Democrat to challenge incumbent for first selectman spot
DARIEN — The Darien Democratic Town Committee is throwing its support behind selectman Rob Richards in his run against three-term First Selectman Jayme Stevenson for the town’s top political spot this November.
Richards, a first-term member of the Board of Selectmen, said his goal is to unite local representatives to help them better represent Darien in Hartford in the midst of the state budget crisis. He is already forming a committee of local finance experts and politicians to examine the state budget and make suggestions about it to local legislators.
“(The committee) was not approved by the Board of Selectmen, but I’m doing it anyways,” Richards said. “I’m taking the state finance crisis seriously. What happens in Hartford could affect this town greatly. I’m doing a lot of things that could change a lot.”
“The fiscal thing is the most important,” Richards added. “Right now, we have four legislative representatives and my role for this town would be to empower those legislators. If I could get (state Rep.) Terrie Wood and (state Sen.) Bob Duff to agree on something, that would make a change — That’s the goal.”
More locally, Richards said he’d also like to see changes in the waiting list for commuter parking, including replacing the eight 15-minute parking spots at the Noroton Heights station with permanent spots won via a lottery.
During his caucus speech Wednesday night, Richards cited his work installing full-time paramedics in town and striking a deal for the high school stadium lights as examples of the type of leadership he’d champion.
“The reason we have stadium lights today is simply because a hand was extended to connect with the neighbors who opposed the lights,” he said. “This simple act of respect empowered them to present reasonable guidelines for acceptance and, in kind, opened a gateway that united our community in one of the greatest fundraising events I’ve ever seen.”
“Leadership should unite our community,” he added. “A good leader should be able to conceive ideas that solve problems and possess a temperament to respectfully engage those who disagree. My ability to solve problems and smile often has brought our community together and put to bed many long standing issues.”
Joining Richards on the ballot are Marc Thorne and Pam Sparkman, both running for the Board of Selectmen. Thorne, who has served on the Representative Town Meeting and as chair of the DTC, is finishing his first two-year term on the board. Sparkman is a hopeful newcomer to the role, having started in town politics last year by joining the RTM.
First Selectman: Rob Richards
Board of Selectman: Pam Sparkman, Marc Thorne
Board of Education: Mike Burke
Board of Finance: Frank Huck
Planning & Zoning Commission: Jennifer Leahy
Board of Assessment Appeals: Glenn Ritch
In her speech, Sparkman acknowledged Richards’ role in getting her involved in town politics after he helped her solve an issue in her neighborhood when Richards first joined the Board of Selectmen.
“I’ve learned so much serving on the RTM and the Education Committee, about our community, its accomplishments and its challenges,” she said. “I’ve found working as a team in a bipartisan committee has been tremendously inspiring, mainly because I’ve heard from so many of my constituents in District 5, who have shared their questions, hopes and concerns for our town.”
Also new to the ballot is Glenn Ritch, who is running for the Board of Assessment Appeals, and Jennifer Leahy, who is seeking a seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Both are newcomers to town politics who decided to get more involved following the 2016 election.