In 2005, Jim Marpe found himself on the Board of Education.
He’d spent 28 years with Accenture, retiring 3 years earlier as a senior partner. His career had taken him to Chicago, Copenhagen, then New York. That final move in 1989 brought Marpe, his wife Mary Ellen and daughter Samantha to Westport. They came — as so many do — for the schools and amenities.
In retirement Marpe played golf, enjoyed his boat and traveled. But growing up in modest circumstances in Canton, Ohio, his parents had always emphasized giving back to the community. And Accenture had always emphasized lifelong learning, he says.
So when Republican Town Committee chair Pete Wolgast asked if he’d be interested in a suddenly vacant seat on the Board of Ed, he was intrigued.
First Selectman Jim Marpe
Marpe put his management and financial talents to use, in an area that accounts for 2/3 of Westport’s total budget. He was elected to 2 subsequent terms, and served as vice chair.
In 2013, 1st Selectman Gordon Joseloff announced he would not run for a 3rd term. Marpe realized this was a chance to apply his organizational and management skills in another meaningful way. He also hoped to repair what had become a difficult relationship between the Board of Education and Town Hall.
He and running mate Avi Kaner won. Instead of 8 schools, Marpe now oversaw 16 direct reports. Each ran a “different business. Even the Fire Department is very different from the Police Department,” he notes.
His job was to “keep people out of their silos.” Monthly staff meetings brought all department heads into the same room. He met regularly with each head and deputy. His goal was to create a team that served the town in a coordinated way.
He inherited “high-quality people, who understand Westport.” His job was to coach them, and help them reach their potential.
Marpe has decided not to run for a 3rd term. Now 74, heading toward his 2nd retirement, he looks back on nearly 8 years of accomplishments. He and his administration have made their mark in areas like the Downtown Plan and Implementation Committee, Baron’s South, Senior Center, Longshore Inn and golf course, First Responder Civilian Review Panel, pension reform, sustainability, the new combined Public Safety Dispatch Center, Greens Farms railroad station, even the town website.
He has kept the mill rate remarkably stable, despite economic volatility at the state and federal levels.
At the January 2020 “State of the Town” meeting, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe described another year with no property tax increase.
But nothing could have prepared the town’s chief executive for a year like 2020.
Responding to COVID — a global pandemic that quickly became very local, with Westport the site of one of the nation’s first super-spreader events — demanded every tool in Marpe’s box.
He gathered and analyzed hard data. He made tough decisions, like closing beaches and the Senior Center. He communicated complex ideas to jittery residents, with empathy and understanding.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s first COVID news conference at Town Hall — before mask wearing became well publicized.
In the midst of all that came protests over racial injustice. A month later, Hurricane Isaias knocked out power for many Westporters, for up to a week.
Marpe is proud of his team’s responses to those events. But he also cites less-noticed accomplishments.
Working with Jim Ross and the Commission on People with Disabilities opened his eyes, and expanded his thinking. That propelled his push for greater accessibility at Compo Beach.
A new walkway and bathrooms were controversial. But, Marpe says, “when I see someone who’s physically impaired enjoying a picnic or sunset there now, I get emotional.”
The new South Beach boardwalk increases accessibility and adds safety.
His strong relationship with Police Chief Foti Koskinas, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey and Connecticut Anti-Defamation League director Steve Ginsburg (a Westport resident) helped the town navigate the Black Lives Matter and subsequent Asian-American protests.
When he came into office, Marpe admits, “I didn’t expect to encounter things like that. But they’re a part of the job, just like cutting the ribbon at a new business opening, and seeing how excited people are to open up here.”
1st Selectman Jim Marpe brings oversized scissors to ribbon cuttings for new stores, restaurants, even (as shown here) law firms.
Not everyone is happy with how everything works in Westport, he knows. “But if someone contacts me with a reasonable request, and I can help solve their problem, and along the way make the community better, that’s my job.”
