Tag Archives: Westport Town Clerk

Roundup: FOIA, Blue Coupe, Dog Poop …

A WordPress issue prevented some subscribers from receiving “06880” from Friday afternoon through last night.

If you’re one of those who missed your more-than-daily dose of Westport life, my apologies (on behalf of my content management system).

To access everything you missed, go to http://www.06880.org, then scroll down. Enjoy — and thanks for your patience.


In today’s “What’s Next in Weston” podcast, 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor addresses a serious situation involving the substantial abuse of FOIA by a Weston couple who have made numerous allegedly frivolous claims and requests from the Freedom of Information Commission regarding Weston Town government and the Board of Education.

The requests have been honored — at great taxpayer expense — but have shown no misdeed or mismanagement, Nestor says. The situation costs the town both volunteer time, and taxpayers’ money.

Nestor offers her view, and explains the town’s response. “What’s Next in Weston” is produced by the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston.


Music fans can hardly wait for VersoFest ’23.

Now they’ve got 3 weeks less to wait.

Blue Coupe — the supergroup formed by Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway, and Blue Öyster Cult founders Joe and Albert Bouchard — headlines a Westport Library show on Friday, March 10 (7 p.m.).

Proceeds from the show benefit VersoFest. The music/multimedia and more event runs March 30 to April 2. It features live performances by Sunflower Bean, Amilia K Spicer and the Smithereens, plus programs and workshops featuring music luminaries, and people behind the scenes. Producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads) offers the keynote address on April 1.

Sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo of Manic Panic join Blue Coupe for the show. DJ B The T Sr. starts the night spinning the rock, R&B and blues music that influenced Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult.

Dunaway — a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee — co-wrote Alice Cooper hits like “I’m 18” and “School’s Out.” Multi-instrumentalist Joe Bouchard — a VersoFest 2022 alum — and drummer Albert Bouchard co-wrote and arranged many of Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest songs, including “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” “Hot Rails to Hell” and “Astronomy.”

Blue Coupe has released 3 albums. They have performed at major music festivals, and been livestreamed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Tickets to see Blue Coupe live in the Trefz Forum are available on Eventbrite.

Blue Coupe


Speaking of the Library:

Along the Riverwalk yesterday, an “06880” reader was taking photos of the birds and swans.

Then she spotted a gorgeous purple flower.

She was inspired, but realized: despite the warm temperatures, it’s way too early for spring.

She zoomed in — and realized it was a discarded dog poop bag.


She suggests a trash can by the bridge.

That’s one solution. I’ll add another: If you pick up dog doo, hold onto it until you find a trash can. Your inconvenience should not be everyone else’s problem.

Although it is a very lovely color for a poop bag.


This week’s Jazz at the Post is special.

Thursday’s sets (February 2, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m., VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399) salutes Howard Silver. The legendary singer/composer/arranger graduated from Norwalk High School in 1947.

Grammy-nominated Michael Mossman trumpeter knows Silver’s music well: They played 1ogther from 1989-91. Bassist Phil Bowler was also a member of that band.

They duo are joined by drummer Dennis Mackrel, pianist David Berkman and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.

There is a cover charge of $15. Dinner begins at 7 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.


Who says the Westport Town Clerk’s office doesn’t have a heart?

Check out the door — all dolled up for Valentine’s Day.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


More than a week ago, the “06880” Roundup included a picture of dozens of bagels, strewn around High Gate Road off Maple Avenue South.

They’re still there.

Now though, they’re a bit grottier.

(Photos/Chris Grimm)

Both photographer Chris Grimm and I wonder why wildlife and weather have not taken more of a toll on the food.

And why no one in the neighborhood has gathered them up for the garbage.


Sunil Hirani captured today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo a few days ago, at Compo Beach.

The dramatic shot is unfiltered. And, he says, “given that it was cloudy and rainy all day, it’s pretty incredible this happened, 20 minutes before sunrise. I would not have believed it if I didn’t see it myself.”

