Ceci Maher has announced her candidacy for the 26th State Senate District. She joins fellow Democrat Ken Bernhard, in bids to succeed retiring Senator Will Haskell. She says:
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I have received. I know that this energy and enthusiasm comes from a history of service; I have earned the trust and respect of our communities.
I’m running because I have experience that matters and I care deeply about the 26th district. I have a solid background in budget management and understand the economic struggles we all face. While CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, I worked every day to support gun violence prevention in schools and communities.
Fourteen years of leading Person-to-Person taught me how much we can achieve, when we work together. I am deeply committed to women’s rights, and increasing voter access.
I’ve spent nearly all my life in Fairfield County. I grew up in Stamford, worked in New Canaan and Darien, volunteered in Westport, and raised my family first in Norwalk and later in Wilton, where I call home.
In Westport I am on the advisory board of Westport Pride, and handled fundraising for the Pride event last June. I also volunteered with the ReSisters, including GOTV efforts, traveling with them to Pennsylvania to register college students to vote, and worked on additional voter registration efforts. Years ago I was president of the Junior League, and we had members from Westport.
In a lifetime of living in our community, I’ve met people from all walks of life – and I’ve seen that we share so much in common, no matter who we are and what city or town we live in. Our neighbors are fundamentally good and decent. We care about our families, our towns, and one another. We turn out to help in natural disasters and we show up to support our neighbors in times of need.
In 20 years of leading nonprofits, volunteering, and holding local public office, I’ve had the chance to on some of the most important issues our communities face, from educational opportunity to access to food and housing.
It’s been a tough few years for so many of us, from the pandemic to the economy to national politics. But I remain optimistic about our future because I know we can work together and make progress on our community’s most important issues.
And I look forward to listening to and hearing from voters to understand what matters most to them.”
Like many people during the pandemic, Will Haskell found himself with unaccustomed time on his hands.
Unlike many people, his job involved constant meetings, every day and night, so he had even more free time than most. Haskell is a State Senator.
Like many people, he decided to try his hand at writing.
Unlike many people, he actually completed what he set out to do. And unlike nearly everyone else, he turned his project into an actual, real book.
100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22-Year-Old Lawmaker will be published officially yesterday. And not by any vanity press, either. This is a legit, Simon & Schuster book.
It’s one more chapter (ho ho) in the remarkable story of the Staples High School graduate/still-youngest-member-of-the-Connecticut General Assembly’s life.
Haskell was a Georgetown University senior when he decided to run for the 36-member Senate. He enlisted his roommate as campaign manager. He gathered a hard-working group of committed volunteers, from even younger than himself (14 years old!) to those older than his grandparents (they remember FDR!).
Four years ago, new college graduate Will Haskell became State Senator Will Haskell. He unseated an incumbent who had been in office longer than he’d been alive.
Now he wants to inspire his peers — and the next generation — to do the same.
100,000 First Bosses is not a “how-to” book. “I’m not qualified to write that,” Haskell says. “Every campaign is different.”
What he does is pull the curtain back on his own experiences. He talks about the surprises and drudgery of knocking on doors; the lessons learned as he learned the ropes in Hartford; the successes he’s had, and the mistakes he’s made.
State Senator Will Haskell,
His book, he says, is “my thoughts on the weirdest first job someone could have right out of college.”
Most people have 1 or 2 bosses. Haskell is beholden to the 100,000 residents of State Senate District 26. It stretches from Westport to Bethel.
Throughout the book he emphasizes the perspective of a 20-something, still finding his way in a complex, troubled America, with tons of problems my generation has dumped on his.
Climate change, gun violence, college affordability — all those are very real issues to Haskell and his cohort. And they’re issues, he argues, that his generation can address and solve.
But to do that, he emphasizes, they must be in positions of power.
Haskell’s unique perspective — and his equally unique literary debut — was helped by someone his own age: his editor, Carolyn Kelly.
Like Haskell, she’s in her first job. In fact, this was her very first book.
It is a very 2020s tale. “She knows everything about my life. But we’ve never met,” Haskell marvels. We did everything online.”