He feels grateful for the opportunity to get to know a broad swath of Westport — people he might not have met, businesses and organizations outside of his own interests.
“It’s fascinating what makes up Westport,” Marpe says. “Not a lot of communities our size have that tapestry. My appreciation for this town grows every day.”
Marpe served on the Homes with Hope board since the 1990s (along with many others, like the Westport Weston Family YMCA, Westport Rotary Club and Greens Farms Congregational Church). He is awed by the work these organizations — and so many others — do to make life better for overlooked or marginalized people.
First Selectman Jim Marpe is a Rotary Club member. When volunteers were needed for the LobsterFest, he and his wife Mary Ellen pitched in.
At the same time, he appreciates the town’s long commitment to the arts. (His wife Mary Ellen is the former owner and director of the Westport Academy of Dance.) As 1st selectman, he created the new positions of townwide arts curator and poet laureate.
For the past 7 years, Marpe has been on call 24/7. While on the golf course — even on rare vacations — his phone rings. The recent birth of his grandson made the decision to not run again a bit easier.
His successor will face many challenges. A bureaucratic morass at the state and federal levels has prevented Marpe from moving forward on Saugatuck River dredging.
“We have to do it,” he says firmly. “If we don’t it will silt up, with real consequences for what makes Westport unique, even among shoreline towns.”
He worked across the aisle with Lieutenant Governor Bysewiez and state legislators Will Haskell and Jonathan Steinberg to address traffic issues at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection downtown, and Main Street/Weston Road/Easton Road near Merritt Parkway Exit 42. “Unfortunately, that’s still the way I found it,” he says.
Plans for Baron’s South will be revealed in 2 or 3 months. But finding the best use for the Golden Shadows building on the property remains a challenge.
And of course, debate continues on the fate of the William F. Cribari Bridge.
The next first selectman will face controversy over the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge (Photo/Chuck Greenlee)
But Marpe is excited for the future of Westport. “Downtown feels good again. It’s still the heartbeat of our community — along with Saugatuck, our other ‘downtown.'”
When he hands his swipe card to his successor 7 months from now, what advice can he give?
“Getting into this office involves political activity,” Marpe says. “But once you’re in, it’s about management, like metrics and budgets, and leadership — people skills. It’s the same as any business.
“But what’s different from running a business is that this is a democracy. Boards and commissions have a lot of say. You have to work with those leaders and members. They’re part of the process.”
He’s pleased to have a strong relationship with the superintendent of schools, Thomas Scarice — a goal when he first ran for 1st selectman, in 2013.
Back then, Jim Marpe had never heard the word “coronavirus.” He did not know the name “Isaias.”
Seven years later, they are now 2 parts of his long, and very impressive, legacy.
Jim Marpe walks his daughter Samantha down the aisle. He looks forward to spending time with his new grandson,
It’s spring, which means you’ve been thinking about raising chickens.
Or maybe you already have a flock, but want to learn more about organic nutrition or chicken swings.
Cluck — I mean, click — on a link next Monday (April 12, 7 p.m.).
Bruce Benedict (Benedict’s Home and Garden) and Mackenzie Chauncey (Kent Nutrition Group) will tell you (virtually) everything you want to know about starting and raising your own backyard flock.
Bruce will walk you through the best coops, breeds and feeders to keep your birds happy and healthy. Mackenzie will guide you through feeding, from baby chicks to laying hens, and all their nutritional needs along the way. You’ll also see how see how WTF is raising their own chicks.
Click here to register. NOTE: Like raising chickens, this is a family affair — suitable for all ages.
In June, 19 Staples High School students will graduate with High Honors. That’s the top 4% of the graduating class.
Principal Stafford Thomas says, “the most astonishing aspect of this accomplishment is that these students were involved in a number of extracurricular activities and various aspects of school life, which took a great deal of time, focus and concentration outside of the classroom as well. We were lucky to have had them for 4 years. We will no doubt be hearing about their next great achievements in the years to come.”
