Tag Archives: First Selectman Jim Marpe

Jim Marpe: Ready To Serve 4 More Years

Westport voters have re-elected Jim Marpe as 1st selectman. He and running mate Jen Tooker prevailed over Democrats Melissa Kane and Rob Simmelkjaer, and petitioning candidates John Suggs and T.J. Elgen.

Moments ago, Marpe gave a victory speech at Republican headquarters. Here’s what he said:

I want to begin by thanking the voters of Westport, and all of Jen Tooker’s and my supporters who are here tonight, for the extraordinary vote of confidence that you have shown us today and throughout the past months on the campaign trail. I am humbled by the honor of being re-elected as your first selectman, and grateful that you have seen fit to grant me another 4 years of this awesome responsibility.

I want to thank our competitors, Melissa, Rob, John and TJ, for stepping forward to serve this wonderful community and to put in the effort to run this challenging race. You deserve the thanks of all Westporters for putting yourselves out there. Jen and I look forward to working with all of you in the coming 4 years to make Westport the very best place it can be.

As the saying goes, success has many fathers (and mothers), and in this case it is true. Many of you suggested that I run again for first selectman. I am grateful for that confidence and support and by the fact that it comes from across the political spectrum.

And thank you to my family and the many outstanding volunteers who helped make this campaign a success.

First Selectman Jim Marpe

From the time I became first selectman 4 years ago, the process has always been about people – the people of Westport. In that time, and especially during the campaign, I have met with so many Westporters, often at the usual campaign places – the soccer fields, train stations, transfer station and through many community activities and fundraisers, and uncounted phone calls and front doors.  What I learned, or perhaps re-learned, was a simple truth: Whether your family arrived here generations ago or you just arrived last week, Westport is a very special place. Yes, we have beautiful surroundings, great schools, amazing recreational amenities and the charm of a New England town. But what really makes Westport a special place are the people — interesting, talented, creative, tolerant, smart and, yes, opinionated.

We all have the tendency to work and play among people who are like ourselves, but one of the great benefits of my job as well as the campaign trail is realizing the remarkably diverse population of Westport and the challenges that so many face. And you come to realize the importance of representing everyone in town.  From the person on Saugatuck Shores who is uncertain what to do about making his house FEMA compliant, to the widow in a deteriorating home in the Coleytown area who is not sure how she can afford to stay in Westport, to the young moms with toddlers who just want some benches and shade in our playground areas.

The selectman’s job – in fact any government responsibility – is all about service. I once told a group of Staples High School students that I viewed politics as simply another vehicle to be of service to our community and to the people of our community. So it’s time now to switch from the politics of an election campaign to once again representing all the people and to focus on what we have in common – not what divides us.   

Jim Marpe takes service to a new level. Every December 31, he volunteers at First Night.

Our vision has always been to make Westport one of the best places in America to live by:

  • Fully supporting the excellence of our schools by providing the students, parents and teachers the resources they need to keep our public education world class;
  • Renewing our commitment to seniors who want to age in place through innovative programs, living options, financial relief and an enhanced senior center;
  • Practicing fiscal discipline to safeguard Westport’s financial future;
  • Promoting the economic vitality of Westport while preserving Westport’s small town character and New England charm;
  • And enhancing the quality of life by delivering the highest quality town services and amenities that reflect the complex needs and interests of our fellow citizens.

But these are empty promises unless, as a team, your selectmen listen to you – the people – learn from you and then take leadership in addressing the priorities that you help us establish.

I view the selectmen’s office as a team. For the past 4 years I have had the privilege of working with Avi Kaner and Helen Garten, both of whom have stepped forward to take on major projects of their own. Please join me in thanking them for their many years of elected volunteer service to the Town.

I am also fortunate to have an incredible office manager in Eileen Francis – she keeps her cool when others around her are losing theirs – and our newest office members Kirsten Rosa, Sara Harris and Eileen Flug. And now in addition to Jen Tooker, we welcome Melissa Kane who has demonstrated that she is prepared to take on a wide variety of leadership responsibilities as part of the Selectmen’s team.

Jim Marpe praises his Town Hall team. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

But our team is even bigger than the selectmen’s office. We are fortunate in Westport to have so many dedicated, capable and experienced employees throughout all aspects of the Town’s operations. The town’s success during these past 4 years, and well before that, is the result of many outstanding town employees who I have had the privilege to work with. I look forward to continue collaborating with them to make Westport an even better place.

And the other key to Westport’s success is the huge community of volunteers.  Thank you to everyone who serves or has served in any sort of volunteer role, be it in government, schools, not-for-profit organizations or your house of worship.  Westport could simply not function without your interest, commitment and active support.

