“06880” continues our series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer produces these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.
Today’s interview is with Democratic Board of Finance candidate Nancie Dupier. Click below:
To see all the Persona candidate interviews — and others — click here.
Posted onOctober 24, 2019|Comments Off on “06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Vik Muktavaram
Yesterday, “06880” introduced the first in a series of “Persona” video interviews with candidates for local office. Rob Simmelkjaer is producing these, as part of his new venture that helps users create casual, interesting conversational videos.
Today’s conversation is with Republican Board of Education candidate Vik Muktavaram. Saugatuck Elementary School PTA member Jen Berniker conducted the interview, which begins with a question about redistricting.
To see yesterday’s interview with Board of Finance candidate Sheri Gordon — and other Persona conversations — click here.
Comments Off on “06880” Persona Interview: Board Of Education Candidate Vik Muktavaram
Earlier this year Rob Simmelkjaer — who ran for 2nd Selectman in 2017 — left his corporate gig with NBC Sports and News to pursue a personal mission.
His goal: Develop a multimedia platform giving people the tools to create and discover great interviews and conversations. His company is called Persona.
Though national in scope, its rollout begins locally this month, with a custom interview service. Today, Rob and I are excited to announce a collaboration: the “06880 Persona of the Week.”
Each week, Rob or a Persona colleague will interview an interesting member of the community. Topics and interview subjects will be varied and unlimited, from local movers and shakers to those doing amazing things well beyond our borders.
Each interview will give “06880” readers a chance to meet a neighbor, and see the amazing things that happen when people sit down to chat.
With elections looming, we decided to start with a sprint.
Between now and Election Day we’ll post interviews with each of the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Boards of Education and Finance. These non-partisan interviews will give voters a chance to get to know the candidates, and encourage Westporters to vote.
We start with the Democratic candidate for re-election to the Board of Finance, Sheri Gordon. Tomorrow: Republican Board of Education candidate Vik Muktavaram.
More candidate videos will follow, in the coming days. After the election, this feature will become an actual “Persona of the Week.”
As a kid, Rob Simmelkjaer’s grandmother always told him: “If you’re going to open your mouth, the best thing is to ask a question.”
Questions are “a sign of respect, curiosity, a way to learn,” notes the Westporter. “They’re more than just an opening.”
Simmelkjaer has had lots of chances to ask questions. He’s a former member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and a 2017 candidate for second selectman.
He’s been an on-air contributor for NBC Sports, and as vice president of NBC Sports Ventures was involved with the radio network and podcasts. He previously worked at ESPN and ABC News, where as anchor and correspondent he covered the Virginia Tech shootings and President Ford’s funeral.
Simmelkjaer — who majored in government and philosophy at Dartmouth College, and holds a law degree from Harvard University — is a huge fan of NPR’s StoryCorps. In those short Friday segments people interview relatives and friends, unearthing tales rich in drama and inspiration.
So it’s no surprise that Simmelkjaer — who was NBC Sports’ “in-house entrepreneurial expert” — is now striking out on his own.
Or that his new venture — Persona — is all about asking questions.
Simmelkjaer calls Persona “the first social video platform dedicated to interviews.” It’s like Instagram, he says — but with conversations, not photos.
The app makes interviewing easy. It helps interviewers frame great questions, makes sharing interviews easy, and enables users to discover interesting interviews on similar (or totally unrelated) topics.
Rob Simmelkjaer is at ease in front of a camera. Persona will make the rest of us feel comfortable too.
Persona is not yet ready for prime time. Simmelkjaer is developing a prototype. He’s slowly releasing content on other platforms, like YouTube, to grow the brand.
It’s an exciting project. Just the other day — in the aftermath of the massacre at a New Zealand mosque — Simmelkjaer interviewed Imam Mohamed Abdelati of the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center.
Westport is an important part of Simmelkjaer’s process. Interviews with people like State Senator Will Haskell and attorney Josh Koskoff Takes On The NRA — interesting folks with intriguing insights — are part of the plan.
Simmelkjaer’s very first Persona interview was with Victoria Gouletas. She’s the ZBA member who was paralyzed a year ago, when a heavy tree branch fell on her during a windstorm.
Gently but insightfully, he asks Gouletas about the accident, how she handled the devastating news, and the effect on her family. As she talks about her children, they chatter in the background. Despite the tragedy, the interview is warm, personal and uplifting.
That’s Simmelkjaer’s goal with Persona. It launches officially later this year.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
And when you open your mouth, follow Rob Simmelkjaer’s grandmother’s advice: Ask a question.
Democratic First Selectman candidate Melissa Kane has completed her ticket.
This morning she announced that Rob Simmelkjaer will join her, in the 2nd selectman slot.
