Anyone can ask the 1st Selectman candidates what they think about taxes, traffic and the future of Main Street. Their answers may not be surprising.
But “06880” wants to know more. We’d like to know what makes these men (and woman) tick. And what makes them Westporters, as opposed to politicians.
So we asked each candidate the same 10 questions. Here are their replies. I chose the fairest way to post them: alphabetically. But — since as a “W” I’m always last — they’re in reverse order. Hah!
What got you to Westport?
John Suggs: My wife and I were looking for a community in which to raise our newborn twins, with great schools, friendly neighborhoods and unique community character. A place that our kids would always be proud to call home. That is Westport.
Jim Marpe: Our family moved to the New York City area 30 years ago at the request of my employer, Accenture, following a lengthy expatriate management assignment. By coincidence 2 of our best friends had moved to Westport while we were overseas, so we had already visited several times and gotten a preview of the community. Our daughter was entering elementary school, so the world-class quality of the school system was the primary attraction. But the other attractions were the physical character of the town, the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the wide variety of activities that did not exist in similar places we had lived.
Melissa Kane: I began coming here as a child and have loved it ever since.
TJ Elgin: My grandparents helped save me from a dark path with my father.
John Suggs and his dog Monty. The photo was obviously taken between October 1 and March 31.
What kept you in Westport?
Suggs: The friendly people, the community ties and the schools which have become a second home for our children.
Marpe: The Westport public schools are the primary reason we stayed, but by then we were involved in leadership roles with a variety of interesting community service organizations that help a wide cross-section of Westport, including Homes With Hope, the Westport Weston Family Y, Green’s Farms Congregational Church, the Rotary Club, Westport Country Playhouse, the Young Woman’s League, and Neighbors and Newcomers of Westport. My wife, Mary Ellen, was a successful small business owner for over a decade (Westport Academy of Dance). Moreover, we had come to appreciate the wide variety of high quality amenities that Westport offers (Library, beaches, Longshore, performing and visual arts, attractive open spaces) as well as proximity to New York City. In the end, it’s the great friendships we have developed with an amazing array of interesting and involved Westporters that will keep us here for many years to come.
Kane: My husband proposed to me way out on a sandbar at Old Mill Cove. We love this town and wanted to raise our children here. The overall character, roots in the arts, and the people make it an easy place to love.
Elgin: My family and friends.
Favorite place in Westport to relax?
Suggs: Golden Shadows back porch in Baron’s South.
Marpe: Compo Beach (South) on a summer evening with friends and a picnic dinner. Certainly not Town Hall!
Kane: Walking on the beach.
Elgin: Compo Beach.
Favorite place to go when you’re NOT in Westport?
Suggs: Cape Town, South Africa.
Marpe: Any place that has small, family-owned vineyards and wineries and a small, quiet inn.
Kane: Hiking in the White Mountains with my family.
Elgin: Stratford Pyramid Shriners.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe, in the 2013 Memorial Day parade. Behind him are State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, 3rd Selectman Helen Garten and 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner.
Musical group you’d most like to see at the Levitt?
Suggs: The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.
Marpe: The Rolling Stones.
Kane: Ben Folds.
Elgin: Lights, she is from Canada.
Favorite annual event in Westport, and why?
Suggs: Staples High School Candlelight Concert. The music by our talented students together — during the holiday season — makes my heart soar.
Marpe: Memorial Day parade. Truly a local event with a family focus that reflects our small town character, honors our residents who fought for our freedoms, and marks the unofficial beginning of summer.
Kane: Memorial Day parade. It’s the most wonderful small town, magical event one could imagine. It really captures the spirit of the town like nothing else. My children have been in it; I love to watch and participate in it. I am also always humbled by the sacrifices that were made by our servicemen and women.
Elgin: Fireworks because it’s my first real date with my soon-to-be wife, and Lobsterfest because of old friends I never get to see.
Melissa Kane (right) with her mother, Judith Orseck Katz.
If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about Westport, what would it be?
Suggs: The traffic congestion.
Marpe: Traffic would flow easily and freely through all our intersections. The Waze and Google Maps apps would cease to divert traffic from I-95 and the Merritt Parkway onto our local streets. Our drivers would obey all speed limits and traffic regulations, and observe safe driving etiquette. And our streets would magically widen to become “complete streets” with sidewalks, pedestrian- friendly crosswalks and bicycle lanes, along with plenty of room for cars to pass.
Kane: Making it a place our children could come back to and our seniors can stay in.
Elgin: The entitlement. We live in a world where we all need to help each other and our surroundings, to have a brighter future for our planet.
Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts?
Suggs: Neither. The Sherwood Diner.
Marpe: Dunkin’ Donuts. But my real choices are Coffee An’ and Donut Crazy.
Kane: Coffee An’.
Elgin: Neither. I don’t drink or eat from places that I don’t know where their products are from.
TJ Elgin and his fiancee, Denise Bahr.
5 words to describe Westport?
Suggs: Compo, Cribari Bridge, beautiful, home.
Marpe: Cosmopolitan, active, creative, caring, innovative.
Kane: Forward-thinking, beautiful, engaged, active, community.
Elgin: Historical, environmental, artistic, educational, proper.
5 words to describe yourself?
Suggs: Persistent, dedicated, devoted, father, husband.
Marpe: Hardworking, proactive, principled, optimistic, collaborative.
Kane: Collaborative, optimistic, determined, down-to-earth, objective.
Elgin: Generous, knowledgeable, noble, wolfy, strong.