And so I ask you to join me as our new selectmen team begins its focus on the people of Westport and making this one of the best places to live for every Westport citizen. Let’s continue making ideas into reality. Thank you for your support and the confidence you have expressed in Jen and me in this election and thank you in advance for your help in realizing our vision.

The Dog Days Of Brandon Malin

As the thermometer heads toward 95 — with plenty of that nice Westport humidity — it’s a good day to take note of some new signs around town.

Sure, we think there are too many. But a few new ones are well worth reading.

And heeding.

Last spring, Brandon Malin — a Coleytown Middle School 8th grader — spearheaded a drive to remind drivers not to leave children or pets in cars that quickly turn sweltering, even on mild days. He got the idea from similar signs in Fairfield parking lots.

With the help of the Staples High School art department — and the support of Westport Animal Shelter Advocates, First Selectman Jim Marpe and other town officials — he saw the project through to completion. (Brandon also raised money to produce the signs.)

They’re up now at Compo Beach and Longshore. Hopefully, downtown lots will be next.

One of Brandon Malin’s signs (under an already-decorated one) at Compo Beach …

The signs say: “If you love them, don’t leave them. Heat Kills!” Below that is the Police Department phone number to report a child or animal in a car, and the reminder: “One call can save a life.”

Heat like today’s makes all of us a bit fuzzy-headed.

Thanks to Brandon, we can focus a bit more clearly on the people and pets we love.

… and another at Longshore.

Marpe Signs Gun Control Pledge, Backs Paris Climate Accord

More than 2 months ago, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe addressed Westport’s “Democracy on Display” demonstration.

“Sign the pledge!” chanted many in the crowd of nearly 1,000, at Veterans Green.

This morning — at a board of selectmen meeting in Town Hall, overlooking the same spot — Marpe announced that on Monday, he did just that.

Westport’s chief executive joins more than 1,000 current and former mayors, from nearly every state. They’ve committed to fight for “common sense gun laws,” through the Everytown for Gun Safety initiative.

Here’s the pledge, with Marpe’s signature:

Marpe — a Republican running for re-election this fall — also affirmed Westport’s support of the Paris Climate Accord. Over 1,200 governors, mayors, businesses and universities nationwide have made similar statements, in the wake of President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of that 195-nation pact.

Pledging the town to meet and exceed the Paris agreement goals, Marpe said: 

Westport has a proud and extensive legacy of environmental leadership, and we believe in doing what’s right for our residents and the environment. 

In 2015, we announced a target of “Net Zero by 2050″ across energy, water and waste. Our goal is to create a sustainable community — from economic, social and environmental perspectives — where future generations will choose to raise their families.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe.

Town Mill Rate Set: 0% Increase

Westport’s mill rate is set.

It’s exactly the same as last year.

The Board of Finance voted unanimously last night to keep the town’s mill rate at 16.86, for fiscal year 2017-18. The board did express concern about the possibility of a mid-year “supplemental assessment,” depending upon state finances.

The total town budget is $204,240,189.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said:

I am proud of our department heads for working diligently to control costs and improve efficiencies, while at the same time maintaining and enhancing our infrastructure. We have been able to absorb the fully restored school budget through the efforts of all town departments. We continue to reform our pension and health programs as we continue to fully fund our obligations and aggressively pay down debt.

Our community is united to ensure that Westport continues to be a highly desirable place to live – for our youth, young families, and seniors. In addition to fully supporting our world-class schools, this year’s budget includes enhancements to downtown, the beaches, and the senior center. Our grand list continues to grow and enables us to mitigate property tax increases, reflecting the confidence residents and businesses have in investing in Westport.

Board of Finance chairman Brian Stern commended “the hard work and commitment of the town’s department heads and professionals. While not raising property taxes, we will also be able to retain reserves at 11%, at the high end of our policy range and consistent with the town’s Aaa rating.”

Democracy On Display In Westport

They came from all over Westport, and Redding and Roxbury. There were, by some estimates, 800 of them. But crowd estimates, as we all know now, are less important than the message the crowd sends.

They were Democrats, Republicans and independents. They were moms, dads, tweens and teens, and folks who marched in the ’60s and are now beyond that age.

The English translation of this Russian sign is: “Treason leads to impeachment.”

All 3 selectmen were there, with town officials, state legislators, and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Julia Belaga. The first President Bush appointed her regional director of the EPA, an agency that President Trump wants to scrap.

Past and present town officials — Republicans and Democrats — at the march included (from left) Steve and Rosemary Halstead, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, State Representative Gail Lavielle and 3rd selectman Helen Garten.

They were there for the environment, women’s rights, immigration and education. They were there against authoritarianism, murky Russian ties and the countless whack-a-mole controversies that have sprung up ever since January 20.