High Honors students are listed below, under the photos.
From left: Assistant principal Patrick Micinilio, Gary Lu, Principal Stafford Thomas, Carolyn Everett, Emma Dantas, Claire Redmer, Claire Lee, Sophia Lauterbach, Hanna Even, Simon Rubin
From left to right: Samantha Webster, Nasir Wynruit, Andrea Bautista, Henry Portman, Charlotte Zhang, Rishabh Mandayam, Teagan Smith, Alexander Toglia, Elana Atlas, Konur Nordberg.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe issued another COVID update today. It includes information about vaccines — and word that the town is planning for a Memorial Day parade, and a Levitt Pavilion season. He says:
Beginning today, all Connecticut residents and workers aged 16 and older are eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. For local vaccine scheduling instructions and locations, go to www.wwhd.org.
Health officials urge all who are able and eligible to register to get vaccinated. Those requiring special services and assistance with homebound vaccinations or transportation to vaccination appointments through Westport Transit should contact the town Department of Human Services (203-341-1050).
Fortunately, many of the most vulnerable in Westport are already vaccinated. They are enjoying the peace of mind and the realization that they are doing their part to help our community, neighbors, families and friends move into a spring and summer with less fear of infection from this horrible virus.
Although numerous people have been vaccinated, it is vital that COVID protocols remain in place until we are certain that transmission is decreasing.
Currently there is a surge in COVID-19 cases in Connecticut, and Westport remains in the red category with 28.5 positive cases per 100,000 population. We are seeing the effects of more social gatherings, travel, and a relaxation of COVID protocols.
Travel increases the chance of getting and transmitting COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control recommends that you refrain from non-essential travel and follow the travel guidelines,
The CDC also recommends continuing to follow its COVID guidelines and protocols, specifically mask wearing, social distancing and good hygiene, even as restrictions are loosened and the vaccine is further administered.
“Masked COVID Portrait” — drawn by Dereje Tarrant, age 14.
Much of the uptick in cases is occurring in younger residents, and those in their 20’s and 30’s. There have been reports of large teen and youth groups gathering at Compo Beach without masks. Parents, please remind your children to wear masks when they cannot socially distance, even at the beach and other outdoor locations.
The Governor’s Executive Orders declaring a state-of-emergency have been extended to May 20. That means that COVID protocols and restrictions remain in place unless noted otherwise.
The town continues to work towards reopening more amenities and activities with the optimism that Westport will return to the yellow or gray status on the State’s color-coded COVID map, and that more people will be fully vaccinated. These include:
The Center for Senior Activities and Toquet Hall are planning for the possibility of outdoor and limited indoor programming in late spring or early summer.
The Parks & Recreation Department and Selectman’s Office continue to plan for a Memorial Day parade.
The Parks and Recreation Department is preparing to open its facilities, and plan to offer programs that were not available last year due to COVID-19.
Longshore golf course is open for play, as are several tennis locations, Compo Beach pickleball courts, the skate park facility, platform tennis, Compo basketball courts, and playgrounds.
Compo Skate Park is back open. (Photo/ldinkinphotography)
The Board of Selectmen approved the Downtown Merchants Association’s Fitness and Health Expo for May 1,, and the Fine Arts Festival for May 29-30.
The Board of Selectmen approved the closure of Church Lane starting April 15, to allow for expanded outdoor dining.
The Board of Selectmen approved the use of the Imperial Avenue lot for the Remarkable Theater’s drive-in movie theater. and for the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library’s Supper and Soul events.
The Levitt Pavilion is planning its season, to be held in compliance with any necessary COVID considerations related to outdoor venues.
Westport is approaching the end of the Passover week, as well as this Easter weekend. Both are important symbols of renewal and new beginnings that we associate with the arrival of spring. I wish all who observe these important holidays the joy that is associated with those celebrations.
