Tag Archives: 1st Selectman Jim Marpe

Thank You, Jim Marpe!

This is Jim Marpe’s final day as 1st selectman.

Tonight at 7:30, Jen Tooker will be sworn in as Westport’s 1st selectwoman. She was Marpe’s deputy for the past 4 years, but she’ll bring a new style and tone — and perhaps some new policies — to the job.

Yet before Marpe hands over his key (or swipe card, or however else he gets into Town Hall), let’s pause and say “thanks!”

Jim Marpe, at last May’s Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Thank you, Jim, for coming out of retirement — after a career at Accenture — to bring your managerial and organizational skills to Westport.

Thank you for overseeing every aspect of town — business and residential; police, fire and EMS; transportation; recreation, and so much more — with professionalism and expertise. You always had the best interests of our community at heart.

Thank you for handling too many weather emergencies — blizzards, wind storms, nor’easters, Isaias — with calmness and competence.

Thank you for handling the biggest emergency of all — COVID — well too. We were one of the nation’s first super-spreaders. No leader anywhere knew exactly what to do. An early decision to close the beach created a huge backlash. But the virus never spiraled out of control here. Eighteen months later, we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In early March 2020, 1st Selectman Marpe convened a panel at the Westport Library to discuss the coming threat of COVID. Mask wearing had not yet become mandatory. Four days later, Marpe shut the town down.

Thank you for keeping our mill rate so stable. The state and nation has been whipsawed by economic volatility. But throughout the Marpe administration, our taxes have been remarkably low. (Don’t believe me? Ask friends in neighboring towns — or Westchester or Long Island.)

The first selectman does not have direct control over education. But thank you for your previous service on the Board of Education. Our school district is in great shape. Thank you for all you have done to keep it that way.

Thank you for being always present, all the time. You joked about the oversized scissors you bring to every new store and restaurant ribbon cutting. But your presence touched every part of Westport.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe (2nd from left) proclaims Pizza Month in Westport.

You were there for so many of my own events: our annual “06880” party at Compo, and Staples boys soccer team car washes and banquets (even though it’s across the border, at the Norwalk Inn).

Many other Westporters have been heartened by your presence too, at their concerts, plays, fundraisers, ceremonies, meetings, you name it. Your presence meant a lot, to all of us.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas, First Selectman Jim Marpe and organizer Andy  Berman bang out pushups at a charity event.

I did not agree with all of your decisions. No one ever does. (Probably not even your wife and constant supporter, Mary Ellen.)

But you always listened carefully, to all your constituents. You treated us all with respect, no matter what our point of view or political party.

Politicians in Washington and Hartford could learn a lot from what you’ve done in Westport. We are a better town for your service.

I’m glad you’re not going anywhere (other than to spend more time with your grandson). I look forward to seeing you around town — and at the “06880” picnic.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe at the 2018 “06880” party.

PS: It may seem that Jim Marpe never took a vacation. But every once in a while, he snuck away. A couple of years ago, he went on a Tauck Tour to Alaska. Robin Tauck was on the cruise. I thought that would make a great story.

But Jim asked me not to say anything. He didn’t want people to know he was not available here, 24/7/365. Now it can be told. 

Jen Tooker’s Path To The Top

In 2008, Gen Re transferred Jen and Mo Tooker from the London office to their Stamford headquarters. The couple hunted for homes throughout Fairfield County.

On a February day, a realtor drove them around the corner to Compo Beach.

It was cold. The marina was empty. But, Tooker said, “We’re done!”

They had not seen any houses here yet. It did not matter. The Tookers soon found one.

Westport has been their home ever since.

Tooker soon became part of her new community. She joined the Conservation Commission; served on the Boards of Education and Finance, and was elected 2nd Selectwoman.

On Monday night at Town Hall, she’ll be sworn in for a new post: 1st Selectwoman. She and running mate Andrea Moore were elected last week to the town’s top 2 spots.

Jen Tooker (left) and Andrea Moore, Westport’s new selectwomen.

Though Tooker’s first attraction to Westport was its water, what’s kept her here are Westporters.

“The people here are fabulous,” she says. “They love living here. They get involved. They make things happen.”

Tooker has done more than her share of that. Knowing that this would be “home” for many years, within weeks of unpacking she sought ways to help.

