If you have not finished watching “Mare of Easttown” — or if you intend to do so later — do not read on.
But if you saw the finale Sunday night on HBO Max, you know that the surprise killer was …
… young Ryan Ross.
The surprise, out-of-the-blue-but-now-it-seems-logical murderer in the wildly popular whodunit was played by Cameron Mann. When he’s not acting on the national stage, he’s a freshman (and basketball player) at Staples High.
Cameron’s role in the series starring Kate Winslet started slowly. But if local fans thought they hadn’t seen enough of him — well, hopefully, they watched to the end.
Stanford University had a great weekend at the NCAA Division I rowing championships in Sarasota, Florida — thanks in part to some local oarswomen.
Grace McGinley — a Staples High School 2017 grad and Stanford senior, received the NCAA Elite 90 award. It goes to one athlete in each NCAA sport with the highest cumulative grade point average competing in the championships. She is the first female rower in Stanford history to win the award.
Grace recently was honored with the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award too.
At the championships, Grace was joined by her sister Kelsey (Staples ’18, Stanford junior), in the Cardinal’s first varsity 8+ boat. They placed second, helping lead the team’s 3 boats to a 2nd-place finish overall. It was the highest team finish for Stanford women since 2011.
Kelsey McGinley recently received All Pac-12 Conference First Team honors. She has been called up to the U-23 national team selection camp, which begins today.
Noelle Amlicke (Staples ’19) is also a member of the Stanford women’s crew team (though she was not in Florida). Isabelle Grosgogeat (Staples ’18), was a coxswain for Princeton University women’s crew at the championships.
All 4 are Saugatuck Rowing Club alumnae. Two other SRC junior girls alums (non-Westport residents) coxed for the University of Michigan; 2 others rowed for Navy and the University of California.
And finally … today is the 74th birthday of Ronnie Wood. The former Faces and Jeff Beck Group member joined the Rolling Stones in 1975. But he was not an “official” Stone until Bill Wyman left in 1993.
The year before, he absolutely shredded “Seven Days,” at the 30th anniversary Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden.
This morning, Jim Marpe addressed Westporters at his 8th — and final — Memorial Day ceremony as first selectman. He said:
Thank you to Westport’s “Mr. Parade,” Bill Vornkahl, for helping to organize our Memorial Day Parade once again this year.
Reverend Sinclair, Representatives of VFW Post 399 and American Legion Post 69, Grand Marshal Nick Rossi, and to all of you gathered today. It is my honor to welcome you to our traditional Memorial Day ceremony to remember and honor those who have sacrificed to serve to our country. We are very grateful to come together again.
Last year I stood here with just 20 people, including Bill Vornkahl and the leadership of our first responders, to make sure our tradition was never broken. It wasn’t what we wanted or were used to, but I am glad to say that we continued the Memorial Day remembrance on Veterans Green.
As we emerge from the darkness of the COVID tunnel, it is vital to re-establish our traditions and make sure that as a community we remember those who fought and died for the freedoms we hold dear.
First Selectman Jim Marpe, at today’s Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)
In Westport, the struggle against COVID appears to be in the final weeks, but we remain vigilant. We understand and respect the need to safeguard our own health as well as the health of others. That vigilance is the essence of who we are as a people and what we celebrate and honor today.
While the circumstances are different, the vigilance we have borne as our responsibility is akin to the vigilance manifested by the men and women in the armed forces during our wars and conflicts.
World War II was the last war in which people at home were required to sacrifice so dramatically. Gas was rationed, food in short supply. For many, work changed to reflect the needs of war. COVID 19 represented a war in which we have all been challenged to change our lives dramatically. We were all called upon to sacrifice. Some of us were on the front line, caring for the sick, working in dangerous situations, enduring loneliness and separation from families, facing the unknown.
Historically, wherever we perceived enemies to threaten us we have rallied around the cause. Men and women from all walks of life stepped forward to battle threats to our country. COVID 19 was a shocking new threat, and in response, parts of government not historically in the forefront rushed to assist. Not just our usual first responders, to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude, but also our Health District and Human Services Department that reached out to those in our community in particularly grave need.
And we are proud of our children, who have had to change their lives because of COVID. They understand what sacrifice can mean. They have learned to behave in a way that is beneficial to the greater society- their school mates, their teachers, their friends and their families. That change was for us all, unforgettable.