And to all Westport residents, I ask for a renewed commitment to working through the COVID pandemic together in a safe and responsible manner. In doing so, we can all enjoy the pleasures of our community that come with the spring and summer months.
As Easter approaches, the days get longer and brighter. But continued vigilance is needed. (Photo/Craig Patton)
The new operators of the Longshore Inn have big plans.
This afternoon (Wednesday, March 31, 5:30 p.m.), Charles Mallory — CEO of Greenwich Hospitality Group, which runs the very successful Delamar Hotels — joins Dave Briggs on Instagram Live to reveal what’s ahead.
Listen — and respond in real time — via @WestportMagazine. You can send questions on Instagram ahead of time too: @DaveBriggsTV.
The Westport Transit District recently replaced its previous fixed route system with Wheels2U Westport service, an on-demand, door-to-train station group shuttle service.
As part of the changeover, posters advertising the 50-year-old fixed route service at the Saugatuck train station were replaced with new ones highlighting the advantages of Wheels2U.
The Westport Transit District donated one of those now-historic fixed route posters to the Westport Museum for History & Culture yesterday. for its collection.
With Metro-North ridership beginning to pick up again, Wheels2U provides a convenient, reliable, and inexpensive way to get to and from the Westport and Greens Farms train stations. It serves a larger portion of Westport and meets more trains than the prior fixed route service.
Riders can order a ride using the Wheels2U phone app, be picked up at their door and then dropped off at the station platform at any time between 5:45 and 9:45 a.m., and 4 and 8 p.m. Reverse commuters can take the shuttle from the train station to their jobs almost anywhere in Westport for less than other alternatives.
Future plans for the WTD include getting more employees to their jobs, shoppers to stores, and seniors to the Senior Center.
For Wheels2U Westport’s service area, fares and other information, click here. For information about Westport Transit’s door-to-door services for the elderly and people with a disability, click here.
Westport Transit District director Peter Gold presents Westport Museum of History & Culture collections director Nicole Carpenter with a now-historic Westport Transit District poster.
The ospreys are back — and not just at Fresh Market.
Chris Swan spotted one pair of the magnificent raptors at the nesting platform on Sherwood Mill Pond. He saw another on the saltmarsh at the end of Beachside Common, behind the Nature Center at Sherwood Island State Park. Welcome home to those two happy couples!
A Fresh Market — not Sherwood Island — osprey. (Photo.Carolyn Doan)
Patagonia is holding a food drive for Homes with Hope. Bring non-perishable goods like canned chicken, tuna, salmon and soup, mayonnaise, peanut butter and jelly, cereal and pasta source to the downtown store.
They also sell “Patagonia Provisions” — items that can be bought, then given away. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)
Taylor Whiteside (Whitey) Bailey, a Wesport native and member of a prominent Westport family, died March 18 in Escondido, California of natural causes. He was 88 years old.
He was the 5th child of Franklin and Mary Alice Bailey. His mother was well known here as the assistant to Miss Irene Comer at her dancing school, held in the second floor ballroom of the Westport YMCA. His father was the stepson of Arthur Dare Whiteside, a founder and president of Dun & Bradstreet, and one of the early developers of the Sylvan Road and Nash’s Pond areas of Westport.
Bailey’s brother and sisters included Mary Bailey Beck, Ann Bailey Hall, Franklin Bailey, Jr. and Dare Bailey Wells, all deceased. Joan Whiteside was his step-sister.
Bailey attended Bedford Elementary School and Bedford Junior High School, and was a 1950 graduate of Staples High School. He was a competitive swimmer at Longshore Country Club and a lifeguard at Compo Beach.
He joined the U.S. Marines after high school, and served overseas from 1950-53 during the Korean War. While stationed with the Marines at Camp Pendleton, he was chosen to be the jeep driver in the movie “Retreat, Hell.”
