Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore made history last week. They were sworn in as 1st and 2nd selectwomen — the first time 2 females occupied to town’s top spots.
They made history again. As a special meeting of the Board of Selectwomen, they chose Candice Savin as 3rd selectwoman. This marks the 1st time in the town’s 186 years that all 3 members are female.
Savin was quickly sworn in, in the selectwomen’s meeting room, by Town Clerk Jeffrey Dunkerton.
The swearing-in ceremony.
Savin’s route to Town Hall began when she ran on the Democratic ticket, with 1st selectman candidate Jonathan Steinberg. They lost to the Republican candidates by 69 votes.
Steinberg declined the 3rd selectman’s seat, citing his obligations as Westport’s state representative in Hartford.
Libertarian candidate T.J. Elgin — who received 64 votes — claimed he was then the rightful 3rd selectman, since Savin had run for the 2nd post. He filed a lawsuit in Superior Court, but withdrew it yesterday.
Savin — whose most recent position was Board of Education chair — was endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee last week.
The new 3rd selectwoman told “06880”: “I am so pleased to take on this role, and look forward to working with Jennifer Tooker and Andrea Moore on behalf of our town.”
With just over 8,400 of Westport’s 19,811 eligible voters casting ballots, Republicans retain Town Hall. Control of the selectman’s office has ping-ponged between parties ever since the 1970s, when a 25-year stretch of Republicans ended.
This will be the 3rd straight term for Republican leadership. But this is Westport, not Washington or many other places in America.
We’re a blue town, in a blue state. And we’re a town. We’re neighbors. We see our new selectwomen — and, notably, this is the first time in our history the top 2 slots are filled by females — everywhere. The market, the beach, doctor’s offices — they’re part of our community.
Westport’s new 1st selectwoman Jen Tooker (right) and 2nd selectwoman Andrea Moore
Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore are Westporters, through and through. Tooker has lived here for many years; Moore is a Staples graduate.
Both have extensive experience. Tooker is the incumbent 2nd selectwoman; Moore serves on the Board of Finance. They know this place. They know us. They will guide our town with wisdom, strength, compassion and care.
Tooker and Moore won the election with substantial support from Democrats and independents. Both groups represent the bulk of Westport voters.
Tuesday’s election was hardly a Republican wave. Democrats continue to control all boards and commissions. They outpolled their opponents — in some cases, substantially — in races that were both contested, and uncontested.
Planning & Zoning — one of the most important bodies in town — saw the re-election of 3 Democratic incumbents.
The Board of Education — another crucial body — was humming quietly along, with 2 candidates from each party “vying” for 4 seats. A late write-in candidate plastered the town with signs, but drew less than 5% of the vote.
Suddenly — less than a week before Election Day — one candidate slammed his own Republican Party, for failing to take a stand on the Critical Race Theory debate, and alleging it had stopped him from campaigning.
The resulting extensive publicity did not seem to matter. Both Republicans drew nearly the same number of votes; at around 21%, both trailed their Democratic rivals, who were around 28%. All 4 now make up the majority of the new Board of Ed.
Town Hall will continue with Republicans in the top spot — and Democrats leading board and commission meetings held htere.
One of the big stories of this election was the number of uncontested races. The Board of Finance and Zoning Board of Appeals had the same number of candidates as open spots; so (without the write-in candidate) did the Board of Ed.
Six of the town’s 9 Representative Town Meeting districts did not have competitive races.
Combined with the low turnout, that raises a crucial question: How much do Westporters really care about our town government?
Kudos to the men and women who stepped up this election season. Thanks to all who ran, whether they were opposed or not.
You will run our town well. You will put in countless hours, read mind-numbing reports, attend endless meetings, and hear from many residents, with ideas, insights and complaints ranging from very valid to ridiculously absurd.
Some of them may have voted for you. Some of them may have voted against you. Some may not have voted at all.
That’s the reality of democracy. We get the government we deserve.
Or, in Westport’s case, sometimes it’s even better than we deserve.
Results of yesterday’s election — filed with the Secretary of the State — show just how tight the selectman’s race was.
Jennifer Tooker and running mate Andrea Moore edged Jonathan Steinberg and Candice Savin 4,237 votes to 4,168. The winning Republican ticket had 50.03% of the vote, to the Democrats’ 49.21.