Westporter Susan Terry led the crowd in a rousing, singalong “Star Spangled Banner.” Car horns honked in solidarity. (One car passed by with a counter-protest. “Make America great again!” the driver shouted.)

Suzanne Sherman Propp wore her favorite hat.

The music included upbeat songs like the Beatles’ “Here Comes the  Sun,” and protest anthems like Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”

And when today’s “Connecticut: One Small State, One Big Voice” march from Jesup Green to Veterans Green was over — after Senators Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal, Congressman Jim Himes and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe had spoken — there was one last song.

“These boots are made for walkin’,” Nancy Sinatra sang. “And one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

Are you ready?

March organizers (from left) Darcy Hicks, Lauren Soloff and Lisa Bowman show off the message of the day.

Today’s march attracted demonstrators of all ages…

… including this future voter. (Photo/Cathy Siroka)

Congressman Jim Himes gets ready to speak.

Congressman Jim Himes said that President Trump has catered to “the worst elements of extremists.” But he hasn’t succeeded, because “all over America — in unlikely states like Oklahoma and Alabama — people came together. Reasonable Republicans heard from people like you.

“People have used fear to move decent Americans behind bad instincts,” Himes added. “But this is America. We don’t do fear well. Whatever your party, stand up.

“To all the Democrats and Republicans here: You are the best of America. Thanks to you, our shared values will prevail.”

The crowd responded with a heartfelt chant: “Thank you Jim!”

Senator Dick Blumenthal (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Senator Dick Blumenthal told the crowd at Veterans Green: “This is what democracy looks like!” It’s because of crowds like this, he said, that Trump’s “cartoonishly incompetent” healthcare plan went down to defeat.

The Judiciary Committee member pledged to push an independent investigation of the president.

He noted that his father fled Germany for the US in 1935. He was 17, and spoke no English. “This country gave him a chance to succeed. He would be so ashamed now, to see the Statue of Liberty’s lamp extinguished.”

Senator Chris Murphy (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Senator Chris Murphy energized the crowd, saying: “There is no fear that can’t be cured by political activism.” And though he sometimes goes to bed fearing the movement will lose strength, he wakes up in the morning to find it bigger than ever.

He said that he, Blumenthal and Himes “are trying to raise our game to equal this moment. Democracy is inefficient, but no one has invented a better system yet.” However, he noted, “democracy is not inevitable. We have to keep fighting for it.”

Senator Murphy on Veterans Green. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Deli Owner Tries To Solve Pickle

The state Department of Transportation calls the Post Road/Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection one of the most dangerous in Connecticut.

Everyone in Westport agrees. But every day, Breno Donatti gets a first-hand view of exactly how horrible it is.

In just the few weeks since he took over Art’s Delicatessen, the owner of what is now Winfield Street Italian Deli watches pedestrians run for their lives as they cross the street.

He gets plenty of lunch and catering orders from the Wright Street building and the offices on Wilton Road. His employees are terrified to deliver, though. At least twice, they’ve nearly been hit by cars.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

The Winfield Street Deli on Post Road West.

It cuts both ways. “People who work across the street don’t feel like risking their lives to get coffee here,” Breno says.

And customers parking in front of Winfield Deli are beeped at constantly, as they back into a space.

This morning, Breno emailed First Selectman Jim Marpe. He asked for a simple “Yield to Pedestrians” sign, or maybe a pedestrian button on the traffic light.

What happened next made him realize that — despite the Post Road hassles — he opened his store in a great town.

Within minutes, Kirsten Carr from the selectman’s office wrote back. She said that although the streets are state property, she would forward his concerns to the town’s traffic control officer.

And just a few minutes after that, 2 police officers — Ashley Del Vecchio and Al D’Amura — strolled in.

They told Breno that they’d already called state officials, to plead for more signs or a renovation of the intersection. And they assured him they’ll do everything in their power to help the state make the area safer for pedestrians.

“They were so courteous, gracious and responsive,” Breno says. “Wonderful people!”

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Breno Donatti (right) and Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

The intersection won’t improve instantly. But plenty of people are working on it.

Including the concerned — and now pleased — owner of Winfield Deli.

Coming Round The Bend? High-Speed Rail Line May Slice Through Saugatuck

It pays to read what the government puts out.

Lawmakers are fond of sticking something on page 1218 of proposed bills that turn out to be a windfall for one constituent who runs a casino, owns a farm or wants to sell something in China.

Department officials, meanwhile, put out studies about future projects. Take this recent one from the Federal Railroad Administration, about high-speed transportation from Boston to Washington.

Speeds of 200 miles an hour sound great!

