Tag Archives: William F. Cribari Bridge

Roundup: Ignazio’s Pizza, Grace Salmon Park, Cribari Bridge …

In May, “06880” reported that Ignazio’s was looking for a new owner.

The asking price was $275,000. Rent is $8,000 a month.

The restaurant in the former Bertucci’s space is now closed. Tables and chairs are stacked outside, and lights are off inside.

A phone call brings this cheery-sounding message: “Hi! You’ve reached Pizza Life, formerly Ignazio’s. We are remodeling, and will be back soon!”

Meanwhile, Ignazio’s’ website — still live — promises a new location, coming soon to Mystic. The original location was in Brooklyn.

Iganzio’s opened in Westport in November 2019, just 4 months before COVID struck.

Ignazio’s, this week. (Photo/Matt Murray)

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Grace Salmon Park is one of Westport’s most beautiful — and underrated — places to relax.

Yesterday, it was a classroom.

University of Connecticut master gardeners (and Westport residents) Monica Buesser, Alice Ely and Nathalie Fonteyne  conducted an invasive plant workshop. It was sponsored by the Westport Garden Club.

Sixteen participants learned about the park’s top 15 invasive plants. They then broke into 4 groups, each canvasing a quarter of the site — and found several different invasives.

The next step: using the data to apply for a grant for removal of invasives from Grace Salmon.

Buesser — the conservation chair of the Westport Garden Club —  plans to be at Grace Salmon Park every Thursday from 8 to 10 a.m. (weather permitting). She invites everyone interested in weeding or learning more about the park’s plants to join her.

“You can’t miss me. I wear overalls!” she says.

Grace Salmon Park is a beautiful spot. Like many in Westport, however, it is home to several invasive species. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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Seen on the Town of Westport’s Instagram:

The Public Works Department was out in force on Bridge Street. Workers cut back branches and brush that had encroached on the pedestrian walkway leading to Saugatuck.

It won’t make your drive over the Cribari Bridge any quicker. But it’s sure a boon to the many bikers, joggers and walkers who love the view.

(Photo courtesy of Department of Public Works)

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Three Westport non-profits have received CT Humanities grants:

  • United Nations Association Southwestern Connecticut, Westport: $4,980, for “When the Stars are Scattered” author/illustrator visits.
  • Westport Country Playhouse: $14,750 for the production of “From the Mississippi Delta” this coming October.
  • Westport Museum for History & Culture: $4,074 for “Saugatuck Stories: Walking Tour Exploring Diverse Experiences.”

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Sure, NASA is excited about the James Webb Space Telescope.

But the Westport Astronomical Society has Cal Powell.

The former WAS president hosts the “Cal & Friends Meteorite Show & Tell Party” on Tuesday (July 19, 8 p.m.).

Cal received his first meteorite in 2010, as a going-away gift from WAS. He started collecting them a few years later. His collection of nearly 400 specimens covers most meteorite classifications.

Cal will his present his extensive personal meteorite collection, and introduce Stefan Nicolescu with rare samples from Yale’s Peabody Museum. The WAS adds: “Bring your own meteorites and assemble your meteorwrongs!” Click here for more information.

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Noted local artists Miggs Burroughs and Ann Chernow hosted the third and final noir film last night, on the Westport Library’s large Trefz Forum screen.

“Nightmare Alley” was part of the series accompanying the artists’ “Double Indemnity” art exhibit, in the Library’s Sheffer Gallery. It runs through August 6.

Miggs Burroughs and Ann Chernow. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is as delectable as it gets: raspberries, straight from Lauri Weiser’s back yard.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally … Lauri Weiser’s photo (above) reminds us of …

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Roundup: Bill Cribari, Harry Breitman, Mark LeMoult …

Everyone knows — or should know — that the William F. Cribari Bridge honors the long-time traffic officer who, with flair, dramatic moves and plenty of smarts directed traffic from and over the Saugatuck River span that now bears his name.

But only folks with long memories remember that Bill Cribari was also a high-strutting major with Nash Engineering’s crack drum and bugle corps.

He was at his finest every Memorial Day.

