WESTPORT, Conn. — Westport residents will next week elect a new first and second selectman. Republicans Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner hope to be victorious over their opponents, Democrats Helen Garten and Melissa Kane.
A 24-year resident, Marpe is a former member of the Board of Education. During his eight-year tenure, he served as vice chairman for five years and briefly as acting chairman in 2012.
Marpe, who received a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, is a retired senior partner from Accenture, a global management consulting and technology services company.
Over the years, Marpe has been active with a number of community organizations. He is currently a member of the Westport Rotary Club and the Y’s Men and is on the board of the Stamford Symphony Orchestra. He also served as chairman of the Westport Weston Family Y Board of Trustees, on the Homes With Hope board and as moderator of Green’s Farms Congregational Church.
He and his wife Mary Ellen have one daughter.
Kaner, a 17-year resident, has served on the Board of Finance for the past eight years and is currently the chairman. He is a graduate of Columbia University, where he received a master’s in business administration. Kaner is the owner of a New York City supermarket chain and is a past principal at Booz Allen & Hamilton, a consulting firm.
Kaner and his wife Liz volunteer with a number community organizations, including Chabad of Westport, Save the Children, the Conservative Synagogue, Westport's schools and the Fairfield County Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Kaner is also a member of the Westport Sunrise Rotary Club.
He and Liz have three children.
The Westport Daily Voice recently asked Marpe and Kaner to answer a few questions. Their responses are below.
Daily Voice: What is the biggest issue residents have expressed concern about while you were out on the campaign trail, and how would you address this issue in office?
Jim Marpe: We have found that Westporters have lots of "issues" on their minds -- traffic, parking, sidewalks and bike lanes, quality of Compo Beach and Longshore Park, ability for seniors to stay in Westport, open space and taxes. But their real frustration is that there is no cohesive vision to address these concerns and an absence of leadership to execute the things that need to be accomplished. We believe that the collective professional and community leadership experience that both of us bring is what is required to take the wide variety of concerns that Westport citizens have expressed, mold them into a coherent vision for the future and then know how to develop the necessary action plans and oversee their implementation.
We also know that Westport citizens want their taxes and tax increases to be kept as low as possible. Both of us have extensive experience in creating and managing local budgets as well as overseeing labor contract negotiations, managing larger organizations than the town through complex change processes and implementing structural changes for permanent savings.
DV: What would you hope to accomplish during your first year in office?
Marpe: No. 1.: Develop the action plans for the various initiatives we have described in our platform. They include:
- Celebrating seniors by keeping property taxes low; developing affordable senior housing options and creating innovative programs that address healthy living and independence;
- Initiating improvements to our "crown jewel" town amenities such as Longshore and Compo Beach;
- Develop fresh approaches to using the Transit District capabilities to make it easier for Westporters to get around town and to reduce our collective carbon footprint;
- Complete the first phase of the Downtown 2020 plan and begin implementing its results in our Main Street downtown area ; use the traffic data and modeling to begin achieving some traffic congestion relief on major arteries.
No. 2: Expand access and inclusion of our citizens through communications with the first selectman's office through our "Listen, Learn & Lead" program:
- Conduct an annual "State of the Town" meeting beginning this January;
- Virtual Town Meeting using webcast and social media technology;
- Neighborhood Coffee and Conversation -- going out into the community on a regular basis to meet with our fellow citizens in their neighborhoods;
- Crowd-sourcing through the Town's website to obtain input from our neighbors on various issues.
No. 3.: Enhance our town's orientation to resident servicing to help Westporters have convenient and responsive access to all services and processes.
No. 4: Plan and begin implementing the next phase of our preparation and response to the threat of future major storms.
DV: How do you stand out against your competitors, and why should people vote for you?
Avi Kaner: The role of the selectman is that of a leader, listening to our 26,000 fellow citizens, creating a vision, building consensus from disparate views, and translating it into action. Our 60 years of combined senior management leadership experience, proven town leadership, and extensive community service involvement make the Marpe-Kaner team uniquely qualified to meet these challenges. Moreover, our careers and local leadership experience have been about successfully implementing change, not just planning for it or talking about it. We know how to translate plans into action and results and lead Westport toward a future that enhances our quality of life while maintaining our small town character.
We have each proven ourselves able to generate consensus, which is essential to accomplishing change in any environment. On the Board of Education, Jim helped achieve consensus in a nonpartisan manner on important projects. As the new chairman of the Board of Finance two years ago, I recommended a vice chair from the opposite party, assigned leadership positions to all members, regardless of affiliation, and began an ongoing, successful dialogue with the first selectman. As a result, much has been accomplished in a short time.
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