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Rec Honcho Moving, Has to Resign

Richard Kestenbaum is stepping down after more than four years as chairman of Westport's Parks and Recreation Commission. He'd love to keep doing it, but the town attorney told him no.

"I'm selling my house and making a temporary move to East Norwalk. I am looking for a new home here in Westport though," said Kestenbaum. Town bylaws don't allow a nonresident to hold the position, so last night marked his final bang of the gavel on that commission.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff interrupted the meeting's proceedings to give Kestenbaum a plaque honoring his years of hard work and service to the town. He commended Kestenbaum for leading through controversies and taking the brunt of public backlash for unpopular projects. "This guy has done, quietly and behind the scenes, so much for this town."

Near the end of the meeting, RTM member Bill Meyer, chair of the RTM Parks and Recreation Committee, handed members of the commission a letter he submitted in 2006. It followed Kestenbaum's first meeting as chairman. The opening paragraph read, "Your first meeting of chairing the Parks and Recreation Commission was like a winning three pointer at the buzzer, hat trick on ice, walk-off home run, eagle 25 putt on the 72nd hole, and a victorious hail Mary pass in the final seconds."

One of the controversial items Kestenbaum wants to see come to fruition is the installation of lighting at a number of town sporting fields including Staples High School. "I think it really is a matter of safety," he said.

Working with the people of Westport and their creativity, ingenuity and volunteerism were his favorite aspects of serving as chairman. His most frustrating moments came in getting the town to financially support the parks and recreation department. He said the past year, receiving a mere $160,000 in the budget, was very discouraging. "It comes to something like 13 cents a family," said Kestenbaum.

A successor to Kestenbum was not named. Kestenbaum said the position is appointed and does not need to be a current commission member. He said he doesn't know who will take over. Whoever it is just has to live in town. Jennifer Johnson joined as a new commissioner last night, but there was no indication that she was his replacement.

To that end, if his plans go as he hopes, Kestenbaum will return to Westport in the not too distant future. When that happens he would entertain the notion of returning to the commission. "I could be back," he said.

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