Unsung Heroes #20

Many Westporters know them only if there’s a problem.

Compo overcrowded? Call the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Issue with your new deck? Call the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Aquarion building a huge water tower nearby? Call your RTM member.

“They” are the men and women who volunteer for our town boards and commissions. In addition to the above, there’s the Board of Finance, Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission and more.

(Photo by Cathy Zuraw/Connecticut Post)

They spend countless hours reading reports, fielding emails and phone calls, and attending meetings (and meetings and meetings).

They get criticized for taking stands, taking votes, and not taking votes.

They even put up (and take down) their own road signs.

And they do it for no pay.

Zero. Nada.

That’s why they’re called volunteers.

They seldom get thanked. Even during election season, we seldom think of the enormous sacrifices our volunteer town officials make to make Westport the wonderful place it is.

That’s why everyone who runs for public office — Democrats, Republicans and independents; men and women; lawyers, business executives, stay-at-home parents and retirees; winners and losers — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

You’ve got our “vote” of thanks!

(Want to nominate your own Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)


17 responses to “Unsung Heroes #20

  1. Thank you for saying thanks, Dan Woog!
    I have served on the RTM for four years, and when we RTMers are thanked for volunteering our time and our “free” service, we always appreciate it!
    We serve because we love our community and care about Westport! ~Kristan Hamlin, RTM district #4

  2. Chip Stephens SHS '73

    Thank you Coach Woog. I have enjoyed and worked hard to do my best for Westport during my 7 years with Planning and Zoning. All 7 of us and 3 alternates spend Thursday nights from 7PM to 11, or midnight sometimes, listening, deliberating and deciding land use issues to the best of our abilities. I know we can’t please all, all the time, but I know we make a positive difference over all for Westport.
    When we get attacked for our beliefs and votes, when we are called names and berated for “not pleasing all, all the time” we could go negative and fight back or quit. But we don’t, we spend hours reading and prepare for the next weeks docket and votes. We move on, we do our best, and we appreciate the thanks that we do get. Thank you Dan for your support, it matters !

  3. Yes, these volunteers absolutely deserve our thanks.

  4. Thanks so much, Dan, for recognizing us volunteers. You are our unsung hero!

  5. It’s quite perplexing really:

    – First you work VERY hard to get elected to one of these positions on a Town board, body or commission – countless hours at the dump, walking neighborhoods, working the train station at 5:30 am; attending meet and greets, maybe participating in a LWV debate, and let’s not forget raising money to campaign properly;

    – THEN, if your hard work pays off and you are actually elected, the (even harder) work begins as you serve on the board, body or commission, prepare for and attend its meetings, perhaps serve on a sub-committee or two, often sitting in Town Hall late into the evening ;

    – ALL THE WHILE hearing plenty from those who disagree with some position you took or something you voted for (because, as Chip Stephens pointed out, you will NEVER please all of the people all of the time) or perhaps they don’t care for your political party affiliation (as if national politics has anything to do with the issues you face on your board, body or commission), or maybe they or their friend or their party lost to you in the last election and they aren’t quite (ever) able to move on. Remember, you worked your ass off to get elected to this post!

    What’s most often lacking is a private or public thank you – not that you ran for office because you might get thanked. And I can say this from my own repeated experience: Dan Woog will personally, and frequently, thank you for your service to the Town – regardless of your party affiliation or the positions you take. Just as he has done (again) with this post.

    Following Dan’s example, let me personally extend a warm thank you to every RTM member, every member of the ZBA, P&Z, BoF, BoE, BoAA, and everyone who serves on the numerous appointed boards (too many to name), you all provide your valuable time and intellect for no other reason than out of a desire to be a service to this great Town. My deepest respect and appreciation.

    • Chip Stephens SHS '73

      and THANK YOU Jack for your 6 years on P and Z
      Your sacrifice and wisdom made a difference.