Here — decades later, thanks to his daughter, Sharon Saccary — is a wonderful shot of Bill Cribari: man, major, myth.

NOTE: I’m not sure what year this was from. I never recall the Memorial Day parade route going this direction past what is now Patagonia.

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When the Westport Police Department saw a couple of kids had set up a lemonade stand on South Compo Road, and traffic was pulling over, they …

… pulled over too.

They learned the youngsters were raisin money for the Connecticut Humane Society. So the WPD posted a photo on social media, urging everyone to stop by.

We saw this too late to help. But it’s never too late to thank young Westporters like these 2 — or our always helpful, very caring Westport Police.

Cops and kids, on South Compo.

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Many of the thousands of visitors to the 49th annual Westport Fine Arts Festival agreed: This was the best ever.

The (almost the entire time) great weather, the holiday weekend, the dozens of excellent artists, and the back-together-again vibe all contributed to the success of the weekend.

So did the great organizational skills and promotion of the Westport Downtown Association.

Congrats to all. And of course to the Best in Show artist: Dean DiMarzo.

2022 WEstport Fine Arts Festival Best in Show: Dean DieMarzo. (Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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Dick Lowenstein was intrigued by yesterday’s lead story. Tom Feeley honored a Westport VFW friend, whose life was saved in World War II by a guard in a German prisoner of war camp. The man — an American, who had been conscripted by the Nazis — altered Tom’s friend’s dog tags, erasing a reference to the soldier’s Jewish faith. That saved him from execution the following day.

Dick writes:

My uncle Donahl Breitman (born Heschel, later known as Harry) was a Brooklyn Jew who served in the 743rd Tank Battalion. They landed in Europe during the D-Day invasion.

His dog tag lacked the “H” for Hebrew. (The religion indicator was apparently optional. “C” for Catholic and “P” for Protestant were  the other choices.)

Because he spoke Yiddish and understood German, he was tasked with interrogating German prisoners. With the war near an end, my uncle was asked to accompany his commanding  officer to meet a Russian unit approaching from the east. My uncle and the Russian noncom communicated in Yiddish.

His older Russian-born cousin, Marine Capt. David Kipness, fought in World War I, and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Dick Lowenstein’s uncle’s dog tag — without the religious indicator.

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Mark LeMoult, was killed last week, in an automobile accident on Saugatuck Avenue, while driving his cherished 1968 Pontiac Catalina  He was 58, and lived in Norwalk.

Born in Bronxville, New York, he was raised here and was  a lifelong area resident. He attended Staples High School and graduated from The Culinary Institute of America.

Mark was a highly esteemed chef. His culinary career began at age 13, squeezing limes at Viva Zapata. Mark worked at Café Christina in Westport, the Hudson River Club and Rainbow Room in New York, and Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich. He had been the executive chef at the Field Club of Greenwich for the past 14 years. He met his fiancée Elizabeth 21 years ago, while working at Stamford’s Beacon Restaurant.

One of the highlights of Mark’s career was serving as the president of the Club Chefs of Connecticut from 2006-2010.

Mark enjoyed camping, river rafting and spending as much quality time with his sons as possible. Many “Tuesday Dad Days” were spent barbecuing and cheering on the New York Yankees.

His favorite places to visit were Lake George and Cape Cod with family. He loved to get his hands dirty planting in his garden. He cherished his dogs Leo  and Teddy, and loved mornings at the dog park and walks through the neighborhood.

He was a cigar aficionado, and relished his relaxing evening. Mark and Elizabeth enjoyed entertaining in the backyard with friends and family around the firepit, concerts at the Levitt Pavilion, and experiencing wonderful meals at local restaurants.

His family says, “All those who knew him will always remember his roaring laugh, unyielding hugs, and his gentle heart and soul.”

Mark is survived by his sons Scott of Stamford and Eric of Fairfield; fiancée Elizabeth Kenny of Norwalk; brothers, Michael (Mary) LeMoult of Trumbull, Chris (Carole) of Trumbull, and Kevin of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina; the mother of his children, Ellen LeMoult of Fairfield; stepfather, Bert Furgess of Murrells Inlet, SC, and several nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his sister Kelly.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated June 1 (10 a.m., Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Fairfield). Interment will follow in Oak Lawn Cemetery.

