Ridgefield GOP, Dems to caucus next week

Incumbent Selectman Steve Zemo will not seek the Democratic party’s nomination for re-election, he told The Press, but the other three incumbent Board of Selectmen members — his fellow Democrat Barbara Manners and Republicans Maureen Kozlark and Bob Hebert — appear interested in re-election.

With both parties caucusing next week, Manners and Kozlark confirmed they’re running, while Hebert told The Press he was “leaning strongly” toward seeking another term.

For the first selectman’s chair, Republican finance board member and former mayor of Norwalk Dick Moccia has said he will challenge incumbent Democrat Rudy Marconi, who has confirmed he will seek re-election. No other Republicans have announced an intention to run for first selectman.

The two parties’ caucuses will be on consecutive nights — Democrats on Monday, July 22, and Republicans on Tuesday, July 23, with both caucuses in town hall starting at 7:30.

Zemo said he would not be running for another term in a July 15 response emailed to The Press.

“In 1995, I was part of a small group of activist residents who wanted to preserve and renovate the auditorium at the old high school for what would become the Ridgefield Playhouse,” he began. “The majority of the incumbent board was opposed to this idea. I ran, was elected and went on to chair the Playhouse building committee and serve on its first board of directors.

“I sat out the 1997 election but ran in 1999, 2001, and 2003. (At that time elections were every two years.). I resigned in 2004 to help with family health and elder issues.

“Feeling strongly about implementing the Citizens’ Committee recommendations for the Schlumberger site, I ran and was elected selectman again in 2015,” Zemo said.

“I have run for the Board of Selectmen five times and was elected each time. During my 11 years of service as a selectman and member of the Fire Commission I attended over 400 meetings. I believe I have contributed to the dialogue and raised questions based on my business perspective and community experience. I will not be running for re-election. I will miss serving and thank the residents for giving me their trust.”

Longest tenured

Barbara Manners, also a Democrat, is the longest-tenured Board of Selectmen member.

“Twenty-two years!” she said. “And yes, I’m running again. Why? Because there are still a few people in town who think I make a positive difference on the board and would like to see me continue.

“And because there is still more to accomplish to make Ridgefield an even better town than it already is, and working with Rudy and the other Dems gives me an opportunity to help that process along.”

Republican seats

Republican Maureen Kozlark, who served on the school board before becoming a selectman, is also in the running for another four years.

“Yes, I am seeking re-election to the Board of Selectmen,” she told The Press. “My family and I have been fortunate to live in Ridgefield for over 30 years and I have served on the Board of Selectmen since 2010. My philosophy as a board member has been to advocate for the best interests of all Ridgefielders.

“Guided by thoughtful research, careful listening, and years of experience, I believe that the decisions made by the board should benefit our community as a whole. I hope to have the opportunity to hold true to that belief and to preserve our wonderful town for another four years.”

Selectman Bob Hebert, a former chairman of the town Housing Authority before joining the board four years ago, stopped just short of committing to seek the Republican Party’s nomination to run again.

“Yes, I’m leaning strongly toward running for a second term,” he said. “I enjoyed the work and I know I made a difference on major issues like keeping town budget flat (actually, $5,000 below last year‘s budget), use of contingency funds among other things.”

Seats to fill

At next week’s caucuses, the parties will also nominate candidates for a wide range of positions, from salaried town hall officials who are elected — town clerk, tax collector, treasurer — to Ridgefield’s first standalone Inland Wetlands Board, separate from the Planning and Zoning Commission. There are also seats to fill on the Board of Finance, Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Police Commission, and Board of Assessment Appeals.

Both town committees’ leaders declined to reveal slates they expect to be presented to the caucuses.

And while both town committees traditionally recommend slates, any party member may make a nomination from the floor of either caucus. And it is the majority vote of the entire caucus — which any registered party member may participate in — that determines the slate to be presented to voters in the November election.

“Again, I’m not going to reveal who is running until caucus,” said Republican Town Chairwoman Hope Wise. “Of course, some incumbents from BOS, P&Z, etc. will run.”

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Alex Harris shared a few more thoughts, but not a planned slate.

“Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee (DTC) has not yet formally endorsed any candidates, I am unable to share names and identities other than to confirm that Rudy Marconi will be our candidate for first selectman,” Harris said.

“I can share that as of 5 p.m. EDT on July 15, 2019, the DTC’s provisional candidate list is comprised of greater than two-thirds first-time candidates, and fewer than one- third incumbents. However, that is merely provisional and the DTC’s ongoing deliberations may alter that ratio in either direction.”

Asked if the Democrats might have some caucus contests, Harris suggested there might be, and promised fair treatment for anyone nominated.

“The DTC has received interest from more individuals than Democrats may legally nominate,” he said. “I expect the DTC will endorse a list of candidates to fill every slot for which Democrats may nominate. The DTC will present its endorsed list at the Ridgefield Democratic Caucus.

“Additionally, any Democrat registered in Ridgefield and in attendance at caucus may propose nominees from the floor of the caucus. I cannot predict if any such proposals may arise, but if so all proposed candidates — be they DTC-endorsed candidates or floor-proposed candidates — will be equally welcomed and voted upon in accordance with applicable laws, rules and regulations.”

Harris encouraged party members to turn out.

“The Democratic Town Committee has spent the last seven months soliciting, interviewing, and thoroughly vetting, to ensure we present the finest candidate to serve Ridgefield in every office,” he said. “After careful deliberation and review, the full Democratic Town Committee will present its proposed list of vetted, endorsed candidates at the Ridgefield Democratic Caucus. The Democratic Town Committee proposed list will reflect a dynamic mix of both innovative, energetic new voices and highly respected, experienced public servants. “Candidates may also be proposed by caucus attendees. The caucus is among the easiest and most impactful opportunities for Democrats to decide the candidates who will appear on the Democratic ballot line in the fall election. I invite and strongly encourage every Democrat to participate.”