  6. Robert Mitchell

    What’s the best way for voters to learn about the RTM candidates in their districts before the election? Rather than looking for vaguely familiar names on the ballot while standing in the school gym.

    • Hi Robert!
      The League of Women Voters of Westport (LWV), provides, as a nonpartisan public service, a Voters guide. Here is the link! http://westport.voterguide.info
      Nicole Klein – RTM District 5 Candidate

    • Robert Harrington

      Robert – we have reached out to many of them to discuss thier views. The meet and mingle events are great – but take some time. There was one last night and one on Monday by the WLV. I am passionate about education and we factually track who voted for budget restoration and who didn’t. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate and respect every member. We do. I do. They ran. We didn’t. But there are 48 people running for 36 places so at some point people need to make a decision. If it’s one Education we can help you. If you are looking at other issues beyond – you will have to use other resources. On education – we have highlighted how people voted on education when there was a major vote in May. We are also highlight some of the excellent new comers that are clearly fully supportive of full school budgets – (and the ones that are running precisely because of the school budgets) and we felt it was important to highlight that list too. If you want that list we can get yet to you.

    • Hi Robert, in addition to the LWV guide (thank you LWV), some RTM candidates have websites too. I’m running for the RTM in district 2 and have one (www.voteschatz.com). I’m sure that others do too. There’s no place for us to list them, unfortunately, but if you Google your district you’d probably find them.

      And thank you Dan, your blog post made my day.

  7. I had no idea so many of these posts were volunteers. Thanks Dan and thanks to the volunteers who keep the locomotion (so to speak) running the town after your work day has ended!

  8. Andrew Colabella

    The projects, reports, but most importantly getting to speak to constituents and residents from all over Westport, with all different backgrounds with experience, knowledge and ideas is whats so intriguing in these positions. That’s why I am so happy to run from RTM District 4!

    If nothing is said, nothing is done. Speak out people! Happy to listen and answer what I can.

  9. Robert Harrington

    Dan – this is an excellent piece. Last night at the “Meet and Mingle” The Westport Public Schools Budget Petition Group (2000 signatures from Westporters for non partisan / town wide petition ahead of the successful May 2017 RTM Education Restoration vote) came along with a many students to say THANK YOU to elected officials who stood up and went that extra mile for our schools in the run up to that crucial vote. The students explained to residents attending why the vote was important and they thanks many of the elected officials who attended last night. We handed out a GOLDEN TICKET highlighting the 6 people we feel did the most (in front of the cameras, and more importantly behind the scenes – from we could see and knew at the time) to secure a successful vote on the education budget. This is NOT about party. On that list we had Democrats, Republicans and Independents (Andrea Moore, Melissa Kane, Jennifer Johnson, Candi Savin & Elaine Whitney & Jimmy Izzo). They are of course not the ONLY ones who supported our schools – but we lived through the April and May votes in our town and those were the 6 who were deeply engaged and encouraged our campaign more than anyone else. Without these 6 people’s support we are pretty confident the budget would not have been restored.

    This Golden Ticket is just that – a celebration and a thank you.

    In addition we came to list, thank and celebrate 23 of the current RTM members that are re-running for RTM or another elected position – that all voted to restore our school budgets last May. Many people in our community don’t know who voted yes – and we came to say thank you to those that did.

    It was great to see the students come out and say thank you – we have some great photos of them doing so!

  10. Surprised it took so long for a post like the above to show up here; it is election season after all – but on THIS “unsung heroes” topic every one of the 36 RTM members are worthy of praise and appreciation, not just those who supported a particular cause – i.e., you missed the point by a country mile

    • Robert Harrington

      I think it’s important to celebrate people like Andrea Moore and Jimmy Izzo who did so much that people didn’t see in the run up to that vote in May. Our petiton campaign (when was the last time a Westport petiton got over 2000 signatures only from residents?) and the students that spoke at the debate (and attended last night too) wanted to celebrate our schools and say thank you. I’m glad they came and said thank you.