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)


And finally … Weston’s ongoing issue with the Freedom of Information Act (story above) leads of course right into …

Regarding freedom: What have you got to lose by supporting “06880”? Please click here to contribute. Thank you!)

Unsung Heroes #262

This week’s Unsung Heroes are easy to pick.

I vote for everyone who helped make yesterday’s elections run smoothly.

Town officials in the registrars’ and town clerk’s offices; volunteers at the polling places; League of Women Voters members who handed out non-partisan information; the behind-the-scenes custodial, maintenance and administrative folks wherever votes were cast; Staples High School students who greeted voters and passed out,= “I Voted” stickers; police officers who were ready in case there were any issues … anyone who had a hand in making sure democracy worked yesterday: thank you.

No matter the outcome, you won.

A soothingly familiar scene, year after year in Westport.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email 06880blog@gmail.com!)

(“06880” introduces Unsung Heroes ever Wednesday. please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)


Patty Strauss: Westport’s Vital Town Clerk Retires

Patty Strauss loved her career in banking. But in 1997 Westport Bank & Trust — her longtime employer — was in the midst of a dizzying succession of mergers. The “hometown bank in a town of homes” felt less and less like home.

So when she saw heard that Westport Town Clerk Joan Hyde was retiring, Patty called Diane Goss Farrell.

The newly elected 1st Selectwoman phoned right back. “Am I overdrawn?” she worried.

“No!” Strauss replied. “I’m just letting you know: I want to apply for town clerk.”

“Then who’ll take care of my account?” Farrell asked.

Strauss got the job. Farrell got a new banker.

Patty Strauss, in her Town Clerk’s office.

At the end of December – 23 years later — Patty Strauss retires. She’s overseen many changes. Technology has modernized many tasks. But at its core, she says, the town clerk is still in the business of customer service.

Connecticut law mentions several hundred town clerk duties. Strauss breaks them into 4 main categories:

  • Recorder of land records. This includes all property transfers, liens, mortgages and releases, from Westport’s incorporation in 1835 to the present.
  • Recorder of vital records: births, deaths, marriages, etc.
  • Overseer of elections (federal, state and local). This covers petitions, nominations, financial filings and more.
  • RTM clerk: secretary of the town’s legislative body.

“I have dozens of bosses,” Strauss notes. “Jim Marpe, the Connecticut Secretary of the State, the Department of Public Health, and 36 RTM members.

“I’m not the decision maker. I just make sure the paperwork is done correctly.”

Which is like saying Alex Trebek was just a guy who asked questions on TV.

Patty Strauss (center) with state legislators Gail Lavielle and Jonathan Steinberg. She spent plenty of time in Hartford as legislative chair for the Connecticut Town Clerks Association (2008-11) and president (2015-17).

Strauss just completed her last big project: her 6th presidential election. Her Westport tenure was bookended by the 2 that have drawn the most attention for the voting process: 2000 (hanging chads) and 2020 (mail-in ballots).

Thankfully, there has never been a whiff of controversy over any Westport (or Connecticut) votes.

To the surprise of many — from real estate regulars who relied on her for much of their work, to residents with random but gotta-have-an-answer queries — Strauss is not a native Westporter.

Raised in Maryland, with a degree in education from Radford College, she moved here after marriage. Her husband Ed’s family were longtime owners of the Depot Liquor Store.

Strauss opened WB&T’s Georgetown office. She worked in the Saugatuck and Greens Farms branches too, before moving to downtown headquarters (now Patagonia).

That’s how she knew so many Westporters — and all about mortgages and land record searches too. The transition to Town Hall was easy.

Patty Strauss, at one of her many Memorial Day parades.

Farrell valued Strauss’ customer services skills. “People need to be treated well,” the 1st selectwoman told the new town clerk.

That’s still the case. Some of the hometown hominess is gone — a cheerful operator no longer personally transfers each call to the appropriate department, and patrons can get answers to many questions from the town website, not an actual human being — but for many Strauss is still the face of Westport government.

Patty and her husband Ed love the water.