Of course, we’d need new rail lines.

Whoooosh!

Whoooosh!

According to “NEC Future” — NEC meaning Northeast Corridor — a new 2-track infrastructure would begin in New Rochelle. It would run through coastal Fairfield County.

And it would terminate in Westport, west of the Greens Farms station.

This “preferred alternative” would be constructed “parallel to I-95, typically on embankment or aerial structure.”

According to Matthew Mandell — RTM representative, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director and Slice of Saugatuck founder — “we could be talking about a train running right along 95, above and over Tarry Lodge, Tutti’s, the Duck and out over the river.”

Or, he says, “maybe a bit more north through who knows what.”

A map in the "NEC Future" report, showing a possible high-speed rail line route. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

A map in the “NEC Future” report, showing a possible high-speed rail line route. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is on the case. He wrote a letter to the Railroad Administration, noting “extreme concern” — at minimum — in Westport about the possible route.

Marpe cited impacts on coastal resources, property owners and the Saugatuck neighborhood.

Mandell says, “While this may be decades away, so was 95 at some point — and look what it did.”

(Click here for the entire “NEC Future” report. For the appendix only — with maps — click here. Hat tip: Scott Smith)

Happy Holidays From Jim Marpe

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe has released his annual video holiday message to Westport. Click below to hear the town’s chief executive talk about the “turmoil” of the previous year — and express hope that “passionate” and “devoted” Westporters will continue to make this a town we are all proud of.

1st Selectman’s Thanksgiving Video

Marpe’s Message: “Treat Each Other With Respect And Civility”

A few moments ago, First Selectman Jim Marpe issued his annual Thanksgiving message. It includes a response to an open letter sent last night by Westport’s Democratic Town Committee, asking him to stand up to the rhetoric unleashed by the 2016 presidential campaign.

Marpe says:

Westport has always been and will continue to be a place where we live by and teach our children the values that we cherish — values that embrace equality, inclusiveness, open-mindedness, respect for each other as well as the law, and of course, education. We hold fast to these ideals regardless of political party, religious affiliation, social strata, gender, or age.  This Thanksgiving, we thoughtfully and respectfully reflect upon these qualities in light of recent events that have transported our nation into divisiveness and turmoil.

A recent “open letter” to me as the first selectman of this great community called for a response to the events in our nation related to the 2016 presidential election.  I believed that it was appropriate to do so in the context of my annual Thanksgiving message to all 27,000 Westport residents.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe.

Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe.

I want to start with my reflections expressed to those gathered in the Town Hall auditorium on Veterans Day this past November 11; that ceremony occurring merely days after the tumultuous election.  I confidently assured those present that the rights and freedoms for which veterans fought so valiantly are alive and well in this great nation, and in the town of Westport.

The political events of the past year have tested our collective understanding of democracy, creating conflict nationwide and anxiety at many a dinner table and social gathering throughout Westport and the rest of the country. While the outrage and despair over the problems that our nation and our community need to address remains, it is our democracy which makes this such an extraordinary country.

The 2016 election has stirred us all to reconsider our core values and our rights as Americans; rights which many in Westport may have taken for granted because we thought we had the luxury of doing so.  However, with recent events fresh in our minds, we must be cognizant that with the freedoms we cherish come certain personal obligations.

Despite differences, Westporters must treat each other with mutual respect and civility. We are no strangers to making our world, country, and our community a better place.  The town’s municipal, civic, religious and volunteer institutions operate under the mantle of these values. Our laws and our values don’t change because of the most recent political winds.

We encourage thoughtful and constructive means to embrace each other’s differences. We denounce hatred, divisiveness and manipulation by words and deeds. We remember that in Westport, we are grateful and thankful for and continue to be committed to, the values we hold so dear in our cherished town. I can assure you that this town will continue to embrace and protect all its citizens and will stand firmly against hate and intolerance, now and always.

Hundreds of Westporters volunteer each year at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Feast.

Hundreds of Westporters volunteer each year at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Feast.

Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful for our freedoms and our good fortune.  We remain steadfast in our resolve to help those less fortunate, all the while remaining aware of the world events around us that may inhibit that resolve. We express our heartfelt thanks to those in our community that stand for the downtrodden or disenfranchised.

I am personally thankful for our extraordinary volunteers, teachers, civic leaders, clergy, and residents, young and old, of all races, creeds and ideals, who work tirelessly and diligently each and every day, at times with little or no recognition.  They share their time and talents without fanfare, so I want to acknowledge their contributions and let them know that they are valued and appreciated.

I wish all the citizens of Westport a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. I encourage you to take the opportunity to pause and reflect on how you may contribute to making our community a place where all are welcome and respected.

Thank you.