Friends may greet the family Tuesday, May 31 (4 to 8 p.m., Spear-Miller Funeral Home, Fairfield). Cheerful attire is encouraged to honor the vivacious life that Mark lived.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Mark’s memory to the Culinary Institute of America’s scholarship fund: www.ciachef.edu/give. For information or to offer an online condolence, click here.

Mark LeMoult

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Everyone is at today’s Memorial Day parade — except these guys. They’re cooped up at Wakeman Town Farm. But they do make a nice, tight “Westport … Naturally” shot.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

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And finally …. today is Memorial Day. As we enjoy our holiday — at the beach, at backyard barbecues, with friends and family — let us not forget what this day is rally about.

Pic Of The Day #1725

Cribari Bridge, lit for the holidays. Will the new year bring a new bridge? (Photo/John Videler for Videler Photography

Roundup: COVID Vaccine, Cribari Lights, Staples Soccer …

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900 kids showed up yesterday at the Staples High School fieldhouse.

Most came willingly, even eagerly. A few had to be dragged in.

All were 5 to 11 years old — and now all are vaccinated against COVID. They enjoyed (appreciated? tolerated?) a clinic sponsored by Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services personnel, and Community Emergency Response Team, were on hand to help. So were Westport Public School nurses, assistant superintendent of schools John Bayers, and State Senator Will Haskell.

The youngsters were given balloons. Most smiled. Their parents smiled too — with relief.

State Senator Will Haskell and Long Lots Elementary School nurse Max Zimmer, at yesterday’s clinic. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Colorful lights on the Cribari Bridge are as much a part of Westport life as — well, traffic on the Cribari Bridge.

The annual lighting ceremony is set for Friday, November 26 — the day after Thanksgiving — at the Saugatuck Rowing Club (click here for details).

But before that happens, each of the thousands of lights must be individually checked, and repaired.

Volunteers from Al’s Angels and AJ Penna Construction performed that task in the cold pre-dawn yesterday. It took several painstaking hours.

But their great work will provide many days of joy, for very thankful Westporters.

Testing the lights this weekend. The next time the lights will be on is November 26. (Photo/Magnus Larsson)

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What an exciting time to be a Staples High School soccer fan! The boys and girls teams won 3 state tournament games each last week. Both have roared into the semifinals.

Yesterday, the 6th-seeded Wrecker boys team knocked off #3 Fairfield Prep, 1-0.  Reese Watkins power-headed Matthew Jordan’s corner kick in the second half. Outstanding defense by Bruno Guiduli, Jackson Hochhauser, Caleb Tobias, Hunter Smith, Jack Foster and keeper Jacob Greenberger secured the win. The boys face Farmington in the semis,

The girls also won off a corner kick, against Farmington on Thursday. Neva Mermagen nailed Maddie Sansone’s cross for the dramatic overtime game winner. The Wreckers meet Fairfield Warde in their semifinal match.

Both games will be played at neutral sites, later this week. Days, times and sites have not yet been announced.

Reese Watkins (left) celebrates his goal against Fairfield Prep with (from left) Dylan Hoke, Murilo Moreno, Tim Liakh and Hunter Smith. (Photo/Mark Sikorski)

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Hungry for another Westport Library’s Trefz Newsmakers Series conversation?

The series — featuring Emmy-winning CBS News justice and security correspondent (and 1988 Staples High School graduate) Jeff Pegues — continues next month, with acclaimed chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson. It’s set for the Trefz Forum on December 2 (7 p.m.).

Samuelsson is the chef behind restaurants worldwide, including Red Rooster Harlem, Red Rooster Shoreditch and Marcus B&P. He was the youngest person to ever receive a 3-star review from The New York Times, and has won multiple James Beard Foundation Awards.

A noted philanthropist, Samuelsson co-produces the annual week-long festival Harlem EatUp!. He also co-chairs the Careers through Culinary Arts program.

The Trefz Newsmakers Series is free. To register for a seat, click here.