Libertarians TJ Elgin and Louis D’Onofrio garnered just 64 votes (0.76%).
But Elgin may become Westport’s 3rd selectman.
Steinberg — currently in his 6th term as a state representative — has declined the 3rd selectman’s position. By statute — and long Westport tradition — it goes to the candidate for 1st selectman who places second in the voting.
Steinberg chairs the legislature’s Public Health Committee, and serves on the Transportation, and Energy and Technology, Committees too.
He told Westport Journal this afternoon that he does not want to be a “third wheel” on the 3-person selectmen board.
Elgin believes that the 3rd selectman position should not go to Savin — Steinberg’s running mate — but rather to him.
The town charter says: “The defeated candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes shall be elected a Selectman.” Elgin contends that because Savin was not a candidate for first selectman, he should be next in line for the post.
Assistant town attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug says, however, that there is only one second place candidate for first selectman: Steinberg. If he declines the post, Flug said, Tooker and Moore must appoint a Democrat to replace him.
Meanwhile, Democrats led in all other races. The results:
Board of Education (contested)
Party-endorsed Democrats Kevin Christie (5,097 votes) and Christina Torres (5,177) and Republicans Robert Harrington (3,850) and Dorie Hordon (3,913) will form a newcomers’ majority on the 7-person board. Write-in candidate Alma Sarelli received 130 votes, and was not elected.
Planning and Zoning Commission (contested)
Democratic incumbents (and Save Westport Now-endorsed Danielle Dobin (5.396), Michael Cammeyer (5,095) and Neil Cohn (4,923) return to office. Republican Jack Whittle (3,368) failed in his bid to recapture his old seat. Coalition for Westport candidate Ron Corwin (786) also lost.
Board of Finance (uncontested)
Democratic incumbents Brian Stern (5,207 votes) and Lee Caney (4,950) will be joined by Republican Michael Keller (4,100).
Board of Assessment Appeals (contested)
Democrats Lynette Pineda (4,547) and Heseyl Gayle (4,446) were elected. Republican Town Committee chair Joseph Sledge (3,470) lost.
Zoning Board of Appeals (uncontested)
Josh Newman and Amy Wistreich were elected.
Representative Town Meeting
Three districts had contested races.
In District 1, Liz Milwe (436), Matthew Mandell (360), Chris Tait (337) and Kristin Mott Purcell (277) won. Abby Tolan (253) and Rick Jaffe (228) lost.
In District 3, Jimmy Izzo (403), Mark Friedman, Don O’Day (35) and Arline Gertzoff (328) won. Ross Burkhardt (252) lost.
In District 9, Kristin Schneeman (427), Nancy Kail (401), Sal Liccione (347) an Lori Church 9343) won. Clark Thiemann (315) and Marla Cowden (300) lost.
Winners in the uncontested districts:
2: Joy Keenan, Harris Falk, Louis Mall, Christine Meiers Schatz.
4: Andrew Colabella, James Bairaktaris, Noah Hammond, Jeffrey Wieser.
5: Peter Gold, Dick Lowenstein, Karen Kramer, Claudia Shaum
The Democratic Town Committee issued this statement earlier today: “The Westport Democratic Town Committee congratulates Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore on their election as Westport’s next first and second selectmen. Their success is Westport’s success. We look forward to working together to keep Westport the vibrant and welcoming place that we all cherish.”
Though the Secretary of the State has not yet announced official results, incumbent 2nd selectwoman Jennifer Tooker and running mate Andrea Moore of the Board of Finance appear to have defeated State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and running mate Candice Savin of the Board of Education.
Tooker — who served in the second spot during 1st selectman Jim Marpe’s second term — will be the first Republican 1st selectwoman in Westport history. Three predecessors — Jacqueline Heneage. Martha Hauhuth and Diane Goss Farrell — were all Democrats. This is also the first time in town history that the top two offices are held by women.
She, Moore and Steinberg — who joins the board as 3rd selectman — take office later this month.