Death and illness were real fears, sacrifice and caution were daily watchwords. Remote learning, mask wearing, loss of sporting and performance events, teammates, traditional proms and for so many, the unforgettable pain of the loss of people and loved ones who died. In Westport, we lost 31 people to COVID, and many lost beloved family members who live elsewhere, some to whom they could not say “goodbye” or “I love you.”
The theme of our parade today is honoring women’s veterans. That theme was set for last year’s parade and reinstated for this year. We want to emphasize the critical role women have played in the armed services, at times without the recognition they deserved. We also recognize the critical role women have played in the war against COVID 19, both in and out of the home. In addition to maintaining essential financial support, our mothers have had to keep families as safe as possible and establish a new routine while life was so uncertain.
Last year we intended to honor Patricia Roney Wettach as our grand marshal, who, unfortunately, has passed away, a victim of COVID 19. This year we honor Nick Rossi, a relative newcomer to Westport and an active member of our Senior Center, whose grandson, a Staples High School graduate, just sang the National Anthem. Nick, who is 99 years old, was a WWII flight engineer flying multiple missions and was shot at by enemy fire – a notable example of bravery under stress.
First Selectman Jim Marpe (left) watches Nick Rossi Jr. deliver the grand marshal speech for his grandfather, Nick Rossi Sr. (right). (Photo/Dan Woog)
And now, as has been our tradition, I would like to make special mention of those military veterans who lived in Westport and who have passed away this past year, with apologies in advance for any we may have inadvertently omitted. Heroes all: John R. Anastasia, Jr.; Alan Beasley; Sam Brownstein; Charles Joseph French Sr., Charles James Kashetta Sr.; Vincent D. Palumbo; Robert P. Scholl; P. Richard Schwaeber; Jack Shiller; Jules Spring; Gary W. Vannart; Theodore Robert Voss; Patricia Roney Wettach; Kenneth Ray Wolfe Jr.
I would be remiss if I did not honor others in our community who passed away this year, who, while not veterans, were civil servants and played a significant role in making Westport the great town that it is. These include former First Selectmen Gordon Joseloff and John Kemish, Martha Aasen, former Deputy Police Chief Vinnie Penna, and longtime VFW Auxiliary member Nancy Coley. Like our great veterans, we honor and recognize their special contributions.
Today we see a reduced presence of all that is traditional for this day, but we are still aware of the lessons learned and the sacrifices we have made. It is a proud day for Westport. I urge you to celebrate this day as one we have looked forward to for a long time – the beginning of the end of the long COVID struggle.
God bless you; God bless Westport ,and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
We are aware that there has been some confusion around the mask wearing protocols since both the guidance and regulations on mask wearing and social distancing have recently changed. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state or local laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
According to the state Department of Public Health, masks are no longer required outdoors. Those who are vaccinated are not required to wear a mask in indoor settings. However, some businesses, state and local government offices, and certain events and event venues, still require universal masking. Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities, facilities serving vulnerable populations, public and private transit, correctional facilities, schools, and childcare facilities. Those who are not vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors when unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others.
Some places still require masks. Don’t abandon all of yours just yet. (Photo/Amy Schneider)
Masks continue to be required for all visitors of Town Hall, indoor town facilities and the Westport Library. We also suggest wearing a mask when in crowded conditions — even outdoors.
Business owners and event operators should consider requiring customers to wear a mask when they are inside an establishment or at a large indoor event or private gathering if the space is not designed for continuous social distancing. If not specifically required, these establishments should consider posting signage indicating that unvaccinated customers must wear a mask and any customer is invited to wear a mask if they are more comfortable doing so.
We are encouraged by the results of the vaccine distribution and the dramatic slowing of the spread experienced in the state, and particularly in Westport. This weekend, we are hoping for good weather for at least part of the time and to be able to conduct the parade as planned. In addition to attending the parade, I hope that you will visit downtown on Saturday and Sunday for the Westport Fine Arts Festival, sponsored by the Westport Downtown Association.
I wish you all a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend as we continue to emerge from COVID and begin resuming activities in a manner that we were accustomed to prior to the pandemic.