Marcus Samuelsson

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“The Band’s Visit” continues its national tour at the Bushnell in Hartford this week.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Staples High School 2013 graduate Clay Singer. The former Players star plays Itzik — unemployed, raising an infant with a frustrated wife — with “aching honesty.”

The Tony Award-winning show runs November 16-21. Click here for more information, and tickets.

Clay Singer in “The Band’s Visit.”

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Westporter Jacquelin Mullin died peacefully after a brief illness last week, with her sons at her side.

She spent her childhood in Bronxville, New York. After graduating from Pace Business School Jacquie married her high school beau, Gerard Mullin, in 1946, They lived in Florida and Illinois and New Canaan. Their growing family moved to Westport in 1954.

Jacquie raised their 3 sons while Gerry worked in NYC.  She volunteered in Westport schools. Her active boys kept her busy transporting them to sports events, dealing with a menagerie of wild “pets,” and worrying about motorcycle mishaps.

Divorced in 1973, Jacquie remained in her Westport home and entered the workplace as an administrative assistant, working her way through a number of marketing positions until she retired from GTE.

She also volunteered with the Westport Historical Society, Westport Woman’s Club and Nature Center (now Earthplace), among others.

She was a devoted gardener. In later years she surrounded herself with flowering plants on her deck, where she spent many hours.

She traveled extensively with friends and family members. Proud of her Irish heritage, visiting “the auld sod” was an important journey. She was inseparable from her beloved cars, driving solo south each winter to visit friends and family.

She also enjoyed Compo Beach, watching the ever-changing seasons of children, dogs and beach walkers.

With her sons grown, her best times centered on sharing a meal or driving adventures with old friends from work, and new friends from all walks of life. Her family thanks everyone who enriched her life with their companionship and wit, and to the aides that made her later-life lunches possible.

Family was the center of Jacquie’s existence. She hosted holiday dinners until the younger generation took over, and kept track of everyone’s birthdays.  She was pre-deceased by her former husband (1997), her middle son Randall James Mullin (2017), and daughter-in-law Audrey (Albright) Mullin (2005).

She is survived by her brother, John Sheedy Jr. of New York City and Red Rock, New York; sisters Marie Ponce of Charlotte and Marguerite Adams of  Garrison, New York; sons Jeffrey (Joan Hall) of Bourne, Massachusetts and Scott of Ridgefield; daughter-in-law Jackie Mullin of Neptune Beach, Florida; grandchildren Amy and Brian Mullin; great-grandchild Ethan Mullin, plus nieces, nephews, and their children:

A private graveside service will be held at Assumption Cemetery. A celebration of life will be held in the spring.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society; Wakeman Town Farm, or Earthplace. Her family adds: “Plant perennial flowers in your garden in her memory!”

Jacqui Mullin

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Deer are a popular “Westport … Naturally” subject.

But we haven’t seen too many bucks. Here’s a great shot, from Baron’s South:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

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And finally … happy 121st birthday to America’s great composer/conductor, Aaron Copland!

Pic Of The Day #1628

View from the Cribari Bridge (Photo/Rose Porosoff)

Cribari Bridge Opening: A Bird’s-Eye View

We all know that the Cribari Bridge is a functioning “swing bridge” — the oldest of its kind in the state, still going strong at 135 years old.

How strong?

Recent Staples High School graduate Brandon Malin headed to Saugatuck yesterday morning with his drone, to find out.

It’s a great perspective. As Brandon notes, “It’s remarkable how fast they do it. for such an old bridge.” The full cycle takes just over 5 minutes.

Click below for a view of Westport you’ve likely never seen.

Unless you’re a bird.

Traffic Cop, Traffic Light: The Sequel

Police Chief Foti Koskinas feels Westport drivers’ pains. He hears their pleas for a traffic cop on Riverside Avenue, at the Cribari Bridge. The Westport Police Department is on the case.

But there is another side to Westport’s traffic woes too.

Driving habits have changed dramatically during COVID, Koskinas and public safety officer Al D’Amura say. Though Westporters have returned to work, all but 1oo or so of the Saugatuck and Greens Farms train station parking spots are empty every day. Those folks drive instead.

