Tag Archives: 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker

Roundup: Fitness, Virtual Slice, Trash, More

When is downtown Westport not an outdoor shopping mall?

When it turns into a Fitness & Wellness Expo.

That was the scene yesterday. Pure Barre, JoyRide, Row House and Athleta sponsored outdoor classes on Main Street. Vendors like Restore Cryo, Fleet Feet and New England Hemp Farm helped educate consumers. Church Lane merchants added wellness specials.

Everyone wore masks. And if they didn’t have one, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — sponsors of the intriguing event — gave them one.

Work it!

Among the participants: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Police Chief Foti Koskinas, in the photo below:

Yesterday would have been the 9th annual Slice of Saugatuck. It got squashed by the coronavirus — but the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce did the next best thing.

They produced a video, showing the shops, restaurants and people who make up that vibrant community. Whether you’re a newcomer, old-timer or long-gone Westporter, check below for a 6-minute stroll through Saugatuck.

One more Chamber note: They’ve added a 2nd “Supper & Soul” socially distanced tailgate show featuring Terrapin: A Grateful Dead Experience (Friday, October 2; 7 p.m.). Tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m.; click here.

Westporter Helen Lowman is president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. Next Sunday — September 20 — her organization hosts its 2nd annual TrashDash. The goal is for people to create cleaner streets, parks, and waterfronts by “plogging” (picking up litter while jogging).

It will be held officially at Mill River Park in Stamford (the city where Keep America Beautiful is headquartered) — but anyone can join in their own community, wherever it is. Just grab a bag and gloves and pick up litte. You don’t even have to jog!

Click here for more information.

The Westport River Dancers performed at the Rowing Club yesterday. It was a cancer fundraiser for Norwalk Hospital’s Row for Recovery.

Check out these dancing queens (and one king): Debra Montner, Hilary Solder, Eva Grant-Rawiszer, Suzanne Harvey, Jill Alcott Ferreday and Michael Chait. All are Westporters — and they met their $10,000 goal!

And finally … Toots Hibbert, who introduced reggae to the world — died Friday in Jamaica. He was believed to be 77, and was reported to have suffered from COVID-like symptoms. He and his group — Toots and the Maytals — had international hits like this:

Marpe Offers Details On ReOpen Westport Team

On Friday, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced the formation of a ReOpen Westport Advisory Team.

This afternoon he provided more details on the group. Their charge is to advise him “on issues relating to the reopening of our local economy and community as we navigate the risks of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.”

The team includes:

  • Jennifer Tooker, 2nd Selectwoman (chair)
  • John Bayers, director of human resources and general administration, Westport Public Schools
  • Mark Cooper, director, Westport Weston Health District
  • Jen Fava, director, Westport Parks & Recreation Department
  • Sara Harris, operations director, Town of Westport
  • Foti Koskinas, chief of the Westport Police Department
  • Mary Young, director, Planning & Zoning Department
  • Randy Herbertson, president, Westport Downtown Merchants Association
  • Matthew Mandell,  executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce
  • Brian Stern, Chair, Board of Finance.

2nd selectman Jennifer Tooker, ReOpen Westport Advisory Team chair

The Advisory Team will focus on working with the local business community. It will not make regulatory decisions.

Westport will “generally follow the guidelines issued by the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group and Governor Lamont,” Marpe says.

“However, there will likely be operational issues that will arise with our local business owners through this gradual reopening phase. The Advisory Team will seek feedback from them and assist in their understanding of the guidelines as the businesses transition through this uncertain period.”

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team will seek input from local business and community leaders in these areas, though more may be added later:

  • Real estate
  • Retailers
  • Medical offices
  • Restaurants, bars and delis
  • Salons and spas
  • Offices
  • Banks
  • Fitness facilities
  • Houses of worship
  • Day camps
  • Day care and preschool
  • Grocers
  • Liquor stores
  • Dry cleaners
  • Dealerships and auto repair shops.

The Westport Weston Family YMCA is sure to be one of the groups providing input to the ReOpen Westport Advisory Team.

Marpe adds, “This team of operational experts will be in communication with our local business owners in an effort to guide them through issues that will undoubtedly arise in the coming months.”

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team’s first public meeting/work session is this Wednesday (May 6, 11 a.m.). It will be live streamed on www.westportct.gov, and aired on Cablevision Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. The public is invited to view the meeting.

