Unsung Heroes #119

The other day, I posted a story about a long, important RTM meeting. After 3 hours, our town’s legislative body voted narrowly — 18-16 — against a motion to ban recreational marijuana sales in Westport. (Such sales are not yet legal in Connecticut.)

That was typical of our Representative Town Meeting. Once a month they meet to debate and approve town and education budgets, and all town appropriations over $20,000; enact ordinances; review bonds, leases, sales and purhcases of town property; review zoning, recreation and other regulations, and oversee labor agreements with town and Board of Education employees.

They meet much more frequently in committees. Each member serves on several.

It’s time-consuming, arduous and thankless work. And every 2 years, RTM members must run for re-election.

Fortunately, serving on the body is not all work and no play. Last week, 23 members — along with the town clerk and RTM secretary — gathered for lunch at Tavern on Main.

Member Matthew Mandell — whose day job is executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — organized the event. It was a way for everyone to spend time together outside of Town Hall. (And yes, for the Chamber to promote Restaurant Week.)

The RTM lunch at Tavern on Main.

It was the middle of election season. But, Mandell says, “people enjoyed that we could all sit together. Political party means nothing to us” — the RTM is non-partisan.

“It was nice to just BS, and not discuss any issue coming before us, or even around town. The RTM has had some late nights recently. This was a good break.”

(Even though there was a quorum, no official notice was required. “Social gatherings do not constitute an illegal meeting — just fun,” explains town clerk Patty Strauss.)

“The RTM is a collegial bunch who volunteer a lot of time to the town,” Mandell notes.

So, to all 36 members — and all the others, running for a seat — thank you for all you do for Westport. You are our Unsung Heroes of the Week.

We hope you enjoyed your lunch. Now get back to work!

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)


17 responses to “Unsung Heroes #119

  1. Thanks to all the RTMers who work so hard furor Town. Get to know them folks! Call them with concerns and praise or email them.
    Thanks Dan for posting this article.

  2. Kristin Schneeman

    Thank you so much, Dan, this means a lot, especially coming from a District 9 constituent! 🙂 It really is a pleasure and a privilege to serve with this committed (and fun) group of civic-minded neighbors. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to work with them!

  3. Tom Feeley Sr

    The RTM is a fascinating way to learn all about Westport. It’s time consuming, sometimes tedious work with long hours and zero compensation, but you meet some really interesting people. Plus you get to pay back your Town and pick up some strong Karma points.

    Thanks Matt and all you guys for your service🙏

    • Mr Feeley,
      The RTM is compensated.
      As someone who has lived here full time for over 30 years, the town has been a wonderful place to raise my family. The town has been good to us and it feels excellent to have the privilege of helping to make Westport an even better place
      Dan, thank you for posting this.
      Love my town ❤️

      Karen Kramer
      RTM 5
      Always available

  4. Robert Mitchell

    Time-consuming and arduous, but, hopefully, not thankless.
    Thank you all!

  5. Mike McGovern

    A good way to express your appreciation for the RTM is to vote- it shows respect.

  6. This is awesome, Dan – Many thanks! As a newer member of the RTM (I was appointed to fill the District 8 vacancy left by Lee Arthurs in July), I learned quickly just how dedicated Westport RTM reps are. The last two meetings ran from 7:30 pm until well after midnight (October’s meeting had me pulling away from Town Hall around 1am) and yet that doesn’t even hold a candle to the diligent, thoughtful, time-intensive work going on behind the scenes. I’m in awe of all of my RTM colleagues and their service to this town and proud to have joined their ranks.

    (Also a shout out to Matt for planning a lovely, fun lunch!)

  7. Thank you, Mr Woog, for honoring RTMers for this weeks “Unsung Heros!” It’s an incredible privilege to be able to serve my/our town and I want to say THANK YOU to Mike McGovern for spotlighting the importance of VOTING. Upcoming RTM (and all other Westport municipal elections) will occur on Tuesday November 5th. Please reach out to our (awesome!) registrar of voters for specific information pertaining to your specific voting/polling location. http://www.westportct.gov

  8. It was a fun lunch 😊.
    Thank you Matthew for putting it together
    Karen Kramer
    District 5

  9. Werner Liepolt

    The RTM is a potentially awesome institution that has kept Westport on track through countless Scylla and Charybdis situations.

    I wonder however at current leadership’s ability to honestly represent residents’ concerns as they ignore a legitimate petition to investigate dumping of polluting materials on Baron’s South to which I am a signatory.

    Filed weeks ago, the petition seems to be smothered in bureaucratic obfuscation rather than the clear response one would expect from a no nonsense New England representative town meeting.

    Let’s get members who investigate and dig rather than play games in the next election.

    • Mr. Liepolt-

      The RTM Rules Committee will be Meeting Wednesday October 23, 2019 at 7:30 room 309 in town hall.

      Please come and listen, public comment will be welcome.

      Know our Moderator, Dr. Velma Heller is one of the most respected members of the Representative Town Meeting Body. Velma, is simply a class act who shoots straight, and does a phenomenal job leading the RTM.

      If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss.

      Jimmy Izzo
      RTM 3

      • Jay M Walshon MD FACEP

        Nice show of appreciation Dan, but a bit obsequious with this article coming right on the heels of an election.

        The mutual admiration society on display here by the current RTMers is not unexpected, as complimenting oneself is human nature. And no doubt the long hours donated to our Town deserves recognition and appreciation.

        But during all this self-congratulation let us not lose site of the fact that the intent of the RTM is to accurately represent the wishes of their constituents on matters of importance rather than what the public witnesses meeting after long meeting.

        This puff piece arrives immediately after a long list of RTMers published a defensive smug scathing assault on their own colleagues, and seems to be a marketing attempt to control the fall out that ugly posting created.

        Now an RTM member actually chides a concerned Westport resident for daring to hold up a mirror, and in so doing ingratiates his colleagues with his pandering.

        The fact remains that far too often concerned residents are dismissed, insulted, tarnished and even intimidated when they dare to challenge Town politics, process and decisions. The thin skin of the RTM is far too evident.

        As this is written, the RTM moderator has intentionally impeded a public petition requesting that the people’s house (RTM) discuss, resolve and adjudicate the intolerable toxic waste that was dumped on Baron’s South. This is a fact that the entire Westport electorate need to know.

        Whether this is of her own doing, or due to pressure being applied by other Town officials who are intent on burying the accountability of this egregious issue, no one yet knows. But the public wants the answers – and wants to see how their RTM reps act on this PRIOR TO this election..

        Enough is enough. The Town’s residents want this fixed now, want to be part of the solution, want to know how this happened, and want to know who will be held accountable.

        Thank you Walter for having the courage to insert an important meaningful reality into this posting thread.

      • Werner Liepolt

        Thanks for the invite.


        There doesn’t seem to be anything relevant to the polluted dumping on Barons South on your agenda?!

  10. Thanks for this, Dan. Working on the RTM is a privilege. Every issue becomes a learning experience, the meetings (even the loooong ones) are master classes in group problem-solving, the members are wonderful individuals dedicated to doing the right things for our town. And thanks, Matthew, for managing to corral so many of us for that fun lunch. Everybody please vote on the 5th!

  11. Thanks Dan for the shout out. I have enjoyed everyone of my 22 years on the RTM and hope to serve many more. Great group of citizens.

  12. Thanks Dan for your shout out. I have enjoyed every one of my 22 years on the RTM serving District 7, and look forward to many more. Jack Klinge