she is the only candidate who can bring a detailed understanding of the education budget to the Board of Finance. This is a critical advantage, given that the education budget represents 60 percent of the town's total budget.

Priorities for schools

Michael McGovern, Jeannie Smith and Karen Kleine are the Republican candidates for Board of Education. Together, they have a perfect balance of expertise in business, education, and community service.Their top priorities are: schools that inspire students to be lifelong learners and provide them with opportunities to pursue excellence; safe, secure schools that also maintain a welcoming learning environment; ensuring that Board of Education members are good stewards of the financial resources provided by Westport's taxpayers; effective collaboration between the town and the schools; and improved communication between the Board of Education and the entire Westport community.

ZBA and businesses

Wally Sutherland would make an excellent addition to the Zoning Board of Appeals. As both a finance expert and a long-time Westporter, Wally understands that we need to attract businesses to Westport while maintaining our character and small-town appeal. He is committed to making the appeals process fair and straightforward while respecting the rights of homeowners. Wally is also dedicated to working with local business owners to assist their efforts to thrive while maintaining respect for Westport's values and expectations.

District probate judge

Lisa Wexler would bring compassion and expertise to the probate judge's office. In addition to being a respected community leader, Lisa has performed extensive probate work as an attorney and is the only candidate in the race who has probate experience in the Westport/Weston Probate Court. Unlike her opponent, Lisa has pledged that she would not accept new law clients if elected probate judge, and would only handle uncontested matters for existing clients. Lisa has taken this pledge because she is deeply committed to fairness and integrity in the Probate Court, and she would never use her position as probate judge to enrich herself.

The future of Westport is in your hands. On Nov. 5, please vote for excellence in our schools, responsible fiscal management, and the highest quality services and amenities.

Vote for the candidates with a vision to ensure a strong Westport for this generation and the next. Vote Republican.

Desiree Soli is chairman of the Westport Republican Town Committeee.