The situation is the same at every train station from Greenwich to New Haven. That’s why I-95 and the Merritt Parkway have become parking lots.

Looking for every bit of help, drivers turn to apps like Waze. Offered an alternate route, they take it.

Which is why we see more and more backups on Riverside Avenue. As well as Wilton Road, Cross Highway, Long Lots Road — anywhere Waze says is even slightly better. It’s a problem at I-95 exits 17 and 18, and Merritt exits 41 and 42.

When William Cribari and other officers were posted at what was then called the Bridge Street Bridge, Koskinas says, they facilitated 100 to 200 vehicles to and from trains.

Traffic is no longer timed to trains, Koskinas explains. Moving traffic off the bridge in the morning, and through Riverside Avenue in the evening, sounds like a great idea.

But Waze and traffic apps would immediately sense the smoother flow — making the alternate route off I-95 even more appealing to highway drivers.

A traffic officer will immiediately take over the Riverside Avenue post made famous by William William Cribari (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Still — starting immediately – there will be an officer on Riverside by the bridge, in the late afternoon.

“We’ll monitor the situation, to see if it helps or hurts,” Koskinas says.

“We may find that as much as people don’t like waiting through 4 or 5 light cycles, it’s better than having 300 more cars coming through Saugatuck. We don’t know what we’ll find for sure. We’ll study it.”

That’s not the only new traffic post in town. An agent will be posted from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection.

Actually, it’s not “new.” As a young officer, Koskinas once manned that corner.

Facilitating traffic there impacts other lights on the Post Road. For example, waving through more cars from Wilton Road might cause more of a temporary backup through the already congested downtown area.

“We understand the importance to merchants, and everyone,” Koskinas says. As with Saugatuck, he and D’Amura will monitor the situation closely.

As for another suggestion from an “06880” reader — installation of a light at the top of I-95 eastbound Exit 18 — Koskinas says, “we fully support it. It’s come up before.” His department — in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen — will make that recommendation to the state Department of Transportation.

Sherwood Island Connector is a state road. There will be engineering studies, and budget issues. It could take a while.

So for now, you might want to get off at Exit 17. A traffic cop there will move traffic along.

Or maybe he’ll inadvertently invite other I-95 drivers to join you.

[OPINION] Traffic Cop Needed At Cribari Bridge

For the past 8 years, Rick Rosencrans has commuted to work from I-95 Exit 17 in Westport, to Exit 7 in Stamford. Recently — as the pandemic has eased, and the drive has gotten longer — he’s had time to think. Rick writes:

For 8 years I have watched traffic patterns on I-95 ebb and flow, often based on the day of the week, time of day, construction projects and accidents.

During the early months of COVID, and into this past winter, traffic was light. My pre-COVID 40-minute commute turned into a 15 to 20-minute ride, door to door. Yet while the shorter commute was nice, I’m not selfish enough to think the trade-off was worth it.

Fast forward to late winter and this spring. While many offices and businesses between Westport and New York still work with limited staff, traffic seems to have returned to pre-pandemic levels.

I assume that since the train station parking lots are hardly used, many of the people who have returned to work now commute by car instead of train.

On my daily Stamford to Westport return trip — particularly on Friday afternoons — traffic seems worse than ever. Due to Waze, Google Maps and natural instincts, many drivers get off at Exit 17, head up Charles Street, turn left on Riverside Avenue at Tutti’s, make a right on Bridge Street, and continue on to Greens Farms Road towards Exit 18 and points north.

This backs cars all the way up on to the exit ramp, and often on to the right lane of northbound 95.  It can take 25 minutes to get from the ramp to the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck, a distance of about 1 mile. 

Saugatuck, on a rare day with little traffic. It often backs up on Riverside Avenue, from Exit 17 to the Cribari Bridge.

The streets of Saugatuck were not meant for this volume of traffic. But one impediment makes the situation even worse.

With no “No Right on Red” sign by Dunkin Donuts, bridge-bound cars idle in front of the firehouse and Saugatuck Sweets, while traffic flows from the bridge into Saugatuck.