With professional knowledge at Gen Re of flooding, wetlands and property maps, she was appointed to the Conservation Commission.

In 2011 — urged by people who said her skillset was a good fit for the Board of Education — she ran for, and won, a seat.

Democratic chair Don O’Day and Republican vice chair Jim Marpe led a “rock solid, bipartisan” board, Tooker says.

Two years later, she was asked to run for the Board of Finance. She retired from Gen Re, to devote time to public service and raising 3 children.

Jen Tooker, during the 2017 campaign.

In 2017, when Avi Kaner decided not to run for a second term as 2nd selectman, Marpe asked her to join him. She had a front run seat for all that the job entails — all the departmental collaboration, public meetings, budget deliberations, decision-making on issues like masks, weather-related disasters and more — plus the behind-the-scenes work that few people ever see.

Her skills, experience and goals suited her well for the top job. When Marpe announced he would not run for a 3rd term, Tooker was ready.

She and Moore jumped into campaigning. “Westporters are savvy,” Tooker says. “They want to know their elected officials. This was my 4th townwide race. Every time I’m amazed at how much people want to meet candidates, and ask tough questions.”

The questions came via Facebook, Instagram, texts and calls. They came in person too. Tooker and Moore held a number of public meetings — including the porch at The Porch — to answer the questions.

And to listen.

Tooker learned that “by and large, people are really happy to be here. They feel blessed, connected, and invested in the community. They’re super proud of Westport. Whether they’re new or been here for 45 years, that gives them pride.”

She and Moore “had a message, and it ran all through the campaign. We were very focused on local issues, to ensure that Westport remains the best place in the region to live, work and play.”

The ticket won, she believes, because “we had a message that resonated with a sophisticated electorate. Westporters wanted to know us, and vet our message.”

In addition, Tooker says, “We ran a positive campaign. Westporters care deeply about that.”

Though hard work does not always guarantee a win, “we were out there every day, for 7 months. That was critical for people to meet us, and ask the questions they needed to ask.”

Second selectman Jennifer Tooker sported a “Be Bold” shirt at a meeting featuring Westport businesswomen.

Twelve hours after next Monday’s swearing in, Tooker heads back to Town Hall. Her first task, she says, is to meet with department heads. She’ll hear their priorities, talk about collaboration and communication, and make plans for the immediate future.

“It’s important to be a good manager,” she says. “Employees need o feel supported, to go out and do a good job for residents.”

Every 1st selectperson brings a different style to Town Hall. Though she worked closely with Marpe, Tooker says, “in certain situations I may be less patient than Jim. I don’t fly off the handle, but I may push a process or strive for an outcome a little more quickly.”

She calls Marpe “an excellent listener. He processes information by listening to people. That’s an excellent quality in a leader. In this line of work, where we are here to ensure that democracy prevails, it’s crucial to hear every voice. I hope I can be as good a listener as Jim is.”

Jen and Mo Tooker with their children: Jack, Riley and Nicole.

She has always worked — professionally and as a volunteer — so that won’t be new. But 1st selectwoman is a full-time, 24/7/365 job. Tooker had many conversations with her family before deciding to run. They understand the demands of the job.

Her husband Mo, and their children — 20-year-old Jack (a junior at Santa Clara University), 18-year-old Riley (taking a gap year before Southern Methodist University) and Nicole, an 8th grader — are “fully supportive” of her, Tooker says.

Also supportive: Tooker’s parents. They moved here to be with their daughter and her family during the pandemic. Her father, 87-year-old Bob “Pops” Salmon, lives in the Tookers’ home. Her mother is in the memory care unit at The Residence.

Jen and Mo Tooker with her father, Bob “Pops” Salmon.

All are “incredibly proud” of her. And most will be on hand at 7:30 p.m. Monday  in Town Hall, to see Jen Tooker sworn is as Westport’s next 1st selectwoman.

(Monday’s ceremony will also include the swearing in of all boards and commissioners. RTM members will be sworn in the next night, Tuesday, also at 7:30 p.m.)

FUN FACTAfter 12 years in the public eye, there is little that Westporters don’t know about Tooker. They may be surprised though to find out that she is an ardent fan of Chelsea, the English Premier League soccer powerhouse.