The ReOpen Westport Advisory Team’s email is reopenteam@westportct.gov.

Composting During COVID

The idea was important, and bold.

On April 22 — the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — Sustainable Westport was planning to kick off the “Zero Food Waste Challenge.” The goal: Decrease residential food waste by at least 25%.

The group would point out that over 20% of Connecticut’s residential garbage is food waste. It’s costly to haul to the incinerator in Bridgeport, and does not burn well.

There would be a Zero Food Waste Proclamation from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, and the inauguration of Westport’s free food scraps recycling drop-off area at the transfer station.

Of course, the coronavirus has put both the kickoff and transfer station opening are on hold.

But other aspects of the Challenge are ready for action. In fact, says Sustainable Westport member Pippa Bell Ader, what better time than during self-isolation to think about the food we waste, how we can change that, and what to do with those inedible food scraps.

Jen Tooker already knows how. The 2nd selectman’s family of 5 have been composting for more than 10 years, since they first moved to town.

They are committed to keeping trash to 1 bag a week, follow an aggressive leftover meal plan, and compost all inedible food (though no animal-based products such as cheese, bones or meat).

The Tookers collect food scraps in a lidded container in the kitchen, keeping smells and bugs at bay. When the container is full — usually once a week — it is brought outside to a 3-section composting system, and dumped into the fresh food scraps section.

2nd Selectman Jen Tooker, with her 3-section compost bin.

Once that section is full the scraps are transferred to the second section, where composting really begins. Eventually the pile is moved to the third section, where it becomes rich compost.

The process takes about 6 months, and requires a bit of lifting. But the Tookers would not have it any other way. They find great satisfaction in taking the time and effort to compost excess food.

There are easier ways to manage food scraps, for sure. But composting has become a part of the Tookers’ lives.

Their system is actually one of the most complex. People new to composting can start smaller and simpler. Sustainable Westport’s website includes many options.

For example: Fill one side of the composter with food scraps and some “browns” (leaves, strips of newspaper, etc.). Once that side is full, fill the other side. By the time you have filled the second side, the first should be full of compost material.

Or consider purchasing a compost bin that sits directly on the ground. Place food scraps in the container, and wait. Several months later, compost comes out the bottom of the container. Because food scraps break down over time, containers seldom get completely full.

You can even make your own enclosure to hold food scraps. Animals might enjoy some of the contents. At least you’re keeping food scraps out of the waste stream.

At this extraordinary time — as we think more than usual about how we get ouor food, and how to make the most of what we have — Sustainable Westport’s social media platforms (website, Facebook and Instagram) provide helpful suggestions.

They can’t celebrate Earth Day with a huge composting celebration. But Sustainable Westport is offer a webinar. On Wednesday, writer/activist Lori Fontanes leads a discussion on “Feeding People in a Time of Climate Change and COVID-19.” It’s co-sponsored by Earthplace and the Westport LIbrary, and limited to 100 people.

Click here to register — and join the heap!

(For more information on Sustainable Westport and composting, click here.)

Westport Means Business

Those are not just words. “Westport Means Business” is the name of an ongoing series of events bringing together local business owners — and those who hope to be — to share, learn from and support each other.

“Westport Means Business” is about connections, not competition.

Last year’s inaugural session included Julie Fountain and Dana Noorily, founders of The Granola Bar; Jamie Camche, longtime owner of JL Rocks jewelry store, and Kitt Shapiro, whose 2-year-old West is already an established downtown presence.

The next event is tomorrow (Thursday, January 9, 7 p.m., Westport Library Forum; networking begins at 6:30 p.m.).

Panelists include Bill Taibe, executive chef and owner of The Whelk, Kawa Ni and Jesup Hall; JoyRide’s CEO and co-owner Becky Cerroni and co-founder and chief brand officer Amy Hochhauser, and Maria Pooya, founder and CEO of Greenwich Medical Spa.

All are local residents. All own multiple-location businesses. All are very different. But their focus on community, generosity and success crosses all boundaries.

Last year’s topic — “Jumping Off” — explored the moment the women decided to start their own businesses. This year it’s “Lessons Learned”: sharing advice on what to do — and not do.

Jen Tooker — Westport’s 2nd selectman, whose portfolio includes speaking with local business owners — will once again moderate. As she did last year, she will encourage panelists to tell their stories.

And suggest what our town can do better, to help local businesses.