Yesterday, Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order enacting updated COVID mask protocols in response to the new recommendations released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These recommendations allow fully vaccinated individuals to forgo the use of a mask either when outdoors or when indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals. According to the governor’s order, a face covering is required when indoors in a public place or when safe social distancing of approximately six feet from every other person is not maintained – specifically for those who are not fully vaccinated. (Click here to read the entire Executive Order #12.)
According to the Westport Weston Health District, “In accordance with CDC and state Department of Public Health guidelines, the use of masks outdoors is no longer required, but recommended if an individual is outdoors in crowded conditions with others of unknown vaccination status and it is not possible to physically distance from others. Businesses, state and local government offices and event organizers may choose to require universal masking when there is uncertainty of the vaccination status of individuals visiting their facility and/or large crowds may be anticipated.” More information from the CT DPH can be found here.
Please note that this guidance does not mean that masks are no longer required or that social distancing is not recommended. Rather, it is a communication to those who are fully vaccinated that they may forgo the use of a mask in certain, if not most, circumstances. Individual businesses and offices may continue to require people to wear a mask in their facilities.
Currently, there is no process in place to recognize the vaccination status of others. Because of that uncertainty, it is recommended that individuals err on the side of caution and assume in certain larger gatherings that there are those who are unvaccinated, and a mask should be worn. Since many institutions will follow this logic, most indoor mask wearing provisions will remain in place until there is a higher degree of certainty of increased vaccination rates.
Effective June 1, town facilities, including the Westport Library, will be expanding capacity with the goal of returning to full in person and pre-COVID access. However, given the uncertainty of vaccination status, masks will continue to be required in all town facilities. The following procedures will be in place:
Town Hall: The building continues to be open to the public. Effective June 1, walk-in services for certain departments will be reintroduced. Visitors may park in the front or the rear of the building and enter through the front entrance or the handicap ramp. Sign-in will continue as visitors enter the building at the reception area. Masks will be required to enter Town Hall.
Appointments: Appointments and remote services continue to be encouraged for the most efficient service. Most appointments will occur in the Town Hall lobby to allow for optimal air circulation and social distancing. For those who prefer to meet outdoors, the exterior tent will be reinstalled.
Town Hall is reopening — slowly. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
Plan review meetings with the Land Use Departments (Planning & Zoning, Conservation, Building and fire marshal) continue to be encouraged using remote technology, but those requiring in-person meetings that exceed 15 minutes should schedule an appointment during the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p,m. Monday through Friday in the Town Hall lobby. Plan review with the Building Department and fire marshal will follow the same protocol at Fire Headquarters at 515 Post Road East.
Public Meetings: Some public meetings will begin to return to in-person attendance by both board/commission members and the public. Municipalities are still authorized to host remote public meetings until July. It is expected that additional board, committee and commission in-person meetings will gradually return over this time period. Public meeting announcements will indicate how meetings will be conducted.
Parks & Recreation: The Parks & Recreation Department will reopen its administrative office to the public beginning June 1. Masks must be worn. Please practice social distancing. Remote and online options remain the preferred methods of interacting with the Parks & Recreation Department.
Police Department: The Police Department lobby is fully open, including the records window. Follow signage for safety procedures. Remote and online services remain preferred methods of business interaction.
Reopening Updates: For the latest on reopening updates, please visit here.
Our goal is to make the town’s transition to pre-COVID operations as safe as possible for residents and employees. Your continued patience and cooperation are appreciated.
Certainly, anyone may wear a mask if they prefer to do so. Civil and courteous behavior towards all should continue to be the norm. Some individuals with underlying medical conditions who may be more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 should consider continued mask wearing. Such conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes and those immunocompromised. More information on underlying medical conditions can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html1
It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of former Westport 1st Selectman John Kemish on April 25, at the age of 93. John served three 2-year terms as Westport’s 1st Selectman from 1967 to 1973.
Prior to his election, John served as the town’s first professional controller (now the finance director), where he improved the town’s credit rating from A to Aaa. As controller, he played a pivotal role in the purchase of Longshore Country Club for the town under then-1st Selectman Herb Baldwin.