Westport’s new 1st selectwoman Jen Tooker (right) and 2nd selectwoman Andrea Moore
Steinberg and Savin ran behind most other Democrats. In one of the few contested races, Planning & Zoning commissioners Danielle Dobin, Michael Cammeyer and Neil Cohn outpolled Republican Jack Whittle — making a bid to return to the post he once held — and Coalition for Westport candidate Ron Corwin.
The Board of Education was uncontested, until independent Alma Sarelli mounted a late write-in campaign. She received about 3% of the vote, far behind Democrats Kevin Christie and Christina Torres and, behind them, Republicans Robert Harrington and Dorie Hordon.
In the uncontested Board of Finance race, Democratic incumbents Brian Stern and Lee Caney outdistanced Republican Michael Keller.
With some absentee ballots still outstanding, Westport’s 1st Selectman race is too close to call.
Republican 2nd Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker and running mate Andrea Moore lead Democratic State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and running mat Candace Savin, 4,210 votes to 4,149. That’s a 61 vote difference.
Libertarian candidate TJ Elgin garnered just 57 votes total.
Democratic candidates for other offices — contested ones like Planning & Zoning, uncontested ones like Board of Finance, as well as the Board of Education, where write-in candidate Alma Sarelli lags far back –all lead their Republican opponents.
This morning, the 2nd selectwoman announced she’s running for the town’s top spot. First Selectman Jim Marpe said yesterday that he will not run for a 3rd term.
Tooker was elected with Marpe in 2017. Her running mate this time is Andrea Moore, vice chair of the Board of Finance. Like Marpe, both are Republicans.
As 2nd selectwoman Tooker launched Westport Together, an alliance between the town and Westport Public Schools.
She also created and hosts Westport Means Business, a series of events through which business owners and entrepreneurs make connections, exchange ideas and promote Westport.
Last May, in the early months of the pandemic, Marpe appointed Tooker as chair of the ReOpen Westport advisory team.
Tooker — a longtime member of the Board of Finance, Board of Education and Conservation Commission — left her 22-year career with Gen RE’s US and European reinsurance markets in 2013.
Since then — and continuing as 2nd selectwoman — Tooker has created ties with the Westport and Fairfield County business communities. She served on the board of directors for the Women’s Business Development Council, which provides training and financial education to female small business owners around the state.
Tooker is also involved in education, with a focus on closing the achievement gap in Connecticut. She was a board member of the State Education Resource Center, the Education Commission for the Diocese of Bridgeport, and the Adam J. Lewis Academy.
Tooker’s other volunteer efforts include the Westport Weston Family YMCA board of trustees and Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund committee; Westport Sunrise Rotary Club and its 21st Century Foundation board, and coaching with the Westport Soccer Association.
Second selectman Jennifer Tooker’s shirt sent a message at a meeting to promote local women-owned businesses.
Tooker earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics and international relations from the University of Notre Dame. She and her husband Mo have 3 children: Jack, Riley and Nicole. Her parents recently moved to Westport.
“It has been a privilege to serve Westport as second selectwoman,” Tooker says. “This is an amazing town where we enjoy an excellent quality of life. I’ve been part of the team that has worked diligently to ensure Westport is a great place to live and work.
“This community deserves a local government that is accessible and accountable with leadership skills, management expertise and a strategic perspective. As first selectman I will continue to bring these skills to Town Hall every day. It would be an honor to lead Westport, the community we all call home, and foster an even greater sense of community and belonging for all our residents and business owners.”
Tooker’s running mate was elected to the Board of Finance in 2017, and selected as vice chair 2 years later. Moore also serves on the board’s audit subcommittee.
Previously she represented District 9 on the RTM. Her committee work included Education, Public Protection, and Library and Museums.
Moore has worked for over 20 years in financial services, with positions in institutional equity sales, equity research and investment banking at firms including UBS, BT Deutsche Bank and Salomon Brothers.
A native Westporter and Staples High School graduate, Moore is member of the YMCA board of trustees. She has served on the National Charity League’s Westport board, and is a former president of Staples Tuition Grants, Saugatuck Elementary School PTA, and A Child’s Place preschool board. She also co-chaired the Westport Public Schools’ Workshopo Committee.
Moore received a bachelor of science degree in finance from the University of Massachusetts School of Management. She and her husband Dave have 3 daughters: Tessa, Janna and Ella.