A member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Democratic Town Committee, Simmelkjaer jumped into local politics soon after moving here in 2013.
His face may have been known to Westporters even before he arrived. He’s been an on-air contributor for NBC Sports, where he is also vice president of NBC Sports Ventures. He previously worked at ESPN and ABC News, where as anchor and correspondent he covered such events as the Virginia Tech shootings and President Ford’s funeral.
At Dartmouth College, Simmelkjaer majored in government and philosophy. He also holds a law degree from Harvard University.
He is a volunteer coach with the Westport Soccer Assocation, and a vice moderator at Norfield Congregational Church. He and his wife Kathryn — a physician at Bridgeport Hospital — are the parents of 2 young daughters.
When NBC Sports moved from 30 Rock to Stamford, the Simmelkjaers looked to move out of Manhattan. They had friends here. The town’s friendly vibe, opportunities for children and excellent schools made it a no-brainer.
“This is the place I wish I grew up in,” says Simmelkjaer, a New Jersey native.
Always politically engaged, he volunteered with the Barack Obama campaigns in 2008 and ’12, and Hillary Clinton last year.
When Kane asked him to be her running mate, he was quick to say yes. “She’s a terrific leader, is passionate about the town, and knows we have to invest in our assets,” he says.
He is eager to face the budget issues “coming down from Hartford.”
Rob Simmelkjaer with his wife Kathryn, and daughters Julia and Annika.
He also is running because, he says, “with the big picture in today’s country, more people need to stand up and answer the call to serve.”
Believing in the adage “all politics is local,” Simmelkjaer says, “if we want to solve problems at the state and national level, we need to show we can do it here, in a civil way.”
If elected, he hopes to leverage his day job — working with entrepreneurs and tech people — to focus on “better uses of technology as a town, and with partners, to solve problems like traffic, parking and communications.”
Simmelkjaer also says that — though they’re not the Board of Education or Finance — the 3 selectmen have a role to play in “maintaining our top-quality schools. Whether you have kids or not, that’s important for us all.”
President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants had an unexpected effect in Westport.
A few schoolchildren were worried. What, they asked their parents, would happen to their Spanish teachers? Would they be deported?
Other parents heard similar stories, about fears for foreign classmates.
Some parents had their own worries. How, they wondered, should they raise their kids in this “new” America?
They might get answers — or at least, meet similarly fretful folks — this Tuesday night (April 25, 7:30 p.m., Christ & Holy Trinity Church).
The Democratic Women of Westport are hosting a panel. The title — “Raising Children in Trump’s America” — is both timely and provocative.
President Trump, with some American kids.
The DWW says the discussion will “address the needs emerging in our community as a result of the new political landscape.” Panelists will discuss how to talk to children about the political climate in a way that is “authentic, and not fear-based.” The goal is to “use kindness as an act of resistance.”
The panel includes political activists, as well as Marji Lipshez-Shapiro (senior associate director of the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut) and Claire Dinshaw, editor-in-chief of Staples High School Inklings newspaper.
It will be moderated by Rob Simmelkjaer, a Westport Democratic Committee member and on-air contributor at NBC Sports.
Among the topics they’ll address:
How drastic policy shifts are being felt in Fairfield County
How immigrant and refugee families are faring locally
The social impact of Trump’s rhetoric on our schools and community.
There are sure to be questions from the audience — and comments here, from “06880” readers.
Westport may not have any athletes competing at this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
But our town will be represented, just the same.
In typical fashion, we’re all over the media — on camera, and behind the scenes.
Four Westport residents will play big roles as commentators.
Rebecca Lowe hosts her 2nd Olympics for NBC, following her debut at Sochi in 2014. She’s well known as the 4-year host of NBC’s Premier League soccer coverage, including live pre- and post-match shows from the Stamford broadcast center.
Paul Burmeister will announce water polo. He’s an NFL studio host and play-by-play announcer. Right now he’s in Europe, covering the Tour de France.
Rob Simmelkjaer also heads to Rio, reprising his 2012 role as MSNBC studio host. MSNBC will carry men’s basketball, beach volleyball, rugby, soccer, volleyball, water polo and more. Currently senior vice president of NBC Sports Ventures, he’s also a member of Westport’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
Dave Briggs will be back in Stamford, making his Olympic debut hosting tennis on Bravo. He’s currently a host and anchor for NBC Sports Group, working on a wide range of sports including “NASCAR America” and NHL coverage.
Jeff Clachko — NBC Sports Group’s senior vice president for ad sales — will also be in Brazil.
If you’re going to Rio — for work or pleasure — please let us know. And if you’re headed there as an athlete, we really want to hear from you!
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