Marpe Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

Over the past few weeks, the daily rate of COVID cases in Westport has been trending downward. The town continues to be in the “gray” category (fewer than 5 cases per 100,000). Therefore, in collaboration with Westport’s COVID emergency management team, I am hereby rescinding Executive Orders #9 and #10, and lifting the mask mandate in indoor public settings in Westport, effective immediately.

This is certainly an optimistic trend =- one that we have been anxious to announce. But we continue to be aware of the potential of stronger strains and breakthrough cases that could impact future recommendations. Those who are eligible are strongly encouraged to get fully vaccinated and/or receive a booster.

Masks are no longer mandated in most indoor spaces in Westport. (“Mask Quilt” by Amy Schneider)

Westport Weston Health District director of health Mark Cooper said, “We are in support of this action for those in the lower risk category for severe COVID illness and who have been vaccinated, so long as the local transmission rate remains low. If everyone proceeds with caution and some common sense, we may be able to enjoy the coming holiday season with family and friends in a more traditional manner. For those in a higher risk category for severe COVID illness, masking is still highly recommended because, although the transmission rate is low, the COVID virus is still in the community.”

According to the CT Department of Public Health:

  • Outdoors
    • Masks are not required to be worn by anyone.
  • Indoors: 
    • Vaccinated individuals are generally not required to wear masks.
    • Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks.
    • Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities, facilities serving vulnerable populations, public and private transit, correctional facilities, schools (public and non-public, when students are present), and childcare facilities.
    • Some businesses, state and local government offices, performance spaces, and certain events, may still require universal masking.

Thank You, Foti & Sam

The bad news: Police Chief Foti Koskinas is retiring, effective Thursday. So is his right hand man, Deputy Chief Sam Arciola.

The good news: Both will be retained under contract. Koskinas will serve  through October 22, 2024. Arciola serves through December 31, 2022.

The two men — whose steady, passionate and compassionate leadership has earned praise and trust, at a time when police departments nationwide face enormous criticism — will receive full retirement benefits. Koskinas became eligible in July; Arciola has been eligible since 2016.

However, says 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, “at this sensitive time in the evolution of police accountability and responsibilities at the national and local levels,” a change in leadership could be disruptive.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas (center), Deputy Chief Sam Arciola (right) and officer Ned Batlin, at a Staples High School “Dodge-a-Cop” event. Police officers and Staples students played dodgeball, with and against each other.

He notes that while members of the WPD leadership team are “well on theier way to stepping into the chief and deputy chief roles,” they need more time to develop “the full range of skills and community relationships” to be successful.

The contract relationship, Marpe says, will benefit Westport from a continuity standpoint, and financially.

Koskinas began his Westport police career in 1996, 6 years after Arciola. They were promoted to their current positions in 2016.

Koskinas calls himself “honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to work with and for the town of Westport. Aside from my family, the last 27 years have been some of the most exciting and gratifying times of my life, while serving and working alongside members of this community. I am confident that we will have continued successes as we navigate through some difficult times in our country, and certainly in law enforcement.”

At the 2017 July 4th fireworks, Police Chief Foti Koskinas gave Ben Kiev a seat on his motorcycle.

He has had several offers, from the public and private sectors. However, he notes, “I never pictured or imagined myself wearing a uniform other than that of the Westport Police Department. I sincerely look forward to the opportunity to continue serving Westport for another 3 years.”

Both Koskinas and Arciola love their work. They have made the Westport Police Department stronger and more effective — and by doing so, have made Westport a better place.

Full disclosure: I have known Koskinas since he was a Long Lots Junior High School student, newly arrived from Greece and knowing no English.

I’ve known Arciola — and his extended family — even longer. The Arciola name is revered in Saugatuck.

I watched both with pride and gratitude over the past year. The two men — and others on the force — worked with Black Lives Matter leaders to make sure that last summer’s protests were safe and respectful. At the same time, they did not shy away from acknowledging that police departments everywhere have work to do.

Similarly, Koskinas and Arciola ensured that other rallies — for Asian Americans, the LGBTQ community and, most recently, housing fairness — were peaceful yet powerful.

Chief Foti Koskinas with Black Lives Matter protesters, last June. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Much of their work takes place in the public eye. Much also takes place far from it. Here’s one story that demonstrates how Foti Koskinas and Sam Arciola operate.