Moore says, “It is an honor to run alongside Jen Tooker, a truly accomplished leader for Westport. I am continually impressed with the effective, bipartisan way Jen solves problems and drives positive change. Westport is a truly special place to call home, and I know Jen will work every day to bring people together, represent our community with the utmost integrity, and employ a fresh perspective to meet challenges and new opportunities in the days ahead.”
Westport’s police force, fire department and EMTs provide high service with “utmost professionalism, transparency and accountability,” town officials say.
However, today’s climate “demands a reassessment of goals, an even higher degree of commitment, and a clear way to incorporate and engage” the public.
So today, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced a new Civilian Review Panel. Members will work closely with the Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Departments to “assist in the hiring process of new employees, and review and provide feedback in the civilian complaint process.”
Marpe appointed Selectwomen Jennifer Tooker and Melissa Kane, along with TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, to the CRP.
Though the departments heads retain responsibility for hiring and disciplinary measures, the CRP will work collaboratively and offer feedback.
Foti Koskinas says that when he became Police Chief, his goal was
to continue to build on the foundation of public trust carefully fostered between this department and our residents. Now, at a time when police departments across the country are looking introspectively at ways to better serve our communities, I believe that this is an important step in continuing to maintain complete transparency, in preserving public trust and in reassuring our residents that effective policing is truly a collaborative effort.
Fire Chief Rob Yost adds:
The Westport Fire Department continues to strive to diversify in its hiring of recruit firefighters and, to that end, welcomes the assistance from the CRP. I would also welcome their assistance with any questions of conduct or complaints of fire personnel to insure the continued high level of public trust and support of the Fire Department
But the crowd that packed the Westport Country Playhouse barn Tuesday night enjoyed plenty of laughs — plus wine and food — as 4 women described the many highs and few lows of owning a local business.
They ranged in age from 30s to 50s. They’ve been in operation from 20 years to just 1. Yet the quartet share joy in what they do, gratitude for the opportunity to do it — and a firm belief that Westport is a great place to pursue their dreams.
Second selectman Jennifer Tooker’s shirt motto — “Be Bold” — set the tone for the evening.
The evening was sponsored by the Westport Library, with support from the town. Second selectman Jennifer Tooker moderated, with ease and grace.
Julie Fountain and Dana Noorily — founders of The Granola Bar — are rock stars on the entrepreneurial scene. In 6 years they’ve gone from making desserts in their kitchens to owning 6 restaurants, here and in Westchester.
Interrupting each other, finishing their partner’s sentences and laughing often, the pair talked candidly about the challenges women face, from banks to stereotypes. They even pulled the plug once before they started, then forged ahead after Dana’s husband encouraged them to follow their dream.
When a mentor suggested that their planned granola manufacturing facility include something in the “front of the house,” they did not know the term.
Today they do. Proof of their success came a couple of weeks after they opened their first restaurant. It was filled with people they didn’t recognize. Their friends and family had supported them along the way — but now they had real customers.
Julie and Dana are proud to be setting an example for their young children, as “stay around” — rather than “stay at home” — moms. As they grow their business, there will be more obstacles — family and professional — to overcome. But they’re confident, excited, and proud that their journey began in their home town.
Jamie Camche has owned JL Rocks for 3 times as long: 18 years. Opening a jewelry store was a leap of faith. But her husband has supported her. She’s developed a strong and loyal clientele.
She noted the importance of having local ties too. Jamie was on a buying trip in Europe last September, when heavy rains flooded her Post Road East store.
Thankfully her landlord Mike Greenberg was there, hoisting buckets and bailing her out. He was at the Playhouse barn on Tuesday as well, supporting Jamie.
Participants in the “Westport Means Business” event included (from left) Kitt Shapiro (West), Jamie Camche (JL Rocks), 2nd selectman Jennifer Tooker, and Dana Noorily and Julie Mountain (Granola Bar).
Kitt Shapiro is 57. Yet she calls herself “the new kid on the block.” She’s owned West — the cool Post Road East clothing store — for only a year.
She’s been a 20-year resident of Westport, though. Those ties propelled her “leap of faith” into something she’d never done before.
“I feel so committed to this town, to small businesses, to being part of the tapestry of the community,” Kitt explained. “It’s my home.