During her tenure, records have become more accessible. She once spent most of her days in an enormous vault. Paperwork from 1835 on — births, land records, maps, elections, RTM minutes, burial permits — is still there.

But gone are the days when people had to make appointments to walk in and search (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. only, please!). Now 17 different collections are online.

Strauss does it all with a fulltime staff of 4, and 1 part-time assistant. She hires extra help during busy seasons, like elections and springtime (dog licenses).

The staff follows Strauss’ philosophy of treating everyone promptly, with courtesy, and alike — no favors to the famous. However, she says, after years of friendly banter with Paul Newman, one day they asked for a photo with him. He put his arms around the women.

It’s still there, on the wall.

Paul Newman and the Town Clerk office staff, after picking up his 2006 absentee ballot.

When COVID hit last March, Town Hall closed. But, Strauss notes, “you can’t swear someone in, issue a marriage license or notarize a signature on Zoom.”

The Town Clerk’s office relocated to a picnic table behind the building. Bird droppings from a nearby maple tree intruded, so now there’s a tent. Town Hall will reopen soon, but Strauss and her staff never stopped seeing people face to face. That goes with the gig.

The gig ends soon for Patty Strauss. She and her husband are moving to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Like every other property transaction, the  closing will be recorded in the town clerk’s office. It’s a routine — yet vital — task.

For 23 years Patty Strauss handled that job, and so many others. Countless Westporters have been helped by her organizational skills, attention to detail, and knowledge of (and love for) our town.


Town Hall Still Closed. Attorney Asks Why. Officials Respond.

In mid-March, the coronavirus swept through Westport. In just 48 hours nearly every institution — schools, stores, restaurants, the YMCA, the library, Town Hall — closed to the public.

Gradually — if partially — they’ve all reopened.

Except Town Hall.

Employees, residents, and the many folks who do business every day there have had to find new ways of operating.

That does not sit well with one “06880” reader. A real estate attorney, he used to be in and out of Town Hall nearly every day. Title searches, transactions, deeds — the daily work of home purchases and sales must go through the Town Clerk, Planning and Zoning, Building and Conservation Department offices.

For nearly 6 months, those offices have been shut.

On March 11, flanked by town officials, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced the latest COVID-19 news. The next day, Town Hall was shut.

“To record a $6 million sale, I have to make an appointment,” the attorney says. “But only certain times. You can’t do it at noon. That’s their lunch hour.

At the appointed time, he says, “they come outside. You give them the documents. They go inside, then come back out and hand you a receipt.”

Once, he says, he was told to put a notarized document in a drop box. It was quarantined for 24 hours. Then it got lost. “I’ve never heard of COVID being transmitted by paper,” he says.

He’s frustrated too to call with a question, and be told, “I’m working from home. I don’t have access to those files.”

It’s not only Westport, the attorney says. Weston, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien — those Town Halls are closed too.

“It’s not right,” the attorney says. “With all the buying and selling going on now, there has to be a better way.”

I asked town officials to reply. Operations director Sara Harris says:

“While it may appear that Town Hall remains ‘closed,’ it has in fact never been closed. Town Hall staff members have been working in Town Hall every day since March 11, with services available to the public by appointment only.  Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we have maintained a citizen- centric approach to accessing all town services. Complaints regarding access to Town Hall have been minimal, and those concerns have been mostly due to misunderstandings of available services. We appreciate that residents have been patient and understanding during this challenging situation.

Sara Harris in her Town Hall office. A painting of the old Town Hall — now Jesup Hall restaurant — hangs behind her.

“Before COVID made its way to Westport, the staff in Town Hall were preparing and planning to offer all town services in case Town Hall needed to be closed to the public for health reasons.

“We devised an operational approach that allowed services to continue. That meant a mixture of staff members working from home (those who utilize cloud-based software for the majority of their work), some coming in on an alternating schedule to allow for social distancing, and some needing to be physically present to do their job.

