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Data Is Nothing New For Heller

Garson Heller spent the majority of his life crunching data in one form or another. Now he uses that of experience in his role on Westport’s Board of Assessment Appeals.

Heller spent years on Wall Street, running systems for the New York Stock Exchange. His computer work kept prices ticking and trades flowing. Data was observed and processed and incidents like the1,000 point bounce on May 6 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average were unheard of. “It is my understanding that sort of glitch just couldn’t have happened when I was there,” said Heller. He thinks the way markets interact and tie in together today is borderline illegal.

Aside from being the self-described “grandfather of high volume” data in the stocks, Heller designed listing systems for television. At the time the only way to find out what was going to be on was TV Guide or lengthy descriptions that weren’t tailored to markets. He changed that, creating a way for local affiliates to control their listings and present them in an easy to read format.

Heller also spent years working for the Associated Press and the United Press International. He developed content management systems that became the precursors of those used today.

Heller’s public service didn’t start with the Board of Assessment Appeals, where he has served since 1983. Prior to that he spent 14 years on Westport’s Representative Town Meeting. His wife, Velma, still serves on the RTM. They have been married 53 years and have three children.

Heller said he loved transitioning to computers. His education was as an engineer, and early jobs involved refitting docks to accept varied tanker fittings and working at chemical processing plants. He recalled one time being lowered down a thin well-like tower to take readings and perform maintenance. Several stories above ground, he was plunged into the darkness. “A lot of guys wouldn't do it, but I didn't mind,” he said, laughing at the memories.

A former chairman, Heller intends to keep serving on the board of assessment appeals as long as he can. He said he spent more than a third of his life invested in the making sure Westport's taxpayers are treated fairly and that is what drives him to keep going.

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