West is just around the corner from Main Street, on Post Road East.
“We all know retail has changed,” she added. “But I truly believe local retailers are not going away. People want to touch, see and feel merchandise. They want to interact with other human beings. They’ll seek out people who are kind and smile.”
When Tooker asked for questions, an audience member wondered why none of the 4 businesses were on Main Street.
“We can’t afford it,” Julie said. “But we can’t afford a lot of Main Streets.”
“A town is more than Main Street,” Kitt added.
Third selectman Melissa Kane agreed. Getting the word out about options beyond that small, chain-dominated stretch of downtown is important to retailers and town officials alike, she said.
“We have not done a great job of that,” she admitted. “We need a professional initiative.” Kane said the town is working with a national wayfaring firm, developing signage and strategies to help residents as well as visitors realize the wealth of small, local businesses surrounding Main Street — and where to park, and walk to find them.
Julie praised Westport officials from departments like Fire and Health, for making life easy for entrepreneurs. Westport is the easiest to work with, of their 6 locations (Westchester is the toughest).
“The first health inspection could have been the scariest experience of our life. It wasn’t,” she said.
In her opening remarks Tooker noted that the town, library, Westport Downtown Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce are all spreading the news: Westport is a great place to live, raise a family — and grow and launch a business.
Or, as Julie Mountain, Dana Noorily, Jamie Camche and Kitt Shapiro reiterated: Westport is open for — and to — business.
When Avi Kaner decided to forgo a 2nd run for 2nd selectman, it did not take Jim Marpe long to name Jennifer Tooker as his running mate.
The Dallas native and University of Notre Dame graduate lived in Chicago and London while she and her husband Mo worked for GenRe. (They met in a training class.)
When they were transferred to corporate headquarters in Stamford, they did the usual: searched for the right town (and commute) in Fairfield County.
Tooker says they fell in love with all of Westport, including historic home on North Sylvan.
“The commitment to public education, the beach — we felt a great vibe right from the start,” she notes.
Realizing this was her family’s final move, she decided to act on her long desire for public service. Tooker was appointed to the Conservation Commission — an excellent introduction to the ins and outs of local and state government.
In 2011 she ran for the Board of Education. Talk of “Westport 2025” intrigued her. She believed that her experience overseeing a global department was a good fit for the 21st-century skills the board was examining. Her financial background could help too.
Voters agreed, and elected her.
“In local politics, it doesn’t matter if there’s an ‘R’ or ‘D’ after your name,” she says. “The goal is to figure out how to get things done for all the people you serve. I’m proud that on the Board of Ed we took a pretty non-partisan view.”
Two years later, Tooker ran for the Board of Finance. She cited her knowledge of the education budget process, and ability to bridge communication gaps between the 2 important town bodies.
Juggling her job, public service and a household with 3 kids was not easy. In 2013 she resigned from GenRe.
“I really enjoyed my government work,” Tooker says. “I wanted to devote all my time and energy to it.”
But she found time to join local non-profits too. She is particularly proud of her work with the Adam J. Lewis Preschool in Bridgeport. “I’m passionate about doing what I can to bridge the achievement gap in education,” she says.
Jennifer Tooker, with her family: husband Mo, daughter Riley, son Jack and daughter Nicole.
So why is Tooker leaving the finance board — with its important power — to run for 2nd selectman?
“With all that’s going on with the state budget, we’re in for tough times,” she warns. “I think this is the right time for someone with my breadth and depth of experience, and my business principles, to step in and help the town stay vibrant and wonderful.”
And, she adds, “I can’t pass up the opportunity to serve with Jim. I admire his character, his accomplishments and his vision.” The pair worked together on the Board of Education.
She hopes to “help this administration achieve its goals, while navigating turbulent economic times and still maintaining the quality of life in Westport.”
Pointing to the model Marpe used with Kaner and 3rd selectman Helen Garten, Tooker says the 1st selectman can “figure out the best way to use all of our skill sets to keep Westport unique and vibrant.”
There’s plenty of campaigning ahead. But, Tooker says, she loves to kayak, paddleboard and go to the beach with her kids. Those too are parts of her summer plans.
