Westport Library hosts First Selectman Debate


Photo by Tierney Kugel ’22

The Westport Library hosted a First Selectman debate on Oct. 12. The event lasted from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Candidates responded to questions relating to Westport issues from moderator, Matthew Mandell.

Westport’s First Selectman Debate took place on Oct. 12 at the Westport Library. The debate, sponsored by the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Matthew Mandell, lasted from 12:00-2:00 p.m. and was live-streamed for those who could not attend in person.

Three candidates competing for the position of First Selectman attended the debate along with their second selectman running mates. The previous First Selectman, Jim Marpe, is no longer running for the position, meaning Westport will have a new selectman after the upcoming election. 

The Republican ticket includes the current Second Selectman, Jen Tooker, and her running mate, Andrea Moore. The Democratic ticket includes state representative Jonathan Steinberg and running mate Candice Savin. Lastly, TJ Elgin and Louis D’Onofrio are third party candidates who identify as libertarians. 

Towards the end of the debate, candidates expressed why they believe they are best suited for the position given their previous political and work experience.

  “It is critical that the next First Selectman understands how to manage and lead,” Tooker said. “There is no doubt that I am the only person on this stage that has relevant, meaningful management experience and the leadership background to do this job.”  

Candidates referenced their qualifications and explained how their experience with local and state government could aid in becoming an effective First Selectman. 

“There is no substitute for having a fundamental understanding of governance at all levels,” Steinberg said. “I think one of the advantages I bring to this selectman role is an understanding of relationships at the state level.”

One of the most discussed topics throughout the debate was the role of small businesses in Westport and the similarities between the position of First Selectman and running a business, prompting candidates to share their experience in such areas.

“We’re business owners, small business owners,” Elgin said. “We are philanthropists and entrepreneurs. We’re what’s best and qualified for the town.”

Throughout the two hour event, many topics relevant to Westport residents were introduced by the moderator. Candidates were asked to share their views on infrastructure, public transportation, mitigating traffic, economic development, tax breaks, filling the Operations Director position, fixing Saugatuck Bridge, the mill rate, masks in schools, conducting business in Town Hall, and more. 

“I think this was a good debate,” Westport resident Anne Hoffman said. “A lot of topics were discussed and I learned a lot more about [the candidates] views.”

The debate was held in anticipation of the Nov. 2 election, where Westporter’s will be able to vote for Town Selectman. Those who are eligible will be able to vote for First and Second Selectman, Board of Finance, Board of Education, Board of Assessment Appeals, Planning and Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Representative Town Meeting.