Bailey and his first wife, Allison Norris Bailey, moved to California from Westport in the late 1950s. The former sales manager of Pace Arrow motor home company, he spent the last 25 years of his life in Fallbrook, California.
Allison Norris Bailey and Mr. Bailey’s second wife, Jan Bailey, are deceased.
He is survived by twin sons Kim W. Bailey and Timothy Norris Bailey, both of Westport; Will Mason Bailey of Maui, and 3 grandchildren.
A bill that would have banned municipalities from imposing high fees that might restrict non-residents from using public beaches — and from barring out-of-towners in order to prevent the spread of COVID — will not come up for a vote in the state legislature.
Politicians are spending their time on 2 other controversial measures — zoning reform and affordable housing — instead. The deadline for moving bills out of committee is April 5.
Speaking of our Parks & Recreation … they say:
“It has been nice to see so many people out using our facilities as the weather has improved, including some people using the Longshore golf course as an open space for walking. As of Monday (March 29), it will be open for play, and no longer available for those not actively playing golf.
“Please keep in mind, even using the roadways through Longshore can be dangerous as errant golf balls can cause serious injury or damage. For your safety, we urge you to use other locations for getting outside.”
Even with social distancing, Longshore golf course is off limits. (Photo/Mary Sikorski)
Westport Country Playhouse’s popular “Script in Hand” series returns next month, with a virtual play reading of “Rent Control.” The Off-Broadway hit comedy tells the true story of a struggling-to-survive New York actor who invents a moneymaking scheme that (of course) backfires.
After premiering April 26 (7 p.m.), “Rent Control” is available on demand from April 27 through May 2.
Virtual tickets are available online, at 203-227-4177, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier his week, Westport firefighters assisted the Westport Weston Health District and Department of Human Services by providing COVID vaccinations to homebound residents.
And … while delivering the vaccines, Fire Department members performed home safety inspections, including inspecting flammable substance storage, and checking and installing smoke and CO2 alarms.
Then yesterday morning, our firefighters helped Human Services by loading and unloading food boxes from the Connecticut Food Bank. 60 will be distributed to food-insecure households in Westport. Two more pick-ups are scheduled next month.
For more information on food resources, email email@example.com or call 203-341-1050.
Kudos to all involved. It takes a village — and ours is a great one. (Hat tip: Jennifer Gallini Petrosinelli)
Firefighter Liz Ferguson helps with food distribution.
Yesterday, the Board of Selectman unanimously adopted this resolution:
WHEREAS, Asian-Pacific American communities are suffering acts of discrimination, hate crimes, and microaggressions, which have been exposed and heightened due to COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, anti-Asian rhetoric and sentiment is stigmatizing, tends to incite fear and xenophobia, and numerous Asian-Pacific Americans are experiencing increased racial profiling, hate incidents, and, in some cases, hate violence; and
WHEREAS, in an effort to bring attention to baseless and xenophobic actions, hate speech, and bias, and most particularly, those against the Asian American and Pacific Island community, the Town of Westport must demonstrate its support for neighbors, families and friends who are adversely affected and traumatized by these acts.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Westport Board of Selectmen emphatically denounces xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment. The Town of Westport joins municipalities, counties, and states across the country in affirming its commitment to the safety and well-being of Asian-Pacific Americans and in combating hate crimes targeting Asian-Pacific Americans; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Westport remains committed to condemning all manner of racism, stigmatization, hate speech, hate crimes, xenophobia, discrimination and violence. Protecting residents, business owners, workforce members, and victims of hate through supportive programs and policies that embrace inclusivity, diversity, civil discourse, and acceptance for all, remains at the forefront of our intentions as a community to combat hate and racial injustices.
After 38 years as founder and chair of the Susan Fund — where she oversaw raising and distributing nearly $2 million in scholarships to 285 Fairfield County students diagnosed with cancer — Ann Lloyd has stepped down from her role.