Jim Marpe grew up in Canton, Ohio. After earning a BA from Case Western and an MBA from Wharton, he embarked on a career with Accenture that took him to Chicago and Copenhagen.
Transferred to New York in 1989, Marpe and his wife Mary Ellen were attracted to Westport by the quality of education, amenities like Compo, and the beauty of Longshore. They also appreciated the town’s arts heritage. A performance at the Westport Country Playhouse sealed the deal.
They joined New Neighbors. The very first person they met was from the country they’d just left: Denmark.
That story illustrates everything Marpe loves about Westport. It’s also a reason why — as he completes his first term as first selectman — he looks forward to running for re-election.
First Selectman Jim Marpe
When he ran 4 years ago, Marpe — who had retired from Accenture as a senior partner — believed he could use his business skills, his experiences on the Board of Education (interim chair and vice chair) and Town Plan Implementation Committee, as well as his leadership roles with the Westport Weston Family YMCA, Homes With Hope, Westport Rotary Club and Greens Farms Congregational Church, to help his town.
“I love this place as much as anyone here,” he says.
He cites his accomplishments: improving town finances; keeping property taxes flat; upgrading Compo and Longshore; beautifying downtown; promoting Westport as an attractive place for business; updating tax policies for senior citizens, and improving the Senior Center; creating a Commission on People with Disabilities, ensuring the town remains inclusive for all residents (and their families).
He’s running again, he says, because there is still work to do. “Hartford has placed problems in our laps. We’ve made great strides in creating a budget to address the lack of any significant revenue coming from the state, and any new bills or taxes we can try to mitigate.”
First Selectman Jim Marpe and Westport Library director Bill Harmer, at work in the first selectman’s office.
Marpe adds, “Hartford’s problems are huge. They won’t get solved in one year. We’ll have to keep our own financial house in order for many years. We’ve been conservative in dealing with town finances. We have to work even harder at that, so Westport continues to be an attractive place to stay in, or move to — one of the most active and exciting communities in the country.”
For example, the first selectman says, a public hearing next month will examine rehabilitating the Compo bathhouses in a way that is “acceptable to all, at a cost we can afford.” Similarly, while the Longshore golf course rehabilitation has made it one of the top 8 public courses in Connecticut, the Inn and other parts of the property can also be improved.
Marpe says he is in “total agreement” with his potential challenger, fellow Republican Mike Rea, about the need for continuous improvement. “That’s what I’ve built my professional career on,” Marpe notes. “We can never rest on our laurels. We have to keep what Westporters hold dear, and make sure this is a town we’re all proud of.”
Personally, he is proud of his administration’s non-partisan approach to problem-solving. Marpe says he has “staffed committees and given assignments to the best qualified people, regardless of party. That’s how Westporters like to address issues.”
Jim and Mary Ellen Marpe, with their daughter Samantha.
Second selectman Avi Kaner will not run for re-election, due to increased demands of running his family business. But he’ll chair Marpe’s campaign, and will continue to work on special projects.
Marpe lauds Kaner’s work, and is “thrilled” that Board of Finance member Jennifer Tooker joins his ticket. “With her background, which also includes the Board of Education, she understands the financial challenges, and the important impact education has in Westport.”
Third selectman Helen Garten was Marpe’s Democratic opponent in 2013. “We’ve worked together as a team,” he says. “All three selectmen play to our strengths. That’s helped make our administration a success.”
He looks back on the past 4 years with satisfaction. Little moments stand out: thank-you notes sent after he attended local events; Memorial Day parades and ceremonies that honor individual citizens, the town and our country as a whole.
Nearly 30 years after moving here, Marpe, his wife and his daughter Samantha — a product of the Westport school system — appreciate more than ever all that Westport is, and does.
Right now for instance, he’s preparing for a panel on April 1 about Syrian refugees.
“Not many communities this size would have that discussion,” he notes. “But in Westport, we have debates like this. Some of them are heated. But when they’re over, we all go to the Black Duck together.”
Jim and Mary Ellen Marpe outside the Black Duck, during last year’s Slice of Saugatuck.
(Democratic State Representative Jonathan Steinberg has set up an exploratory committee to examine a run for first selectman. He declined an interview, citing his state legislature commitments on the budget.)
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