“We are proud to say that all services continued to be offered to the public during COVID. These have been handled via telephone, email, or the use of the exterior drop box for paper document submission or payments. The Town Clerk and other departments have been hosting appointments for those services that require a face to face transaction, such as marriage certificates or notary.

“There are approximately 20 departments operating in Town Hall or Westport’s other facility buildings. Each have very distinct services and processes. As a result, some staff have worked in-person, remotely or on an alternating schedule.

“Additionally, as witnessed with the overall economy, we also struggle with staff who have childcare or other competing priorities that make it more difficult for some to be physically present. At various times, department office phones may not be answered, and callers are requested to leave voice messages. I have instructed all departments to either answer phones, respond to voice messages or forward them to the appropriate office within 24 hours.

“Regarding the comparison with private business such as stores, banks, gyms and restaurants: Town Hall has in fact been functioning similarly, and for a longer period of time.

Town Hall is closed to the public. However, employees are available by phone and email. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

“Phase II of our ‘reopening’ strategy is to allow additional appointments to take place in one of the larger conference rooms in Town Hall. We anticipate that this phase will begin later this month, along with some physical improvements to coincide with its implementation, including erecting partitions, removing carpet, etc. Public access to the building will still be somewhat limited.

“Phase III, which we expect in the spring, will include major renovations to allow increased control of traffic into Town Hall. These changes are currently under design and are expected to require a budgetary appropriation due to the complexities of the older building design, ADA compliance, layout, and security and egress concerns.

“With the completion of Phase III, we anticipate that the building can be reopened to members of the public wishing to conduct Town business. We do, however, intend to continue to restrict access to some sections of the building, both for security purposes and to uphold best public health practices.”

Town Clerk Patty Strauss adds:

“The Westport Town Clerk’s Office is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone calls are answered directly by a staff member, and in- person appointments are arranged to meet customers at the rear entrance of town hall to conduct business that requires in-person attention. Customers may call to make an appointment for deeds with conveyance, marriage licenses, certification of documents and many other types of transactions where face to face customer contact is necessary. These instructions are located on the town clerk’s web page.

(Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

“Westport land records are indexed back to the town’s incorporation date of 1835. The index to these records, and many other collections housed in the Town Clerk’s office, is available for searching online 24/7 FREE.

“Due to COVID, online viewing of land record documents is free of charge. Land record images are online back to 1974. Requests for older documents not imaged are emailed to the Town Clerk’s office. Orders are filled within 24 hours or same day delivery by scanning the document instead of post mailing, free of charge.

“The Town Clerk’s office has recorded 3,952 documents since March 11. No other complaints have been raised, so there is no reason to assume an adjustment to the current searching/recording procedures should be made. However, we are open to any suggestions to better service our customers and, at the same time, keeping customers and the staff safe.”

LWV Offers ABCs On Election Ballots

If you’re confused about when and where to vote this November: You’re not alone.

COVID-19 — and a nationwide move toward mail ballots — make this election different for many Connecticut voters.

Westport’s League of Women Voters won’t tell you who to vote for. But they’re happy to tell you how.

First, there are 2 options. You can vote in person on Tuesday, November 3 (6 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Click here to find your polling place.

You can also vote by mail. Every registered voter will receive (by mail) an application to request an absentee ballot. They’ll be sent within the first 2 weeks of September. If you don’t want to wait, click here to request an absentee ballot.

Fill out the absentee ballot application, then mail it ASAP to Town Clerk, c/o Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. Alternatively, you can put it in the official Connecticut drop box behind Town Hall (see photo below).

The Town Clerk’s office will mail out absentee ballots beginning October 2. Or you can make an appointment with the office to receive your ballot in person; call 203-341-1110.

Fill out your ballot, then mail it ASAP to Town Clerk, c/o Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. Alternatively, you can put it in the official Connecticut drop box behind Town Hall (see photo above).

The ballot must be returned to the Town Clerk’s office no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day (November 3). The drop box behind Town Hall will be open until 8 p.m. that day.

