Tag Archives: Bob Zappi

Zapped

The 1st selectman’s office is not usually a place of controversy. And the 1st week in office for a new 1st selectman is usually a time for feel-good, passing-of-the-gavel photo ops.

This was not a usual week at Westport Town Hall.

To recap:

Last Friday, recently sworn-in 1st Selectman Jim Marpe named Bob Zappi — his former campaign manager, former Republican Town Committee head and a business marketing executive — as his operations manager. A similar position existed under Republican 1st selectmen Doug Wood and Joe Arcudi, but had not been filled for 16 years under Democrats Diane Farrell and Gordon Joseloff.

The position — paying $125,000 a year — was immediately criticized. Westporters wondered why it was needed; why Marpe had not mentioned the idea during the campaign; why he appointed a political friend and not an experienced municipal executive to the post, and why the position was never advertised.

Yesterday, Zappi withdrew his name. He also resigned as “transition leader” for the 1st and 2nd selectmen.

He said that “the discussion has been focused more on me rather than the benefits that this new leadership style would bring” to Westporters. “The outcry from the Democrats was predictable and expected. After all, it has been 20 years since a Republican was elected First Selectman.”

Zappi noted, “I believe competition is healthy and that 2 viable parties are better than one and that my contribution to the political process was positive for Westport.”

Bob Zappi (right) and Mitt Romney.

Bob Zappi (right) and Mitt Romney, last year.

Marpe said, “In my enthusiasm to get going for Westport, I moved quickly. The opportunity to take advantage of Bob’s 30 year track record of helping Fortune 500 companies enhance their organization and operations was compelling.” He cited Zappi’s “proven abilities, knowledge of town government and the people who lead it.”

Marpe added that the appointment was “viewed as partisan in nature, which was never the intention. Given the perception Bob felt that he could not make the contribution he wanted to both Westport and my administration. Therefore, he has chosen to withdraw. This action is a testament to Bob’s character and devotion to the Town of Westport.”

Marpe stressed that he and 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner will fulfill their promise of “bi-partisan consensus…Further reorganization will reflect that commitment. Our broad-based support during the recent campaign clearly demonstrated the desires of Westporters to put the town ahead of politics. We appreciate your continued support as we work together to move Westport forward.”

As I said, quite an unusual week for Westport.

Westport's 1st and 2nd selectmen: Jim Marpe (left) and Avi Kaner.

Westport’s 1st and 2nd selectmen: Jim Marpe (left) and Avi Kaner.

I like Jim Marpe. I said so the day after the election:

He and his running mate, Avi Kaner, are true Westporters. In everything they’ve done — politically, as well as through their many volunteer activities — they’ve put the best interests of this town first.

They’ve built up enormous reservoirs of good will and respect, among a broad swath of voters. The results prove that. This is a Democratic town — in terms of registration numbers — but their win shows that many voters crossed party lines because they liked what they’ve seen, and heard, from these 2 Republicans.

Jim and Avi will work tirelessly for this town. They will do it by working with Democrats, with Save Westport Now members, with independents, and with anyone else who is willing to work with them.

The intense criticism from Democrats and independents over Zappi’s appointment resulted, I think, because it followed so swiftly all the talk of bipartisanship — and because it happened so quickly, without any indication that such a job was even under consideration. Some of the criticism was intensely personal — more vituperative and nasty than I’ve heard in a long time.

But some Republicans, too, felt the appointment was rushed and poorly handled.

The timing of the appointment may not have been great, but the timing of its resolution is. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We’ve got a 4-day weekend. Most of us will relax, enjoy time with friends and family, and give thanks for the many blessings that surround us in Westport.

Jim Marpe has 4 years — minus 1 week — to move our town forward, utilizing the talents and energies of every Westporter. I’m betting he will, and that this is the roughest week he’ll have as 1st Selectman.

If so, we’ll all be thankful for that.

The Scene On Saugatuck Shores

Bob Zappi took this photo at 10:30 a.m. today, on Harbor Road:

So much for reports yesterday that Saugatuck Avenue and Saugatuck Shores would have power by now…

Bob Zappi Packs For Tampa

Several years ago, under Democratic first selectman Dianne Farrell, property revaluations were postponed due to a 6-year backlog in assessments. Republican Town Committee chairman Pete Wolgast urged party members to get involved in local politics.

Bob Zappi heeded the call.

The long-time Westporter — a Cub Scout pack leader, basketball and baseball coach, church leader and Mercy Learning Center board member — stepped up. He quickly rose through the RTC ranks, to chairman. He stepped down several months ago, to work at the party’s state and federal levels.

Later this month, Bob heads to Tampa. Duty calls: He’ll join the Connecticut delegation, as a guest at the Republican National Convention.

Bob’s had a long career in marketing. He moved to Westport 24 years ago, to join MCA. He later joined Ryan Partnership. A few years ago he formed his own consulting firm, Catalyst. Nowadays he consults for Fortune 500 firms. A year ago he started a political fundraising company, PierceZappi. Among its clients: US Senate candidate Chris Shays, and the state Republican party.

Bob looks forward to his 1st convention. He anticipates “a gargantuan room filled with like-minded people.” He is eager to hear their takes on important issues.

He got a taste of national politics this winter, at the Republican National Committee meeting in New Orleans. Party leaders from around the country shared “war stories” — everything from the nuts and bolts of getting out the vote, to behind-the-scenes action in Senate races.

Bob is eager too to get to know the 100 or so Connecticut delegates and guests. The 4-day event will be filled with events, meetings and social opportunities.

Bob Zappi (right) and Mitt Romney.

The chance to meet presumptive nominee Mitt Romney is low. Bob has spent time with him before, in small groups, and is impressed with the former Massachusetts governor’s “ability to drive forward to positive solutions.”

So if Bob could meet any Republican bigwig in Tampa, who would it be?

He names two. There’s Florida Senator Marco Rubio — “smart, articulate, with a great family background.”

And South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

“I spent 5 years as chairman making the Republican Town Committee younger and more female,” Bob says. “Now, our chairman and two vice chairs are women.

“The Republican Party is trying to appeal to a broader demographic, nationally. I think we’ve already won seats in Westport because of that.”

Conspiracy Theorists, Take Note

Westport’s 3 Republican Board of Finance members — Charlie Haberstroh, Ed Iannone and Avi Kaner — joined Republican Town Committee chairman Bob Zappi this past weekend, in Pinehurst, N.C.

No, they were not raising piles of cash from wealthy donors.

Nor did they plan a takeover of town government.

They were there to celebrate the wedding of Charlie’s son, Chuck.

The guy in the center of the photo (above) made sure no town business was transacted illegally.