As 1st Selectman, John played a major role in the town’s campaign to save Cockenoe Island from United Illuminating Company’s plans to erect a nuclear power plant at that offshore site. Under John’s leadership, the agreement to sell Cockenoe Island to the town and eliminate the plans for the power plant proved successful. The town owes John a debt of gratitude, along with many others involved in that environmental fight to save the natural beauty and landscape of that island over 50 years ago,
First Selectman John Kemish (tie) is flanked by veterans at the Memorial Day parade.
According to Woody Klein in his book, Westport Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence, John is credited with the “acquisition of the Wakeman Farm as open space; he led the town’s effort to acquire the Nike Site on Bayberry Lane for the Westport-Weston Health District and Rolnick Observatory; he was responsible for the acquisition of the North Avenue Nike Site, providing additional land adjacent to the Staples High School property, (which became Bedford Middle School); he established the first major town beautification program by creating the Beautification Committee; and he played a role in the creation of the Transit District and the subsequent introduction of the Minnybus.” He also played an important role in the development of the original Levitt Pavilion.
Those accomplishments notwithstanding, I understand that John was a dedicated public servant who placed the issues and concerns expressed by many Westporters first. I know that generations of Westporters have and will continue to benefit from his due diligence, calm demeanor and leadership capabilities.
On behalf of the Town of Westport, I want to express my sincere condolences to his wife Gloria, his sons James and Steven, and his entire family.
1st Selectman John Kemish (far right) with Westport YMCA director Matt Johnson (standing) and (seated from left) YMCA president George Dammon, and CBS News anchor (and Weston resident) Douglas Edwards.
The skies over Compo Beach will be dark this Independence Day holiday.
For the second straight year, the annual fireworks display has fallen victim to COVID. The decision was made by town officials, in collaboration with the sponsoring Westport Police Athletic League board.
First Selectman Jim Marpe made the announcement moments ago. The press release says:
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current and expected guidance from the State’s Department of Health regarding large-scale events, and the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and its variants have been considered. Based on this information, it is in the best interest of residents, visitors, employees and the organizers to forego this highly attended event this year.
Although mask wearing rules are being relaxed and we are headed toward widespread vaccination, the CDC and other health and government officials continue to recommend social distancing in large gatherings of any kind for the foreseeable future.
Scenes like this at typical July 4th fireworks went into the decision to cancel this year’s event.(Photo/Rick Benson)
Westport Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper said, “The CDC recommends that everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should social distance and continue wearing masks in crowded settings and outdoor venues like concerts and sporting events where you will be around large groups of strangers. In most outdoor scenarios, the transmission risk is low. However, when outside in places where you are likely to be with many people from outside your household, people must maintain social distancing and should still wear face coverings.”
As a practical matter, there is no way to enforce social distancing and mask wearing in the crowded environment of the Compo Beach fireworks event. It is inadvisable to plan for an event like the annual fireworks display where thousands of people congregate in close proximity and cannot socially distance. The possibility of alternative sites was considered, but all of them created even greater concerns regarding accessibility, safety and logistics.
Unfortunately, there is no luxury of taking a “wait and see” approach to determine where the community is in its COVID recovery efforts come July. The logistics and the need for early planning, permitting, and funding, as well as arranging for the display itself, requires significant lead time.
PAL is the longtime sponsor of this annual event, and, although the Town is very much involved in planning and conducting, it is not town funded. The decision as to whether to hold this major, large-scale event needed to be made now, based on the information available at this time, and in coordination with all the organizers.
Fireworks will return in 2022. (Photo/David Squires)
Marpe said, “I am disappointed that this year Westport could not hold the large celebration we had hoped for. But our town has come too far in our successful battle to overcome COVID to risk a possible setback by conducting a major gathering prematurely. I am happy that this year’s July 4th holiday still offers an opportunity to celebrate safely with smaller groups of families, friends, and neighbors.
“We have had tremendous support from so many individuals and town organizations throughout this past year. It took a community-wide effort to manage this devastating health crisis. We have not yet completed the race, but we are closer to the finish line, and nearing a return to normalcy. I am confident that next year’s celebration at Compo Beach will be the most memorable one in many years.”
Marpe noted that the annual Memorial Day parade will be held as scheduled on Monday, May 31. Crowds along the parade route are less dense, and the event is of shorter duration.