Kelly taught him how to craft his story to appeal to “people who might be uninterested in politics. Lots of people don’t know who their state representative is, and have never been to their state capital.”
The State Capitol in Hartford is Will Haskell’s workplace. Have you been there?
He hopes his book will be read by them though, and spur them to think about running for office. Maybe they’ll encourage a colleague to do so.
Or a grandchild.
He had not thought of running for office either, back in the day. But when Barack Obama left office, he told the nation’s young (and “young at heart”) to push for progress from the grassroots up.
Haskell had no idea who his state senator was. He found out — and realized he did not agree with some of her positions.
The rest is history.
Gun violence is one of the issues State Senator Will Haskell has worked on.
Though much of the state — and nation — are polarized politically and socially, Haskell says that his 2 terms in the Senate have made him very optimistic. He realizes, he says, that one person can make an impact.
Through his book, he hopes to share that optimism.
Yet Haskell is leaving politics. He announced last month that he will not run for a 3rd term. Instead, he is heading to law school. (He’s also getting married, whenever the pandemic allows a large group to celebrate.)
In 100,000 Bosses‘ final chapter, Haskell writes about struggling with that decision. He frames it as a way to show that as important as political action is, one’s entire life does not have to be defined by it.
He also notes that just as he went to Hartford as a new, young voice, there’s now an opportunity for another new voice to follow his.
Haskell’s book is not like many politicians’, It does not read like a stump speech, nor does it paint an overly rosy picture of his profession.
He writes candidly of the difficulty of affording rent in his own district, and of watching a focus group pick him apart, one flaw after another.
Still, he says, “it was a blast to write. People took a chance on sending me to the Senate. Now I hope they’ll take a chance on buying and reading it.”
Spoken like a true author.
Not bad for a politician, either.
(Click here to order 100,000 First Bosses: My Unlikely Path as a 22-Year-Old Lawmaker.)
Speaking of education: Sure, the Westport Public Schools select a Teacher of the Year. But there’s something special about earning that honor from a different source: the Staples High School football team.
This spring, the Wreckers — used to be cheered for — turned the tables. They gave shout-outs to their favorite educators in a homemade video. At the end, they announced the winner.
Who is this year’s football team Staples Teacher of the Year? Click below to see:
Two more sings that Westport is getting “back to business.”
The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce held its first in-person gathering in 20 months yesterday, at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center. Over 60 people gathered in the garden, in beautiful weather. They shook hands, ate food catered by Calise’s Deli, and — as they did for years before the pandemic — exchanged business cards.
Sal Gilbertie spoke about the 100 years since his grandfather began as a flower grower, then turned to herbs. Today Gilbertie’s is a major micro green seller, in addition to their nursery’s plants and trees.
Sal Gilbertie addresses the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
But the Chamber wasn’t the only major Westport organization holding its first live-and-in-person meeting yesterday.
Sunrise Rotary also gathered together, for the first time in over a year. Attendance was solid. Handshakes and hugs were heartfelt.
And for those unable or not yet ready to attend, the event was livestreamed.
Westport Country Playhouse has 4 new trustees. Three are from Westport: Jessica Caldwell, Will Haskell and Margie Jacobson.
Haskell — a state senator whose district includes Westport — has a long theatrical history. As a member of Staples High School’s Class of 2014, he was elected of Players, the drama troupe. One of his first memories of live theater was seeing “Curious George” as a child, at the Playhouse’s old barn.
Caldwell graduated from Columbia University’s MFA film program. She produced independent feature films, while her feature film productions have premiered at Berlinale, SXSW and Tribeca. Her short film work has premiered at Sundance, Telluride, and Tribeca. Caldwell was also the writers’ room assistant and showrunners’ assistant on “Billions.” She is also a Moth storytelling contest GrandSlampion.
Jacobson is a nonprofit leader and attorney with legal experience spanning a variety of diverse settings. She is currently of counsel to a boutique law firm advocating for students’ rights from birth through post-secondary education, and co-founder of Woman’s Compass Forum. Jacobson previously served on the Playhouse board, from 2010 to 2016. She also serves on the boards of the ADL and the Remarkable Theater.