A few months ago, a memorial bench went missing from Compo Beach. Relatives of the man the bench honored were distraught.

Two days later, Koskinas called to tell me it had been recovered, I asked who the officers were, so I could thank them publicly. He said — reluctantly — that he and Arciola were involved.

However, he asked that I keep their names out of it. He wanted the entire force to be recognized.

Sure, the chief asked not to be mentioned. But that’s the kind of men Foti Koskinas and Sam Arciola are: caring, hard-working, genuinely dedicated to their community.

Besides, what’s he going to do? Arrest me?

Roundup: Cell Tower, Masks, WTF, …


The next town controversy may be “Tarpon.”

Tarpon Towers and Cingular Wireless (AT&T) have notified town officials that they’re moving ahead to install a cell tower at 92 Greens Farms Road. The next step in their long process is filing an application with the Connecticut Siting Council.

Tarpon is new — but the location and plan is not. It dates back to 2014. There was plenty of local opposition, based on the proposed height and location at the “gateway” to the beach.

There was also support, based on poor cell coverage in the area.

The proposal faded away. Now it’s back.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe is not a fan. He says, “I am dismayed that this proposal for a cell tower installation at the same location that the Town reviewed seven years ago has returned. At that time, many raised numerous rational and thoughtful reasons why this location was inappropriate, and the proposal was dropped.

“With regard to this new proposal, under the rules of the CSC, I will conduct an initial meeting with Attorney (David) Ball to review the project. The town will also have an opportunity to propose alternative sites. There will also be opportunities for the Planning & Zoning and Conservation Commissions to review and comment on the proposal.

“After the initial meeting and within the statutory time period, a public informational meeting will be held to further discuss the application with the community. Please be assured that we intend to review this proposal carefully with staff and legal counsel, exploring all options and alternatives. I will keep the community informed throughout the process.”

A cell tower been proposed for the property on the left: 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)


Marpe also announced a tweak to Westport’s indoor mask policy. Masks are no longer mandatory in gyms, provided participants remain socially distant. The change does not apply to school gyms. patrons of gyms and athletes to remove their masks whenever they can remain socially distant. The amendment does not cover school settings.

Masks ae no longer required in commercial gyms in Westport — provided patrons are socially distanced.


Registration begins Wednesday (September 8) for a full array of Wakeman Town Farm programs.

They range from Mommy + Me and preschool to after-school activities for tots and teens. Click here for details of the farm programs; click here for details for culinary programs. (NOTE: When you click “Register,” you’ll need to search on the Parks & Rec website.)


MoCA Westport sponsors a fun Family Day next Saturday (September 11, noon to 4 p.m.).

Like the current “Between the Ground and the Sky” exhibit, this is a collaboration with the Westport Farmers’ Market. On tap: family-friendly nature-related art projects, including designing and stamping your own tote bag and planting your own herbs in the MoCA garden; live music by Henry Jones; food trucks, and entrance to the exhibit, featuring farms of the Who Grows Your Food program.

Click here for tickets.


Sorelle Gallery’s retrospective show, featuring works by modern artist Stanley Bate, starts next Saturday (September 11). Click here for details.


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is actually a question.

Dawn Henry spotted this creature yesterday at the Rolnick Observatory. She wonders: “What is it?”

Nature-lovers: Click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Dawn Henry)


And finally … today is the birthday of Google. It was founded on this date in 1998, by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin.


Roundup: Weather, Sam Wilkes, RFK …


Yesterday’s “hurricane” was a dud. All that time spent hauling in patio furnitue, hauling boats out of the water, hauling ass around town for food, batteries and gas — what a waste!

Except it wasn’t.

Storms are capricious. We expected to be battered this time, but barely got a tap. Last summer, no one was worried about Isaias. It brought us to our knees.

It’s the same with winter weather. We’ve stripped Stop & Shop of all its eggs and milk, only to receive a few flakes. And we’ve been homebound for days after snow and ice we didn’t really expect.

So what’s the lesson? Should we ignore every warning, and just try to be prepared all the time?

No. The weatherpersons have gotten their forecasts right far more often than they’ve been wrong. Listen to the experts. It really is better to be safe than sorry.

Or put another way: It’s a lot better to be pleasantly surprised that Henri was a dud — in Westport, at least — than to broil in the dark, with no utility truck in sight for days, because of a storm we were not worried about.