I have no problem with the sign, during normal hours. But what I have observed over the years is that a  traffic officer at the Riverside Avenue/Bridge Street intersection, safely waving drivers to make a right on red, has a significant effect on the overall traffic flow.

I would guess that an additional 15 to 20 cars could be waved around the corner of Bridge Square during each cycle of lights. That would also allow for adjustment in the timing of the lights so that cars coming from the other direction on Riverside Avenue have more time allotted to make a left on to the bridge.

The William F. Cribari Bridge. A police officer could wave more cars onto it, during rush hour.

We need a traffic officer at the intersection on weekday afternoons, and perhaps at certain weekend times when I-95 is backed up.   

Once upon a time, there WAS a traffic officer — every day — at that intersection. He was visible, efficient, and very, very theatrical.

His name was William F. Cribari. And yes, he’s the guy they named the Bridge Street bridge after. 

Bill Cribari, at work (and play). (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

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Meanwhile, “06880” reader Gary Shure has a solution for another traffic chokepoint, a couple of miles east:

During rush hour there is often a long backup at the northbound Exit 18 ramp (Sherwood Island connector). It goes down the whole ramp, continuing onto the right lane of the highway itself.

It would be so easy to fix. Just put a traffic light there, timed to be green 80% of the time for people getting off 95.

Right now, the 4-way stop sign puts everyone getting off the highway on an equal footing with the occasional perpendicular vehicle on the connector.

Furthermore, with a light you could have 2 useful lanes on the ramp: the left lane (only for left hand turns), and the right lane (for left turns, and going right).

Exit 18, at the Sherwood Island Connector.

Jim Marpe: 1st Selectman Looks Back — And Ahead

In 2005, Jim Marpe found himself on the Board of Education.

He’d spent 28 years with Accenture, retiring 3 years earlier as a senior partner. His career had taken him to Chicago, Copenhagen, then New York. That final move in 1989 brought Marpe, his wife Mary Ellen and daughter Samantha to Westport. They came — as so many do — for the schools and amenities.

In retirement Marpe played golf, enjoyed his boat and traveled. But growing up in modest circumstances in Canton, Ohio, his parents had always emphasized giving back to the community. And Accenture had always emphasized lifelong learning, he says.

So when Republican Town Committee chair Pete Wolgast asked if he’d be interested in a suddenly vacant seat on the Board of Ed, he was intrigued.

First Selectman Jim Marpe

Marpe put his management and financial talents to use, in an area that accounts for 2/3 of Westport’s total budget. He was elected to 2 subsequent terms, and served as vice chair.

In 2013, 1st Selectman Gordon Joseloff announced he would not run for a 3rd term. Marpe realized this was a chance to apply his organizational and management skills in another meaningful way. He also hoped to repair what had become a difficult relationship between the Board of Education and Town Hall.

He and running mate Avi Kaner won. Instead of 8 schools, Marpe now oversaw 16 direct reports. Each ran a “different business. Even the Fire Department is very different from the Police Department,” he notes.

His job was to “keep people out of their silos.” Monthly staff meetings brought all department heads into the same room. He met regularly with each head and deputy. His goal was to create a team that served the town in a coordinated way.

He inherited “high-quality people, who understand Westport.” His job was to coach them, and help them reach their potential.

Marpe has decided not to run for a 3rd term. Now 74, heading toward his 2nd retirement, he looks back on nearly 8 years of accomplishments. He and his administration have made their mark in areas like the Downtown Plan and Implementation Committee, Baron’s South, Senior Center, Longshore Inn and golf course, First Responder Civilian Review Panel, pension reform, sustainability, the new combined Public Safety Dispatch Center, Greens Farms railroad station, even the town website.

He has kept the mill rate remarkably stable, despite economic volatility at the state and federal levels.

At the January 2020 “State of the Town” meeting, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe described another year with no property tax increase.

But nothing could have prepared the town’s chief executive for a year like 2020.

Responding to COVID — a global pandemic that quickly became very local, with Westport the site of one of the nation’s first super-spreader events — demanded every tool in Marpe’s box.