The WCP board of trustees is chaired by Westporter Ania Czekaj-Farber.
The Westport Library has 2 new trustees too.
Anna Alemani is CFO of Pierrepont School. Previously she had a 15-year career in finance. She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan, where she focused her studies on management of museums and cultural institutions.
Dave Briggs spent his career in television, as a sports and news reporter/anchor. He has moved from South Dakota and Oklahoma to Boston, where he covered Red Sox World Series championships, Patriots Super Bowl titles and a Celtics NBA crown. He also hosted “Fox & Friends Weekend,” and (for NBC) NHL, NASCAR, NFL and Olympic tennis, before anchoring “Early Start” on CNN. He currently interviews important Connecticut residents for Moffly Media content.
Over the years, Jesup Green has hosted anti-war and pro-war demonstrations. It’s seen rallies against nuclear arms, antisemitism and AAPI violence, and in support of Black Lives Matter.
Yesterday, Westport’s first LGBTQ Pride celebration took over the historic town lawn. For several years in the early 2000s, smaller events were held at the Unitarian Church.
This one drew 500 people. Spanning all ages, many faiths, and ranging from gay, lesbian, bi, trans and questioning to plenty of straight allies, they enjoyed the most beautiful day of the year so far. (Weather-wise, and in spirit.)
Kicking off a joyful day. (Photo/Kerry Long)
The crowd saw a rainbow flag fly over the green. They heard great music and inspiring speeches from out, proud teenagers. Politicians and clergy praised the progress made, and promised to keep working for social justice and civil rights. Kids had their faces painted.
Westport Pride organizer Brian McGunagle and his 2-year-old son Henry listen as 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — wearing a rainbow tie — reads a town proclamation. (Photo/Kerry Long)
It was a powerful, memorable community event. For some in the crowd, it could have been life-changing.
Another celebrant. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)
It made all who were there immensely proud of their town. (Click here for the News12 report.)
Proud clergy (from left): Rev. Heather Sinclair, United Methodist; Rev. Alison Patton, Saugatuck Congregational; Rev. Dr. John Morehouse, Unitarian; Rev. John Betit, Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal; Rev. Marcella Gillis, Christ & Holy Trinity. Jewish clergy who were officiating at Saturday services sent their best wishes. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Showing the flag (Photo/Kerry Long)
State Senators Tony Hwang and Will Haskell. Haskell drew laughs when he said that his 3 gay brothers were disappointed the day he brought home a girl. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Staples Players were out in force — with their own prideful t-shirts. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Suzanne Sheridan helped organize Westport’s first Pride festival in 2002. She was part of the great entertainers, along with Stacie Lewis, Julie Loyd and many young singers. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Former Staples High School principal John Dodig is flanked by his husband Rodger Leonard (left) and Staples Gay-Sexuality Alliance co-advisor Chris Fray. Kayla Iannetta, a biology teacher, is the other advisor, and helped organize the event. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Cornell University football player AJ Konstanty and his brother Colin, a Staples junior, posed, then performed “Your Song” on keyboards and vocals. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Marjorie Almansi, who helped organized the day, stands with her next-door neighbors. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Staples singers entertain the large crowd. (Photo/Kerry Long)
US Congressman Jim Himes discusses past struggles, current successes, and future goals. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Pride was a family event. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)
Weston High School junior Zac Mathias: fashion model — and role model. (Photo/Dan Woog)
Everyone — and everything — gets into the act. (Photo/Kerry Long)
American Farmland Trust has recognized WFM as #1 in Connecticut. It’s also #10 in the Northeast — and #26 in the nation.
It’s been a tough year for an organization that prides itself of close interactions between farmers and shoppers. But, notes executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall, “For the first time in our history, we operated 12 months in a row to tackle to challenges presented by the pandemic. We set up a strict, COVID-safe, pre-ordering system that served as a model for others.
“It wasn’t easy, but we felt a duty to our farmers, knew that farmers’ markets would be more critical than ever, and we met the challenge.”