Homes on Compo Cove — many boarded up, in anticipation of Hurricane Henri — yesterday. Instead of high winds and heavy rain, the day passed without incident. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)


After closing the town’s Emergency Operations Center yesterday afternoon, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe said:

“I want to thank our residents and businesses for heeding the instructions to remain at home and prepare for what could’ve been a major situation. I hope that for many Westporters, today was a day well spent with family, or at least a chance to test and improve your emergency preparedness.

Thank you also to the Westport Fire, Police, Public Health, Parks & Recreation, Public Works and Human Services Departments for their efforts to monitor and prepare to respond to the needs of our community.”

Fire marshal Nate Gibbons provided updates on Henri yesterday, on WWPT-FM. He had little to report.


One last Henri photo.

In contrast to Saturday’s packed-all-day Merritt Parkway, yesterday was a breeze.

Merritt Parkway, from the North Avenue bridge. (Photo/Jo Shields Sherman)

Maybe we should have hurricane warnings more often?


At Staples, Sam Wilkes was all music, nearly all the time. He played in the band, jazz band and orchestra. (He also took as many English courses as he could: 4 in senior year.) In high school, he says, “I learned how to learn.”

After graduating in 2009, Sam headed to the University of Southern California. He was in the 1st class of the new Popular Music Performance program.

He’s still playing — and living life on his own terms.

The August 23 issue of The New Yorker includes a piece about Sam and his musical partner, Sam Gendel. Kelefa Sanneh explores their 2018 jazz-and-more album “Music for Saxofone & Bass Guitar,” one song of which was featured n the Netflix movie “Malcolm & Marie.””BOA” has been streamed nearly 2 million times on Spotify.

Wilkes is doing plenty of recording, including with Chaka Khan. Sanneh expresses surprise in The New Yorker that he and Gendels do not tour more, and describesthe quirky route to where the duo is today. He appreciates, though, their simplicity, ambience and texture.

Sanneh mentions a video Wilkes and Gendel filmed with the band KNOWER. They help the group “burn through a breakneck funk groove”; Wilkes, he says, “contributes a particularly tasty bass fill.”

it’s been viewed more than 5 million times. (Click here for the full story.)


Check out the new header (top photo) on “06880.” The great, wide shot of the Levitt Pavilion comes courtesy of Joel Treisman. Much appreciated!

Speaking of the Levitt: Here’s this week’s schedule.

  • Tuesday, August 24: The Fairfield Counts (19-member big band)
  • Wednesday, August 25:  Sonia de los Santos (Latin Grammy nominee)
  • Thursday, August 26: Nellie McKay (Great American Songbook)
  • Friday, August 27: Mihali (Singer/songwriter)
  • Saturday, August 28; Gunsmoke (country, Western swing, rockabilly)
  • Sunday, August 29: Dr. K’s Motown Revue

Click here for times, and (free!) ticket information.

Dr. K’s Motown Revue will have audiences dancing in the street — well, on the grass — next Sunday, at the Levitt Pavilion.


As summer workers head off to college, this retro Compo Beach Soundview parking lot sign may soon be hauled out of storage:

(Photo/Daniel Maya)


Robin Gusick ventured out to Fresh Market yesterday. She reports:

“The ice cream shelves were empty. But shoppers could start advance planning for Thanksgiving.

“They might even begin saving, to buy an $89.99 chocolate turkey.”

What?! Have we just skipped Halloween, and gone straight to “the holidays”?!

(Photo/Robin Gusick)


Spotted downtown: Support for a politician absolutely with no chance of winning.

(Photo/JC Martin)


These 2 Compo birds had no idea yesterday that a fierce hurricane was predicted. Or that it never arrived.

They didn’t even realize they were posing for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature. They just did their Compo thing.

(Photo/Dr. Michelle Widmeier)


Don Everly — the older of the duo, whose “fusion of Appalachian harmonies and a tighter, cleaner version of big-beat rock ’n’ roll made them harbingers of both folk-rock and country-rock” (according to the New York Times), died Saturday at his Nashville home. He was 84.

Click here for the full obituary.


