First Selectman’s First Speech

Jim Marpe was sworn in as Westport’s new first selectman last night. Here are his remarks to the packed Town Hall auditorium — and all of Westport.

Senators Boucher and McKinney, Reverend Rider and Rabbi Kantor, Selectman Joseloff, my fellow selectmen, current and former elected officials, and my fellow Westport citizens. I will repeat what I said 2 weeks ago: that I am humbled by the honor of being chosen as your first selectman, and grateful that you have seen fit to grant me this awesome responsibility.

First Selectman Jim Marpe

First Selectman Jim Marpe

I want to thank so many of you who have shown me your confidence and support during the election campaign and with your good wishes since the election. I want to single out my family: my wife, Mary Ellen, my daughter Samantha and my sister Sandy, who is here tonight from Ohio, for their unflagging commitment to my efforts this past year, and to what we are about to undertake.

I extend special thanks to Westport Town Clerk Patty Strauss and her staff for organizing tonight’s ceremonies and celebration, and to the League of Women Voters who are ushering and serving refreshments.  This really is a special moment for so many who worked to be elected to public office in Westport.

During the past 2 weeks as I have been preparing for this transition, I found myself reminded of the extraordinary responsibilities and expectations of a selectman in Westport.  To that end, I would like to acknowledge and thank our predecessors, Gordon Joseloff, Shelly Kassen and Charlie Haberstroh. Collectively, they have made Westport a better place for all of us.

I’ve also had a chance to meet many of our town’s dedicated employees. I’ve developed an even greater appreciation for their commitment to the important, and sometimes dangerous, work that they do.  They make our community safe, clean and easy to travel; they educate our children; and they provide the processes and services that allow the rest of us to do the things we want to do in our daily lives. I look forward to working with them to make Westport a truly “citizen-centric” community – a town that continues to work for all its citizens.

RTMAs Avi noted, now it’s time to begin “making the ideas into reality.” It’s time to switch from the politics of an election campaign to representing all the people, and to focus on what we have in common – not what divides us. I look forward to working with all of our elected officials here tonight in a spirit of teamwork, cooperation and consensus building to accomplish that. I know that we may encounter some disagreements, but I hope they are always in the spirit of what we each think is best for all of Westport.

One of the many lighter moments during the campaign was when I was going door to door and met Sid Filderman, a former RTM member in the 1980’s, who regaled Jen Tooker and me with stories of the battles over some things we take for granted, like Winslow Park and the playground at the beach. So the topics may change, but the debates are always there. And in the end, I hope we are all debating for a better Westport.

The Compo Beach playground. Back in the 1980s, there was a bitter debate over whether it should be built.

The Compo Beach playground. Back in the 1980s, there was a bitter debate over whether it should be built.

I think what really makes our town so special is that so many Westporters are committed to service on behalf of their fellow citizens. I was constantly reminded this past year that there are so many good things that happen here, not because the government makes it happen, but because so many of our citizens volunteer to make things happen.

Whether it’s coaching our kids on the athletic fields, driving seniors or delivering meals to them, or helping our neighbors clean up and put their lives back in order after a major storm, I could go on for a very long time about the countless ways Westporters volunteer to make this a great community.

As I start my term in office, I hope many of you will direct some of that volunteer spirit to serve or continue to serve on the many town committees, boards and commissions that help make a difference in our quality of life. In a few minutes we’ll hear a song called “In Wonderful Westport.” We’ll hear a long list of Westporters who made a difference – Adams, Avery, Bedford, Jennings, Sherwood, Staples – but also some more contemporary names like Newman and Raymond. Think about how your own name could be associated with those great builders of our community.

Horace Staples

Horace Staples

Effective communication is a key part of making ideas into reality.  My approach to communication is first listening and learning, and then leading. In the coming months I’ll be conducting a “State of the Town” meeting. I’ll visit you in your neighborhoods for coffee and conversation events, and will begin using webcasts and crowdsourcing to conduct virtual Town Hall meetings that can fit your schedule, not just mine. If you want to have an active role in shaping the town’s future, I urge your participation in these kinds of events. You can start this coming Saturday morning by attending the community charrette (collaborative workshop) to discuss the future of Compo Beach with the Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee. I hope to see you there.

Westport is at a transitional point in its history.  We can be proud of our vibrant and interesting community that is a recreational, artistic, cultural, shopping and business destination for so many. It is not by accident that we have great schools, wonderful restaurants, a trend-setting library, multiple parks and recreation facilities and numerous beaches and open spaces. Now it’s up to us to manage future development and assure the continued quality of our assets and financial strength and the renewed vibrancy of our community, and to encourage a population that reflects all our generations and maintains our historic small-town character.

In closing, I want to thank you again for your support and confidence. I pledge to you that my administration will continue to listen and to learn from all of you, to work at building consensus and will commit to being “citizen-centric.” But remember, government by itself can only do so much. It is our citizens through their volunteer efforts that will continue to make Westport the special place it has become. Please join me – be a part of our larger team. And help me and all of your elected representatives and town employees make Westport an even better place than we found it. I know I can count on all of you!

Tomorrow morning I start the job you elected me to do. I can’t wait to begin making great ideas for Westport into reality! Thank you.

5 responses to “First Selectman’s First Speech

  1. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    For once, I’m happy there are no comments, that most everyone attended!

  2. First selectman Marpe did not mention once the importance of the Arts in making Westport a world class place to live and bring up families. I hope it was just a casual omission, and that he is solidly supportive of Westport’s art heritage the Arts which has been the ‘draw’ for over a century.

    • I can assure you the Marpe Family is incredibly supportive of the arts both in Westport and in our neighboring cities that need more of it. I would gladly vouch for Jim and Mary Ellen’s support of arts education and their belief of how the arts can play a critical role in schools, communities, and beyond.

      Tyler Paul
      Executive Director, Co-Founder
      Northeast Children’s Theatre Company

    • Ann, also it was a relatively short speech (from what I can see here) and Jim did say “We can be proud of our vibrant and interesting community that is a….artistic, cultural…destination for so many.” So I think it can be said that he did make reference to the importance of the arts to Westport. (By the way, I am a registered Democrat so it’s not as if I’m biased in his favor. I think Jim deserves every opportunity to show, as First Selectman, the kind of support for the arts you and I both believe in.)

  3. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    If unhappy, go to the meetings and listen, think.
    Obviously, not everyone attended.