Some people come to Westport for the schools. Others like the beach.
For Hadley Rose, it was a good pastrami sandwich.
In 1992, the industrial packaging and hazardous-material shipping executive and his wife had spent 8 years in Wilton. With a young child, they found they were going to Westport for movies, shopping, restaurants serving alcohol — things Wilton did not have.
Westport was also more of a “mixed” community, Rose says.
Plus, Gold’s had that pastrami sandwich.
The Roses bought a “semi-fixer-upper,” and moved in.
A few years later, Westport was enveloped in controversy. (Surprise!)
The issue was school start times. Rose presented reams of documents to the Board of Education, supporting a later opening bell for high school students.
The proposed changes did not pass. But that was Rose’s introduction to local politics.
He attended First Selectwoman Diane Farrell’s “brown bag lunches.” She and 2nd selectman Carl Leaman encouraged him to run for the RTM.
Rose knew more about the legislative body than many Westporters did — and still do. “Most people think it’s the “Republican Town Meeting,” he says. (The “R” stands for “Representative.”)
He was first elected in 2003. Four years later, he ran for the top spot.
Now — after a decade on the RTM, and 3 terms as moderator — Rose has resigned. He and his wife are moving to Simsbury, to be closer to their 2 children who live in Boston.
Rose first ran because he wanted to change some of the ways the RTM worked.
Committees now receive information in a more timely fashion. He rotated committee chairs. He changed meeting start times from 8 p.m. to 7:30. And he “nudged speakers along.”
Meetings are much shorter now. But everything still gets done.
Rose praises RTM colleagues like Velma Heller, Jack Klinge and the late John Booth for their “respected, moderate voices.” He says the first selectmen he’s worked with — Farrell and Gordon Joseloff — have done “wonderful jobs.”
But Rose reserves his highest praise for Westport’s department heads.
“They’re very underrated. But they make this an incredible town,” he says.
“You can’t run a Public Works Department better than Steve Edwards does. Stuart McCarthy is doing great things at Parks and Rec. Those kinds of people are the glue — the institutional memory. They’ve served the town really well.”
Rose believes the RTM plays a vital role in town. “We’re the final say on most important issues,” he notes.
“The Board of Finance is definitely more politically driven than we are. So we act as a great check-and-balance. There are so many different points of view on the RTM, when we coalesce around an issue, you know it’s really been vetted.”
Rose says that the RTM has helped keep taxes down. “I don’t think people appreciate how low are taxes really are,” he says. “Look at Weston or Scarsdale.” He laughs. “Or what I’ll pay in Simsbury.”
Rose says that the RTM’s relationship with the Board of Education is now better than in the past. “We help them think a bit more about things, a bit earlier on. We’ve helped them cut waste, yet keep programs.”
One of Rose’s only regrets is that, as moderator, at times he had to hold his tongue. “Sometimes I really wanted to respond, and I couldn’t,” he says. “I had to be neutral, so no one could say the reason I ruled in a certain way was to favor something.”
As he leaves the RTM, Rose is buoyed by its future. “We’ve got lots of new people, with great perspectives,”he says. “There’s a lot of financial folks, but with different points of view. Some are conservative, some are relatively liberal. I’m very impressed with them.”
He will miss “working with the people on the RTM, and for the town. I’ve met a lot of extraordinary people. They’ve added a lot to Westport, and to my life.”
He will not miss “some of the baldly political decisions made by some bodies in town,” he says.
He is proud that the RTM is non-partisan. “I couldn’t tell you the political party of 8 or 9 members. And I don’t want to know.”
Rose will miss much about Westport, beyond the RTM. “There’s a good mix of people who put in tons of time to make this a better town,” he says. “They want it to be a great place, and they work to make it so.”
Oh, yeah. Rose will miss one more thing.
“Gold’s still makes a great pastrami sandwich.”