Jim Marpe: Volunteers Help Make Westport Work

The other day, Jim Marpe was talking about volunteerism in Westport.

He should know. His paid gig is first selectman — after a long career as a senior partner in Accenture — but before his election, Marpe served this town in a wide variety of capacities.

He was a 2-term Board of Education member (including vice chair); chairman of the Westport Weston Family YMCA board of trustees; Homes With Hope and Westport Rotary Club board member, and president of Greens Farms Congregational Church.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sports a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat. He himself is a member of the noontime Rotary Club.

First Selectman Jim Marpe sports a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race hat. He himself is a member of the noontime Rotary Club.

Marpe is also an active member of the Y’s Men, League of Women Voters, Longshore Men’s Golf Association, Minuteman Yacht Club, Saugatuck Rowing Club, Senior Center and Near & Far Aid Spring Gala Committee.

His remarks about volunteering were made at the Westport Woman’s Club. For over 100 years, members have made their mark: laying sidewalks, greening the Post Road, initiating a visiting nurse service, pioneering classes for children with learning disabilities, organizing emergency food distribution, granting scholarships — the list is long and proud.

But volunteering takes work. And as Westport changes, the face of volunteerism does too.

Last week, I asked Marpe to expand on his speech at the Woman’s Club. The topic is important to him. He was eager to do so.

Marpe said that many long-standing membership organizations here are “more challenged” than they were just a decade or so ago. Quite simply, it’s harder to find helping hands.

The Westport Woman's Club -- shown here in the Memorial Day parade -- has been helping Westport since 1907. (Photo/courtesy of Dorothy Curran)

The Westport Woman’s Club — shown here in the Memorial Day parade — has been helping Westport since 1907. (Photo/courtesy of Dorothy Curran)

Government bodies — elected and appointed town boards and commissions, from Education and Finance to the RTM and TEAM Westport — depend on volunteers too. Like clubs and organizations, they sometimes scramble.

But, Marpe said, at the same time there’s a great outpouring of volunteers for special projects.

The first selectman cited a recent “06880” story on the decrepit state of Sherwood Island’s 9/11 Memorial. Immediately, Westporters offered time and energy to clean it up. Some did it on their own; others joined a low-key but hard-working group called Friends of Sherwood Island.

Just in the previous few days, Marpe said, he’d seen scores of Westporters working hard at Lobster Fest, the Wakeman Town Farm Harvest Fest, and a food allergy and education walk.

Marpe pointed too to the many Westporters helping a Syrian refugee family adjust to the area, the numerous parents involved in children’s sports and arts activites, and Staples High School students who belong to groups like SLOBs (Service League of Boys).

Among their many efforts, SLOBs (Service League of Boys) sponsors an annual spring clean-up day.

Among their many efforts, SLOBs (Service League of Boys) sponsors an annual spring clean-up day.

“There’s still a volunteer spirit in town,” Marpe said. “But different things attract people today. They’re more willing to jump into short, defined activities, that have an end point.”

Town government service does not usually have an end (unless it’s the end of a term). Marpe admitted that there was a period when it was tough to find folks who would serve. But he thinks the pendulum is swinging back.

Recently, he said, 8 candidates interviewed for a vacancy on the Board of Finance. All were “very, very accomplished people.”

It’s not easy — particularly in these days of glaring social media — to ask men and women to “put themselves in the public eye,” Marpe said. “But in a town like ours, we rely on volunteers to make government work.”

Westport’s commitment to volunteerism remains strong, Marpe noted. In fact, he said, “we’re still in the forefront of communities where individuals give of themselves. Volunteers are the people who make Westport, Westport.”

Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

7 responses to “Jim Marpe: Volunteers Help Make Westport Work

  1. Westport is a case-study for the growing trend toward “term-based” volunteer opportunities, rather than membership in traditional voluntary organizations. Yes, many people are glad to turn out to help clean up Sherwood Island, but are then reluctant to join a group (and pay dues) to what they perceive as a bureaucracy. The challenge for these longstanding associations is to find new ways to engage these enthusiastic volunteers, then retain them as contributing members.

  2. Lovely and meaningful story. Also, Jim Marpe loves dogs, the latest, I believe, is “Olivia”, so that is one more plus.
    Don Bergmann

  3. Jim. We are fortunate to have you as the First Selectman of Westport You care. I do not think people know how hard you work-how dedicated you are and how much time you spend doing the work that is needed.

    You are fair while also helping to secure the financial condition of Westport. While many towns are experiencing significant property tax increases, we are not. You have focused a lot at brining efficiency into our town Government.

    You have also asked people for help and to volunteer. The energy project is a great example of getting smart people to volunteer to help guide you. It is a real sign of leadership.

    Jim-thank you!!

    • North Korea called. They love the new Dear Leader Saturday feature.

      • Phwahaha! (Transliteration of sound meant to equal that of airborne coffee flying out of my mouth from laughing if I were depicted in a storyboard prior to animation or filming). “Dear Leader”… Oh this is precious Mr.Boyd!

        These posts of yours need trigger warnings. People often have a big cup of coffee or some other liquid at their desk you know. Important papers & files & those little antiques that cannot be washed under ANY circumstances are sitting there (a rare & priceless antique book or something). Then suddenly Mr.Boyd’s “Dear Leader” post is stealthily upon them — JUST after they’ve taken a sip. The papers files antique unwashable book — all of it — RUINED.

        Not only that. Now I am going to look like a crazy person walking down the street or in a supermarket & suddenly laughing to MYSELF seemingly apropos of NOTHING (exactly like James Dean used to do) whenever I remember this post from Mr.Shuldman followed by this “Dear Leader” response.

      • PS x Mr.Boyd:

        After having literally been brought to tears laughing reading these two posts one after another (a requirement for that specific result — as they don’t work on their own) I realised: You may have missed that in paragraph two / lines 5-7 we are informed that Mr.Marpe has an “efficient” “government” pickling operation.

  4. Kendall Gardiner

    I didn’t know we had a Syrian refugee family in the area.
    I would be interested in joining efforts to help support them in any way I can.
    I can be reached @ vkg18@aol.com