Incoming chair Jeff Booth’s first official act was to name Ann chairman emeritus.
That’s her second recent honor. Last month, the indefatigable Westporter was an “06880” Unsung Hero of the Week.
And speaking of sports: Dave Briggs is a great interviewer. (He should be: He spent more than 2 decades at Fox News, NBC Sports and CNN.) His Instagram Live sessions have become must-see viewing for ever-larger audiences.
It helps that he snags great guests.
Today’s is Jay Williams. The NBA analyst and ESPN radio host is — like Dave — a a Westport resident.
It’s live at 2 p.m. today (Thursday, March 25; @WestportMagazine). The 2 guys welcome your questions. Shoot!
The chain offers “wholesome, healthy food that not only tastes great, but makes you feel great.” Food is “carefully sourced … from farmers and purveyors we trust, guaranteeing all of our food is gluten-free and better for you.”
The menu includes make-your-own rice and quinoa-based meals, poké and other bowls, vegetable sides, and breakfast sandwiches, parfaits and oatmeal.
Little Beet would open that summer, I confidently said.
COVID and (perhaps) other issues intervened. The storefront sat empty. But now, work has begun.
Registration for Westport Parks & Recreation spring and summer programs begins online on March 22 (9 a.m.). Click here for all offerings, including sports, Camp Compo and RECing Crew. Click here to register.
The Parks & Rec office remains closed to the public. Staff is available via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (203-341-5152 weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and mail (260 Compo Road South, Westport, CT 06880).
For registration, check your online account tnow. Log in, then click “Manage Family Members” on the bottom right. To view more details, click the name of a specific family member. Make any changes, then hit “save.” For address changes, email email@example.com.
If you cannot log into your online account, do not create another profile. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-341-5152.
The Westport resident — a journalist, author, and anchor of CNN’s morning show “New Day” — has been elected as a Westport Country Playhouse trustee.
Camerota led a community conversation 3 years ago on “Female Power Unleashed: Politics and Positive Change.” She was featured in a documentary celebrating the theater’s 90-season history last fall, and has been a Playhouse subscriber and supporter for several years.
She’ll serve with artist, economist, producer, fellow Westporter — and new board chair — Anna Czekaj-Farber. Former chair Barbara Streicker of Westport remains on the board.
Playhouse managing director Michael Barker lauds Streicker for her leadership during the pandemic
The 2021 season is scheduled to begin in April — online and in-person. Safety guidelines will be announced soon.
4-year-old Elodie Kubik was born with Epidermolysis Bullosa. She is missing a critical protein that binds the layers of the skin together, making it extremely fragile and causing severe pain and wounds. There are no treatments for this life-threatening disease.
Elodie’s mom’s friends organized a Plunge for Elodie n 2018. It grew into an international movement, raising $700,000 to fund critical research aimed at curing EB and other rare diseases.
This year’s virtual Plunge (March 28) honors the life of Sophia Ramsey, who died just after her 1st birthday. She was the daughter of Westport Public Schools employee Tricia Lash’s friend and coworker. Click here for details.
Finding Westport — the great local listing location, with both a website and social media posts — is starting a “Help Wanted” section. If you’re a business looking for help, contact Jillian@findingfairfieldcounty.com.
Very quietly — but for 70 years — Abilis has helped people with special needs throughout Fairfield County. The non-profit currently serves over 800 people — and their families.
Last year, COVID forced them to hold their biggest fundraiser online. They raised over $400,000. This year’s goal: top that.
It’s virtual again. Comedian Brett Walkow (“The Tonight Show,” Seinfeld’s “Comedian,” Comedy Central, much more…) hosts the May 1 (6:30 p.m.) show. It’s 90 minutes packed with entertainment, laughs, and a live auction.
The event is free (though of course there are many opportunities to donate). To register, click here (button is on upper right — hard to find!). For sponsorship information, call 203-531-1880 ext. 161, or email email@example.com.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)