He gathered and analyzed hard data. He made tough decisions, like closing beaches and the Senior Center. He communicated complex ideas to jittery residents, with empathy and understanding.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s first COVID news conference at Town Hall — before mask wearing became well publicized.

In the midst of all that came protests over racial injustice. A month later, Hurricane Isaias knocked out power for many Westporters, for up to a week.

Marpe is proud of his team’s responses to those events. But he also cites less-noticed accomplishments.

Working with Jim Ross and the Commission on People with Disabilities opened his eyes, and expanded his thinking. That propelled his push for greater accessibility at Compo Beach.

A new walkway and bathrooms were controversial. But, Marpe says, “when I see someone who’s physically impaired enjoying a picnic or sunset there now, I get emotional.”

The new South Beach boardwalk increases accessibility and adds safety.

His strong relationship with Police Chief Foti Koskinas, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey and Connecticut Anti-Defamation League director Steve Ginsburg  (a Westport resident) helped the town navigate the Black Lives Matter and subsequent Asian-American protests.

When he came into office, Marpe admits, “I didn’t expect to encounter things like that. But they’re a part of the job, just like cutting the ribbon at a new business opening, and seeing how excited people are to open up here.”

1st Selectman Jim Marpe brings oversized scissors to ribbon cuttings for new stores, restaurants, even (as shown here) law firms.

Not everyone is happy with how everything works in Westport, he knows. “But if someone contacts me with a reasonable request, and I can help solve their problem, and along the way make the community better, that’s my job.”

He feels grateful for the opportunity to get to know a broad swath of Westport — people he might not have met, businesses and organizations outside of his own interests.

“It’s fascinating what makes up Westport,” Marpe says. “Not a lot of communities our size have that tapestry. My appreciation for this town grows every day.”

Marpe served on the Homes with Hope board since the 1990s (along with many others, like the Westport Weston Family YMCA, Westport Rotary Club and Greens Farms Congregational Church). He is awed by the work these organizations — and so many others — do to make life better for overlooked or marginalized people.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is a Rotary Club member. When volunteers were needed for the LobsterFest, he and his wife Mary Ellen pitched in.

At the same time, he appreciates the town’s long commitment to the arts. (His wife Mary Ellen is the former owner and director of the Westport Academy of Dance.) As 1st selectman, he created the new positions of townwide arts curator and poet laureate.

For the past 7 years, Marpe has been on call 24/7. While on the golf course — even on rare vacations — his phone rings. The recent birth of his grandson made the decision to not run again a bit easier.

His successor will face many challenges. A bureaucratic morass at the state and federal levels has prevented Marpe from moving forward on Saugatuck River dredging.

“We have to do it,” he says firmly. “If we don’t it will silt up, with real consequences for what makes Westport unique, even among shoreline towns.”

He worked across the aisle with Lieutenant Governor Bysewiez and state legislators Will Haskell and Jonathan Steinberg to address traffic issues at the Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection downtown, and Main Street/Weston Road/Easton Road near Merritt Parkway Exit 42. “Unfortunately, that’s still the way I found it,” he says.

Plans for Baron’s South will be revealed in 2 or 3 months. But finding the best use for the Golden Shadows building on the property remains a challenge.

And of course, debate continues on the fate of the William F. Cribari Bridge.

The next first selectman will face controversy over the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge (Photo/Chuck Greenlee)

But Marpe is excited for the future of Westport. “Downtown feels good again. It’s still the heartbeat of our community — along with Saugatuck, our other ‘downtown.'”

When he hands his swipe card to his successor 7 months from now, what advice can he give?

“Getting into this office involves political activity,” Marpe says. “But once you’re in, it’s about management, like metrics and budgets, and leadership — people skills. It’s the same as any business.

“But what’s different from running a business is that this is a democracy. Boards and commissions have a lot of say. You have to work with those leaders and members. They’re part of the process.”

He’s pleased to have a strong relationship with the superintendent of schools, Thomas Scarice — a goal when he first ran for 1st selectman, in 2013.

Back then, Jim Marpe had never heard the word “coronavirus.” He did not know the name “Isaias.”