Marpe Issues Indoor Mask Mandate

Moments ago, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced:

As a regional response to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, effective at 12:01 a.m. Monday (August 23), the towns of Westport, Fairfield and Easton have issued temporary town-wide mask mandates. Neighboring cities of Norwalk, Stamford, and Bridgeport currently have mask mandates in place.

Yesterday, Fairfield County was the 5th county in Connecticut to be moved into the “high transmission” category – the most severe level as defined by the CDC. Hospitalizations in Fairfield County are on the rise. The rise in case levels in Westport for the past 2 weeks will likely place the town into the “substantial transmission” or “red” category this week.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health strongly recommends that all residents over the age of 2 years, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, wear masks when in indoor public spaces. The Governor’s Executive Order No. 13A provides municipal leaders with the option of requiring masks in indoor public places within their respective towns and cities for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Indoor public spaces include retail establishments, restaurants, gyms, workout studios or other businesses, as well as galleries, museums, performance spaces, places of worship and government buildings. Businesses may still require proof of vaccination to enter, but a mask will also be required.

Masks are once again mandated indoors in Westport. (“Mask Quilt” by Amy Schneider)

Westport Weston Health District director of health Mark Cooper said, “The COVID- 19 vaccine is the most powerful tool against infection and severe illness, but the increasing number of breakthrough infections after vaccination are a reminder that no vaccine is 100% effective. As long as there continues to be cases of COVID in Westport, it is important to continue the use of the other tools at our disposal to reduce transmission such as masking when indoors and in large outdoor crowds, hand washing, social distancing, and limiting gathering sizes. This is particularly important as we approach the start of the new school year and to those young people who are unable to be vaccinated as they return to the classroom.”

Private social gatherings appear to be a growing source of transmission. Please reconsider social gatherings and be mindful of transmission that happens within the home. Keep gatherings to outdoors if possible and get tested, even if you only feel cold-like symptoms. Follow CDC guidelines for masking against the Delta and other variants. This advice is for everyone whether vaccinated or not.

I am grateful that Westporters recognize the importance of wearing masks and getting vaccinated. It is for our physical and mental health and safety that we remain vigilant, and at the same time, be respectful to others who may have differing opinions. We have come a long way in combatting this virus.  While this development may seem like a step backward, it is undoubtedly necessary until the time comes when all have the capacity to be vaccinated and COVID-19 is a more manageable, non-life-threatening virus. We are stronger together.

Vaccine Booster

Yesterday, the President announced that it will be critical to administer “booster” vaccinations to continue to fight the pandemic.  Please note that the general public will not be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster until after September 20, and at that time, anyone receiving the booster will need to be at least 8 months from their second vaccination. When available, additional information and instructions about the booster will be posted on the WWHD website, www.WWHD.org. For questions about COVID-19, including vaccine planning, call the WWHD at 203-227-9571.

Sara Harris Resigns As Town Operations Director

First Selectman Jim Marpe’s 2nd term ends in November. Three months earlier, he’s losing a key aide.

Town operations director Sara Harris has accepted a consulting opportunity in the private sector. Her resignation is effective August 27.

Harris joined Town Hall in July 2017. She coordinated projects and issues involving interdepartmental coordination, like digitization of the land use permitting process to Accela software.

She established and created annual management reports for the town’s budget book, and oversaw performance metrics for all town departments.

Sara Harris

During COVID, Harris served as public information officer, and was a liaison with utilities, the state, town staff and others. She also acted as Westport’s economic development director, implementing the town’s rebranding and website launch in 2018, and the new Choosewestport.com public/private partnership.

Harris also helped the town receive $2.8 million in federal funds to dredge the Saugatuck River.

Marpe says, “We will miss Sara’s dedication, work ethic and demeanor. I am pleased that she worked to implement the projects and tasks we asked her to complete. Sara did this without partisanship and remained grounded in her professional values for efficient and transparent operations in government.

“I am confident that the improvements we put in place will benefit the town and Town Hall operations for years to come. Her role in helping me effectively communicate with our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and Storm Isaias cannot be overstated. I am grateful that Westport benefitted from her dedication, analytical skills, and work ethic.  I wish her much success in her new opportunity.”

Harris adds, “It is with very mixed emotions that I announce my resignation.  First Selectman Marpe and his administration have been an inspiration to me, and I will carry that guidance throughout my career. I will also miss the staff and friendships that have developed over the last 4 1/2 years, including some of the kindest, intelligent, and generous residents and volunteers I have ever met.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the town of Westport.”

