Tag Archives: Velma Heller

RTM January Meeting: Code Of Conduct Committee, Police Review Board

This is Peter Gold’s report on the January Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.

No votes were taken at January’s RTM meeting, which saw the announcement of a new special RTM committee, the first reading of an ordinance to establish a civilian police review board, and the announcement of a new town clerk to replace the retiring Patty Strauss.

While RTM rules already require RTM members to conduct themselves in a manner above reproach, Velma Heller, RTM moderator, noted that the start of a new year is a timely occasion to take a step back and review RTM practices. She appointed a special committee of 7 RTM members to see if there is room for improvement, and to clarify expectations regarding conduct at public meetings and in written communications.

The committee is charged with developing a Code of Conduct that articulates desired behaviors that embody the RTM’s values and principles as an organization. The Code of Conduct will cover topics such as Freedom of Information Act issues, the general use of email and social media, and commonly accepted standards of decorum for participation in public discourse, whether in person or on line.

A proposed ordinance was introduced to establish an elected civilian police review board. It would receive, investigate and make recommendations on complains regarding the police. The ultimate decision on any complaint will remain with the chief of police.

Click here for the full text of the proposed ordinance (immediately following the list of upcoming RTM meetings).

The proposed ordinance will be reviewed at upcoming public meetings of the RTM Public Protection and Ordinance Committees. It will be debated and voted on at a subsequent RTM meeting, most likely in February or March.

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, the elected civilian police review board would replace the civilian review panel recently appointed by First Selectman Marpe. That panel reviews and provides feedback on documented complaints regarding the police that are investigated by the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, it can not investigate complaints. Also unlike the proposed ordinance’s review board, Marpe’s panel also reviews complaints regarding the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.

Marpe also announced that Jeff Dunkerton, the assistant town clerk in Danbury, will replace Patty Strauss who recently retired as Westport’s town clerk.

Unsung Heroes #172

RTM member Lauren Karpf writes:

Over 55 years ago, Velma and Garson Heller moved with their children to Westport. They have been giving back to the town ever since.

Velma was elected to the Representative Town Meeting 20 years ago — as a write-in candidate. She has been an RTM member ever since. Her committee work included Education, Public Protection, Long Range Planning, Ordinance and Employee Compensation. 

Velma Heller

She chaired the Education Committee for 9 years, served as deputy moderator for 4 years, and been RTM moderator since 2017. Wrangling 36 members — and working with nearly ever other town board and official — is as difficult as it is thankless. Velma has done it with grace, tact and intelligence.

A gifted educator, Velma spent over 30 years in the Westport school system as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, vice principal, principal, irector of curriculum and staff development, and director of supervision and evaluation.

She then joined Sacred Heart University as a student teacher supervisor and adjunct professor. She worked for 15 years as a full-time faculty member in the Graduate Education Program, where she ran the program leading student teachers.

Velma has dedicated her career to teaching, advising, and helping others better themselves. She continues to do so. She has a natural gift for guiding new and longstanding members alike through their journey on the RTM. She is a sounding board to discuss difficult matters, and truly helps us achieve success. Velma has impacted so many of our youth, but also so many of us.

Garson Heller

Garson graduated from Yale with a degree in chemical engineering. After graduation, joined Mobil as a chemical engineer. He moved to Data Dimensions, where he helped implement a computer system for United Press International.  He moved to Securities Industry Automation Corporation for the rest of his engineering and computing career, before retiring in 2002 as the senior director of computer acquisitions.

Garson has an inspiring record of service to our town too. He served on the RTM for 14 years. He has been a member of the Board of Assessment Appeals since 1983 — 37 years! He is also involved in numerous organizations, including Y’s Men.

The Hellers passed their love of public service on to their children. Their son Grant spent 4 years on the RTM.

And the family is committed to public education. All 3 children went through the public schools. Three of their Velma and Garson’s grandchildren are in the Westport system right now.

Quietly, efficiently and lovingly, Velma and Garson Heller have helped  Westport grow and thrive. They are true Unsung Heroes — and have been, for over half a century.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)