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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Few Surprises with DTC Nominations

By James Lomuscio

Tonight’s Democratic Town Committee (DTC) nominating convention for November’s elections went as expected with the slate announced Monday getting unanimous endorsements.

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Nominated Democratic candidates tonight include (l-r) Mark Mathias, Michael Gordon, both Board of Education; Paul Liebowitz, Planning and Zoning Commssion, Sheri Gordon and John Hartwell, Board of Finance. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon and member Mark Mathias, both incumbents, received resounding support after Mathias and Gordon nominated each other.

“He’s fiscally savvy, but he puts the needs of students first,” Mathias said of Gordon, adding that the one of the challenges the board will face this year is hiring a new superintendent for the first time in 17 years.

When Gordon nominated Mathias, who has already served three four-year terms, he said that his colleague “sets the bar high for everyone on the board.”

DTC member Keith Stein served as moderator of the nominations with good reason: DTC Chairman John Hartwell was about to be nominated to run for the Board of Finance. So too was Sheri Gordon, secretary of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). Incumbent Janis Collins is not seeking reelection.

State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg was the first to nominate Hartwell, saying that his pick has a background in financial services.

“And more importantly, John is in love with numbers; he loves data,” Steinberg said.

Selectwoman Helen Garten nominated Sheri Gordon to the finance board. It was seconded by Brian Stern, Board of Finance vice chairman.

“Sheri represents a new generation of Westporters who love this town and plan for its future,” Garten said. “It’s time for a new beginning on the Board of Finance.”

On Monday, Hartwell said that there are four seats up on the Board of Finance, “and if we can win two, we will win the majority.”

The Democrats are also looking to retake the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), where the Republicans hold a 4 to 3 majority.

The Republican Town Committee (DTC) has nominated four P&Z incumbents for reelection: Catherine Walsh, Chip Stephens, Jack Whittle and Al Gratrix.

To swing the balance, the DTC unanimously nominated Paul Lebowitz, who has served on the Representative Town Meeting’s (RTM) Planning and Zoning Committee.

RTM member Neil Phillips put forth Lebowitz’s name, calling him someone who cares about the town’s environment and open space while “while also believing strongly in the need for affordable senior housing.”

Senior housing has been a flash point for the current P&Z after it voted in March to declare the 22-acre, town-owned Baron’s South property as open space, putting an end to a seven-year planned senior housing complex there. The P&Z decision was upheld in April by a narrow vote of the RTM.

Lebowitz had been a strong voice on the P&Z Committee for overturning the P&Z vote.

“Paul is not an ideologue,” said Melissa Kane, who seconded the nomination. “He will weigh each issue on its own merit, and he will be a breath of fresh air on the P&Z.”

Lebowitz was also described as a voice of reason by DTC members.

“It’s shocking that we have to talk about having a P&Z member who is reasonable, balanced and fair minded, but that’s what we need now,” said Steinberg.

Sheri Gordon nominated Jim Ezzes to run again for the ZBA, where he has served 20 years, 18 years as its chairman. When asked where Ezzes was to accept the nomination, she replied that he was conducting a ZBA meeting going on at the same time.

While the meeting was upbeat, it was also bittersweet since in the was the first time in 50 years that Democratic booster and stalwart Dora Stuttman was not present. She died at 90 on July 6.

Hartwell began the meeting with a moment of silence.

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Posted 07/28/15 at 10:38 PM  Permalink



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