The Memorial Day parade will be held as scheduled this year. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
As of last Friday, the percentage of Westporters receiving at least the first COVID-19 vaccination dose is:
Age 65+: 93%
Ages 45-64: 83%
Ages 15-44: 50%
These vaccination statistics are encouraging. It is recommended that all residents who have not received the vaccine do so as soon as possible. Click here to find a provider near you, and book an appointment. To register for an appointment via telephone, call 877-918-2224.
Given the success of Connecticut’s vaccine rollout, Governor Lamont recently announced significant easing of COVID restrictions.
Effective May 1, all restaurants will be allowed to remain open until midnight. Beverage-only service outdoors will be permissible, and the 8-person limit on outdoor dining will be lifted.
Effective May 19, all remaining gathering restrictions will be lifted; however, masks will continue to be required in all indoor public settings where social distancing is not possible.
Westport municipal buildings remain open to the public by appointment. Residents are encouraged to continue accessing town services online. Members of the public may also schedule appointments for in-person meetings or other services that require additional assistance.
Residents can make appointments for Town Hall business. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)
Governor Lamont’s declaration for remote public meetings remains in effect through May 20. Town officials are monitoring changes to the declaration, and legislation that might allow in-person “hybrid meetings” (with both in-person and remote participation). In the meantime, public meetings will continue to be conducted via Zoom.
Planning continues for opening or expanding town amenities and activities:
The Senior Center and Toquet Hall are planning for possible outdoor and limited indoor programming in late spring or early summer.
As of May 1, parking emblems will be required on all vehicles to enter Compo and Old Mill Beach parking lots, and on May 29 for Burying Hill Beach. Parking emblem purchases must be made online at www.westportrecreation.com. Daily parking for non-residents will be allowed this summer at Compo Beach and Burying Hill Beach. Visit www.westportrecreation.com for daily parking rates.
The Parks & Recreation Department and Selectman’s Office continue to plan for a Memorial Day parade. July 4th fireworks are still under consideration, pending further guidance from the state.
Bill Vornkahl looks forward to a 2021 Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Carmine Picarello)
The Parks and Recreation Department is preparing to open its facilities, and plans to offer programs not available last summer due to COVID.
Longshore golf course is open for play, as are several tennis locations. The Compo Beach pickleball courts, skatepark facility, platform tennis, Compo basketball courts and playgrounds are open as well.
The Board of Selectmen approved the closure of Church Lane, for expanded outdoor dining.
The Levitt Pavilion is planning its season, to be held in compliance with COVID considerations related to outdoor venues.
Today, Progressive Diagnostics opened a same-day public testing site at the Saugatuck railroad station parking loto adjacent to Exit 17 on Saugatuck Avenue. Services are available weekdays (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Saturdays (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.).
Plans for townwide reopening and a “return to normal” are encouraging, but we should be cautiously optimistic. According to the state Department of Public Health, 122 municipalities out of 169 (including Westport) remain in the highest COVID alert level (red). This is cause for concern, though more recent daily statistics indicate a downward curve in the spread.
It is also important to understand that being vaccinated does not prevent individuals from being COVID positive and transmitting the virus. Ccontinue to remain informed, and balance COVID safety with personal priorities for physical and mental well-being. This includes being empathetic to those around you, and the individual choices they make.
I encourage those who are vaccinated to be respectful of those who are not, or have differing opinions about the current guidelines and status of the pandemic. Westport town officials will continue to follow and employ science experts’ advice and guidance, so that all in our community will be safe and healthy.
Despite rising vaccination rates, masks continue to be important.
Uh oh. “06880” missed National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.
The town of Westport did not, though. As posted on their Instagram, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and 2nd Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker visited the police and fire departments last week — and brought gifts.
(Photo courtesy of Town of Westport)
As the town noted: “Dispatchers are the first line of the Police, EMS and Fire departments. They are voices behind every call for help that we never see but only hear. They work tirelessly to protect department members and residents of Westport. This week we celebrate our heroes with the headsets!”
“06880” adds our thanks to these men and women who work 24/7/365. It’s a stressful job, which they do with incredible poise, professionalism and compassion.
So to last week’s pizzas, we add this week’s Unsung Heroes honors. Thank you all!
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,
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: email@example.com. Thanks!)