Seven years later, they are now 2 parts of his long, and very impressive, legacy.

Jim Marpe walks his daughter Samantha down the aisle. He looks forward to spending time with his new grandson,

Fred Cantor: Seeing Westport Through SoCal Eyes

“06880” readers know Fred Cantor as an avid commenter, with a keen eye for Westport’s history, and a passion for its present and future. He’s also a multi-talented writer, movie and play producer, and attorney

Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The 1971 Staples High School graduate has had health issues, so for the past few years he and his wife Debbie have spent winters in Southern California. They were there last year, when the pandemic (and his doctor’s advice) turned a few months’ stay into more than a year. It was the longest time he’d been away from Westport since moving here at age 10.

After 17 months, Fred and Debbie are back. Here’s what he sees.

The first thing that grabbed our attention coming off Exit 17 was the empty train station parking lot. We had read about the large number of people working at home, but that was an eye-opener.

Yet then, almost instantly, there were old welcome sights: the approach to the distinctive Cribari Bridge — with early signs of spring (daffodils in full bloom) — and just past the bridge, 19th-century homes with yards fronted by quintessential New England stone walls or wrought-iron fences.

Daffodils near the William F. Cribari Bridge.

I don’t think Debbie and I crossed a bridge over a river once in our area of SoCal— and certainly not a bridge on the National Register of Historic Places — even before the pandemic, when we did more driving. Southern California has much natural beauty, but in the area of Orange County where we rented, numerous rivers and streams are certainly not among them.

And historic 19th century homes — well, they did not exist there. Some of those towns were created in the 1960s or later.

Handsome home on Bridge Street.

Westport’s historic homes, stone walls, rivers and meandering tributaries — such as can be seen along Ford Road — are among the sights I missed the most.

The scene along Ford Road.

Forsythias blooming all around Westport were another “welcome home” sign; that too was much rarer in our part of SoCal.

Forsythia blooms outside a 1930 Imperial Avenue home.

Heading to the beach, I had to stop at Joey’s By The Shore at its new location. I hoped to see Joey after all this time. but he’s away.

Back in business: Joey’s by the Shore.

That reinforced my feelings that, while many of us embrace longtime local establishments, it is largely the proprietors we really have such warm feelings about. That was certainly true when the Nistico family switched its restaurant operation from the Arrow to the Red Barn.

Walking across the street to Old Mill Beach instantly reminded me why that has long been a personal favorite. It’s not only beautiful; it’s often serene, as exemplified by a couple quietly reading their iPad and newspaper on a nearly empty beach.

Old Mill Beach.

When I was away I stayed in touch with Westport friends via email, texts, social media, occasional phone calls and Zoom.

I followed local Westport news via “06880,” so in certain respects I didn’t feel 3,000 miles away from what was happening here.  By contrast, I vividly recall the summer of 1964. I was at camp in Pennsylvania, and learned of my Little League team winning the Minor League World Series a week after the fact, when I received a letter from my parents with a clipping from the Town Crier.

The most difficult thing about being so far away was not being able to see our 93- and 95-year-old moms. Daily phone calls and occasional FaceTime calls didn’t quite suffice.

So that first weekend back in town generated a teary reunion hug between Debbie and her mom. It was coupled with a culinary discovery: delicious mini-babka at the new Kneads Bakery, which we all enjoyed at their outdoor dining area.

Fred’s wife Debbie Silberstein, Debbie’s mother and aide, at Kneads Bakery. (All photos/Fred Cantor)

That first weekend back also generated our first experience with traffic. At 4 p.m. Saturday there was a big backup on Bridge Street toward Saugatuck. Traffic crawled on 95, spilling over onto local streets.

Other than on the single-lane canyon road leading to Laguna Beach, we never experienced major backups in SoCal. The main local roads have 3 lanes in each direction — with an additional two left-hand turn lanes at major intersections.

During that traffic tie-up on Bridge Street I witnessed an “only in Westport” moment (and something I had never seen in close to 60 years here). Moving right by the traffic on a highly unusual mode of transit were two cyclists on penny-farthings (you can look it up🤨).

Seeing that, I knew for sure I was back in Westport!