The other day, Westport comic/Star 99.9 host Courtney Davis joined 4 top New York City comedians, in a virtual fundraiser. The group raised nearly $2,500 for empowerHER, the non-profit that supports and connects girls and young women who have lost their mothers.
The Westport Country Playhouse is still closed. Until it reopens, all we’ve had are memories of our favorite shows.
Starting tomorrow though, there’s more.
The theater launches “From Concept to Curtain,” a virtual documentary series of 30-minute films. They offer free, behind-the-scenes looks at the creative process of putting together a Playhouse production.
The first episode is “In the Heights: Beyond el Barrio” (Thursday, February 4, 12 noon, at the Playhouse’s website and YouTube channel.
Host Marcos Santana — director and choreographer of the Playhouse’s 2019 production of “In the Heights” — performed on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning show.
The set, costume and lighting designers, and the music director, discuss their inspirations, challenges, what they would have done differently, and favorite moments from the show.
More videos will be announced soon.
“In the Heights,” at the Westport Country Playhouse.
High school students interested in learning more about the art portfolio submission process for college are invited to a workshop this Sunday (February 7, 12 to 3 p.m.) at MoCA Westport.
The session includes lectures, slide presentations, Q-and-A and individual portfolio reviews (up to 5 samples). The cost is $75. Click here to register. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Y’s Women and 597 Westport Avenue Apartments (just over the Norwalk line) have teamed up to contribute food to Mercy Learning Center.
Jane Ferreira — president and CEO of the Center, the wonderful literacy and life skills training center for women in Bridgeport — returns the favor, as Y’s Women’s virtual guest speaker this Monday (February 8, 11:30 a.m.). She’ll talk about MLC’s educational and support services — and how they change the lives of not only their clients and families, but also volunteers and supporters.
Anyone can log on to www.YsWomen.org to view past speakers. And any woman in Fairfield County can join for just $45 a year. Email president Barb Stephen (email@example.com) to learn more.
The Unitarian Church has 2 important — and timely — programs this weekend.
On Saturday (February 6, 10 a.m.), they’re sponsoring a virtual program on how to recognize domestic violence in today’s pandemic world, and what to do about it. The program is open to the public, via Zoom meeting ID 875 7140 7113 (passcode 739121). Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
Meanwhile, the women of the church are launching a series of programs about the history of Black lives in America, and its effects on our country today. “Revealing History: How We Got Here, Why It Matters” begins Sunday (February 7, 10:40 a.m.) with a multi-media event called “Racial Injustice: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.”
The program includes a speaker from the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson; a musical work with voiceover from Desmond Tutu, and other notable artists and artwork. Click here for the Zoom link (the program begins after the regular Sunday service).
And finally … today in 1959, “the music died.” That’s Don McLean’s “American Pie” reference to the Iowa plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
Like most state senators running for re-election, Will Haskell has a corps of helpful volunteers.
They knock on doors. They make calls.
On Friday though, they turned from campaigning to community service.
Over 40 people — of all ages — headed to Westport’s Goodwill. The organization often gets more book donations than they can use. Haskell’s crew plowed through 16 bins, finding over 8,000 appropriate for elementary school children in Bridgeport.
I’ll resist the urge to make a pun like “Good, Will!” (Hat tip: Jeff Wieser)
Sorting through books at Goodwill.
The death of Chadwick Boseman on Friday at age 43 saddened his many fans. It also brought renewed attention to his starring role as Thurgood Marshall — America’s first Black Supreme Court justice.
The 2017 movie “Marshall” was written by Westporter Michael Koskoff — a noted civil rights attorney — and his son Jacob, a Staples High School graduate who is now a screenwriter.
The film takes place in 1941, when a young Marshall defended a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial. Marshall was partnered with Sam Friedman, a young Jewish lawyer in Bridgeport who had never tried a case. Click here for the amazing back story. (Hat tip: Mary Gai)
Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of “Marshall” with Mike Koskoff’s wife Roz and grandson Eli. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Hicks)
Aspetuck Land Trust is staying true to its roots. The non-profit announces its first-ever fall native plant sale. All are grown at Planter’s Choice in Newtown.