Lynn Scully, Westport’s audit manager/senior accountant, will serve as interim operations director. Harris will transition some of her tasks to Scully and other staff members, though some projects will remain on hold until a replacement can be found. Westport’s next first selectman will choose the next operations director.

New Plaques: Honest Insights Into Local History

Across America, towns and cities grapple with difficult elements of history by removing statues, and changing names.

In Westport, we’re putting up plaques.

Without fanfare, a pair of historic markers have been installed downtown. One adds important information about the founding of our community. The other honors a long-forgotten group of Black residents.

The first plaque stands behind Town Hall, on a door near the parking lot.

The plaque behind Town Hall.


It notes that indigenous people lived in this area for thousands of years, before Europeans arrived. It says that the Paugussets were driven away in the Great Swamp Fight of 1637, and acknowledges that Westport’s founding fathers built a prosperous agriculture community using “forced labor of enslaved Africans and Natives.”

The plaque describes events like the Revolutionary War; the importance of the river and railroad, and our growth as an arts colony and New York suburb.

The Town Hall plaque.

But it mentions too that Westport became more diverse “with an influx of international residents and a thriving Jewish community. These residents worked to remove restrictive deed covenants in the housing and commercial real estate markets.”

The plaque includes the image of an enslaved woman. A QR code brings up more information about Westport’s history.

A marker commemorating 22 1/2 Main Street (now 28 Main Street) has been placed on Elm Street, opposite Serena & Lily. That’s near the rear of what was once a thriving Black community.

The Elm Street plaque.

A similar brass plaque will be placed soon on the Main Street entrance to the Bedford Square courtyard.

Both explain that residents of the neighborhood made up the majority of Westport’s African-American population. Many were descended from people enslaved by European settlers.

Residents of 22 1/2 Main Street were “maids, cooks, gardeners, drivers and groomsmen to affluent Westporters.” The area included a grocery store, barber shop and Baptist church.

The plaque commemorating 22 Main Street.

In December 1949, the plaque says, residents petitioned the Representative Town Meeting to be considered for planned affordable housing. They were rebuffed.

The next month, a local paper predicted “great loss of life” if a fire broke out in the “slum.”

Eight days later, a blaze did occur.

There were no fatalities. But most buildings were destroyed, and nearly every resident moved from Westport.

Though arson was suspected, there was never an investigation.

The 22 1/2 Main Street plaque includes photographs, an illustration and a QR code.

Both plaques are highlighted on the official town website. The “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion” page says:

Westport is a town with a future that is bright and full of promise. We respect the richness of our past, and commit to addressing future challenges with particular focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion for all who live, visit, and work in our town. As an engaged community, we are bound by a passion for the arts, education, the preservation of natural resources, and our beautiful shoreline. We are uniquely positioned to thrive in the years to come.

The Town of Westport, in consultation with TEAM Westport is committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in our community. The plaque project works to correct prior versions of Westport’s written history.

The plaque project was undertaken by TEAM Westport, with help from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, town operations director Sara Harris, Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich, and Westport Museum of History & Culture director Ramin Ganeshram.

A 2018 exhibit at the Westport Museum of History & Culture included photos and text about 22 1/2 Main Street.


Roundup: Mare Of Easttown, Stanford Rowing, American Oystercatchers …


Spoiler alert! 

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.

Click here for a series recap. Click here for the official website. (Hat tip: Jan Carpenter)

Cameron Mann


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.


Are you going to Homes with Hope’s “Stand-up For Comedy” fundraiser on Saturday, June 12?

1st Selectman Jim Marpe will be there. And to help build interest in the annual show — livestreamed from the Westport Library, but with a small audience at the Forum — he recorded a special teaser.

Click on below. Then ask yourself: Should Marpe join the talent-studded comedy lineup too? (Click here for tickets and more information on the “Stand-up” fundraiser.)


The other day, Tina Green reported that 2 American oystercatcher chicks were thriving at Compo Beach.

Turns out, they’re 3.

Carolyn Doan captured these 3 triplets. And by “captured” I mean on camera. They’ll thrive only if they’re left alone!

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


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.