If you mail your absentee ballot via the US Postal Service, or deposited it in the drop box, you can click here to track it.  If the ballot was not received, contact the town clerk (tclerk@westportct.gov; 203-341-1110).

Of course, none of that can happen unless you’re registered to vote. Click here to learn how.

(For the Town Clerk’s web page — with even more details on voting — click here. For more information on Westport’s League of Women Voters, click here. You can follow them on Instagram [@lwvwestport] and Facebook [Westport League of Women Voters. Hat tip: Nicole Klein)


Absentee Ballots Available At Town Hall

The town clerk’s office will be open this Saturday (November 3, 9 a.m. to noon, Town Hall room 105). These special hours will accommodate voters applying for an absentee ballot to vote in the November 6 election.

Absentee ballots are also available at the town clerk’s office Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (through Monday, November 5). Ballots must be returned to the town clerk’s office no later than 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6.

Registered electors may vote by absentee ballot for the following reasons:

  • Active service in the armed forces of the United States
  • Illness or physical disability
  • Religious tenets that forbid secular activity on the day of the election
  • Duties as an election official at the polling place other than their own during all of the hours of voting.
  • Absence from the town during all of the hours of voting.

Time To Help A Town Hall Gem

Everyone in Westport knows Patty Strauss.

In over 20 years as town clerk, she’s helped all of us at one point with her many duties: managing all public records (land, meetings, births, marriages, deaths), licenses (marriage, dog, fish and game), and elections.

She’s passionate about her job, patient to the point of sainthood, and brings life and light to all of Town Hall.

Now she needs our help.

Her son Greg — a longtime Westporter, and former Staples High School football and lacrosse player — suffered a cliff jumping accident last month. He’s 22, and after graduating from Virginia Tech in January had started his dream job: crewing on a Caribbean yacht.

Greg Strauss

His back was fractured in the jump. Fortunately, he was stabilized enough to be quickly airlifted back from Grenada to the US.

In Florida, Greg’s back was repaired. He then endured several surgeries to repair the compound fractures and soft tissue damage to his right foot and ankle.

However, to give Greg the best hope to enjoy a pain-free and active life, his right foot was amputated below the knee.

Insurance will cover many of his medical bills, but not all. The cost of prosthetics will be significant, and an ongoing financial burden.

The Strausses have always given back to their neighbors, strangers and the entire town. They did not ask for this help. But friends have set up a GoFundMe link that will show how much we appreciate all Patti and her family have done for all of us: https://www.gofundme.com/greg-needs-a-new-right-foot

Unsung Heroes #45

Last week, I stopped at Town Hall. I needed a copy of something on file at the Town Clerk’s office.

The clerk’s clerk could not have been friendlier or more efficient. She quickly found the document — it dated back to 1986. As she Xeroxed it, we chatted.

It was the sort of thing she does, I’m sure, countless times every day. Yet she made me feel like I was the most important person to visit all year.

Bureaucracies can be impersonal. (Hey, DMV and IRS, how you doin’?!)

It may be because this is — ultimately — just a small town. It may be because we’ve hired wonderful, and wonderfully nice, people. It may be because we’re very lucky.

But whatever the reason, Town Hall is filled with folks who make it a joy — not a chore — to go to.

You may need a property deed, a building permit or some other form. Perhaps you have a question, a problem or a complaint.

Whatever it is, the men and women who staff the many departments — assessor’s office, conservation, planning and zoning, human services, tax collector, registrar of voters — are there for us, all day and in all ways.

I don’t have any fantastic above-and-beyond stories. But I’m sure that many readers do. If you’ve got one, click “Comments” below.

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

Warning! Elections Ahead!

Alert “06880” reader Marcia Logan sent this along:

 In the legal notices of the Westport News recently, there’s a box with the title “Warning.”

It goes on to say:  “The Electors of the Town of Westport are hereby warned to meet at their respective polling places in said town on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, for the following purposes: To cast their votes for Governor…”

This wording must be from a hundred years ago, and never been changed.

Either that, or the Town Clerk’s office knows something the rest of us poor saps don’t.