The goal is to encourage biodiversity, as all offerings — from perennials to trees — attract pollinators and wildlife.
All come with plans, kits and instructions for all locations, levels of sun and soil conditions. Four landscape partners are also available to help (click here for details).
They can be picked up at Earthplace, or delivered to your home. 50% of each purchase is tax-deductible.
Online orders are open while supplies last, or until September 17. The spring sale sold out quickly. Click here for all offerings.
Westport artist Michael Chait offers an outdoor exhibit today, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard outside 11 Riverside Avenue.
He’ll show his “fun and kooky experimental videos” on vintage television sets. He pays homage to television’s beginning, and explores where it may be going.
He calls it “Video Paradisio,” and it plays on a continuous 10-minute loop. The public is invited.
As COVID-19 attacks the country, some of the first casualties are small businesses.
When the first line of defense is social distancing — with isolation close on its heels — the last things on people’s minds are shopping for anything beyond necessities, or dining out.
When “wash your hands!” is the new mantra, no one is in the mood to handle merchandise in a store, or be served a meal in close proximity to others.
But small businesses need customers to survive. Even a small drop in patronage can spell the difference between paying the rent, paying employees, and going under.
Savvy + Grace on Main Street, one of many locally owned stores throughout town. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
The Chamber is marshaling its resources to help.
They encourage Westporters to continue to shop locally. In addition, they recommend buying gift cards, to use later. You can do this not just for stores, but nail salons, yoga studios — you name it.
“This small act, if done by many, will help infuse capital to help them hold over until next month,” the Chamber says.
For residents hesitant about eating out, Chamber executive director Matthew Mandell suggests takeout orders. Most restaurants offer that option; some deliver. And there’s always Uber Eats.
Oh, yeah: Mandell reminds everyone that the Great Westport Soup Contest continues all month. There are some things the coronavirus just can’t conquer.
State Senator Will Haskell (left) and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell pick up takeout at Arezzo. Of course, the meal includes soup.
The Chamber also says: “If you have ideas on how to help our businesses, let us know. It takes a community to support a community.”
It’s easy. Click here for their website contact form. Email email@example.com. Or call 203-227-9234.
PS: It’s not only small stores that are affected by COVID-19. Patagonia announced yesterday that it is closing all 37 stores — and its online operations — indefinitely.
PPS: The US Small Business Administration offers low-interest disaster loans to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury from the coronavirus. It must be requested by governors. It is unclear how far along in the process Connecticut’s request is. For more information, click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reducing the amount of daily waste is a priority for many Westporters. But although we want to do the right thing, we don’t always know how.
Wakeman Town Farm does.
This Monday (January 13, 7 to 8:15 p.m.), the Cross Highway sustainability center hosts an environmental awareness event. The multi-generational roundtable will offer information on how Westport schools combat waste, how we can incorporate initiatives into our own homes, and what we can do to help government effect greater changes.
State Senator Will Haskell will moderate the discussion. Participants include Stacy Jagerson Fowle and Ashley Moran, elementary school teachers who have helped lead the district’s push toward composting and zero waste; Bedford Middle School 7th grader Samantha Henske, a student leader in the fight for climate justice, and RTM member Andrew Colabella, who helped implement Westport’s plastics ban.
Monday’s event is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.
Greens Farms Elementary School offers 3 choices for waste. To find out what your family can do, head to Wakeman Town Farm on Monday night.
In August 2018, Rachel Doran — a rising senior at Cornell University, former National Merit Commended Scholar, talented Staples Players costume designer, and founder of “Rachel’s Rags,” a company that makes intricate cotton and fleece pajama tops and bottoms — died.
She was diagnosed a month earlier with Stevens Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a rare reaction to common medications. She then developed Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome — another rare syndrome.
Rachel was mourned by many. Her presence continues to be felt by those who knew and loved her.
Among them is State Senator Will Haskell — a classmate of Rachel’s at Staples High School. Recently, he petitioned the state to name a road after her.
A sign recently went up on the Sherwood Island Connector. Now her name will be known by many.
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