Tooker says that feedback she’s heard falls in 3 general areas. One is that we have a successful and vibrant local business community. But owners want ways to meet, learn from, challenge, support and cross-promote each other.

Another is that among our many talented residents, many men and women are looking to start second, third, even fourth careers. How can we capitalize on this talent pool, and connect them with others who have already started businesses?

A third area is that Connecticut has a reputation of being anti-business. How can we turn this narrative around, and highlight our diverse, vibrant business community?

“I’m inspired by every local business owner I meet,” Tooker says. “I can’t wait to continue celebrating our business community. We’re partnering with the Westport Library on this, and are working together with the herculean efforts of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants Association. Just as we want Westport to be a great place to live and raise a family, it can also be a great place to start and grow a business.”

“Westport Means Business” plans 3 panels this year, and monthly podcasts.

Thursday’s event is free, and open to all. Pre-registration is not mandatory, but click here for a link so that organizers can get a sense of numbers.

“Westport Together”: It Takes A Village To Raise Our Kids

As long as there have been teenagers, adults have worried about them.

In 1996 the United Way organized 2 townwide forums on youth issues. They led to the formation of Positive Youth Development: a collaborative effort to support youngsters and their families in their homes, at school and throughout the community.

The goal was to prevent risky behavior by providing parental education and support, rather than correcting challenges after something happens.

PTAs helped too.

Dialogue between groups resulted in new programs, including Toquet Hall, Community Service Corps, school psychologist meetings, Suniya Luthar’s research, a schoolwide substance abuse survey, and Risky Behavior Forums.

Now, 20 years after its formation, Positive Youth Development is being revitalized. Teenagers face new challenges (along with the old ones). Town organizations and non-profits have changed.

Information comes at us all in a firehose. In a torrent of emails, meeting notifications and online platforms, it’s easy to miss important ideas.

It’s time for the community to help its young people in different ways.

This morning, at Human Services’ 23rd annual breakfast for mental health professionals, the department will launch “Westport Together.”

It’s a new alliance that advocates for resilient youth, healthy families and strong communities; provides education through programs, presentations and resources, and enhances connections among families, schools and the entire town.

The PYD philosophy remains the same. But Westport Together hopes to enhance links between town and school programs; improve communication among partners and community members, and increase participation and information sharing.

A new website brings a number of youth, parenting and community programs together in one place. There are also pages for upcoming events, and a rich array of resources.

Westport Together alliance members include:

  • Westport Public Schools
  • Westport PTA
  • Town of Westport (Human Services, Police, Fire, Parks & Recreation)
  • Earthplace
  • Westport Library
  • MoCA
  • Positive Directions — Center for Counseling and Prevention
  • RULER (parent group)
  • Wakeman Town Farm
  • Westport Museum for History and Culture
  • Westport Prevention Coalition
  • Westport Weston Health District
  • Westport Family YMCA

Second selectman Jennifer Tooker

Second selectman Jen Tooker helped lead the project, along with Human Services director Elaine Daignault, youth services program director Kevin Godburn and school district coordinator of psychological services Valerie Babich.

Tooker says, “This is more than a revitalization of PYD. It’s a declaration of our commitment to, and prioritization of, the health and well-being of our youth.

“We want Westporters to know this is not an easy topic to tackle. We understand it takes a village to support this initiative. The village is ready and working!”

Back in the day, Daignault adds, “when a kid walked through town, people knew him and looked out for him. There was less chance of risky behavior.

“With Westport Together, we hope to get back to that time when everyone looked out for our kids — together.”

Alabama Vote Sparks Westport Protest

More than 50 women — and men — gathered yesterday on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Memorial Bridge.

Bearing signs ranging from simple (“My body, my choice”) and sharp (“Regulate your dick, not my pussy”) to caustic (“If you ban abortion before you ban military assault rifles that massacre children in schools, you have lost the right to call yourself ‘pro-life'”), they protested the passage in Alabama 2 days earlier of a far-reaching anti-abortion law.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The group included all 3 selectmen: Jim Marpe, Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane.

Also on the bridge: Firouz Saghri, 22 of Westport, and Hunter Rempe, 21 from Fairfield.

They were headed to happy hour when they saw the protest. They asked for paper and markers, made a sign — and stayed the entire time.

When co-organizer Darcy Hicks thanked them, Firouz said, “This is so much more important than happy hour. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the time.”

Hunter added, “Hey, we have moms and sisters and female friends. This is important!”

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)