Darien DTC taps Ochman to head slate; offers challengers for selectmen, Board of Ed

DARIEN — Local Democrats are challenging Republicans on two fronts — the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education — with candidates its committee chair calls its strongest slate in years.

Tara Ochman, who announced her intention to run for first selectman last week, was unanimously endorsed by the DTC during a Zoom meeting Thursday. Ochman will be joined by fellow selectman candidates Mike Burke and incumbent Sarah Neumann.

Darien DTC Chair David Bayne called Thursday’s endorsements “the result of years of hard work and the dedication of so many Darien Democrats — on and off the DTC — to make Darien a better place for its residents.

“The Darien Democrats have a history of offering the town ... accomplished candidates,” Bayne said, adding that this November “not only are the Democrats challenging with a full slate of candidates for the Board of Selectmen, but, in an unprecedented move in Darien, they are also running a challenge race for the Board of Education.”

Ochman said her focus will be promoting downtown businesses, putting a long-term strategy in place for public parks and open space and preparing Darien's roads, beaches and infrastructure for future storms.

"I believe that Darien is ready for a new path, one that goes beyond partisan politics,” Ochman said. “We can choose to continue to stagnate, to complain, to put off difficult decisions … or we can innovate, invest and build a thriving future for our Town.

“We are not a Democratic or Republican town,” she said. “We are a town that expects and deserves thoughtful, forward-looking leadership."

Burke has served on the Board of Education and the Representative Town Meeting. He said his decision to run comes from a desire to improve the town’s infrastructure and better prepare for severe storms.

"During my six years on the Board of Education,” Burke said, “I made decisions based on merit as opposed to party fiat while engaging my colleagues on the important issues. I plan to make that my basis for serving on the board of selectmen and the foundation of our campaign.”

Neumann is running for reelection, saying town officials “need to start looking at ways to remediate the flooding that has become such a common issue and look at ways to help keep all of our residents safe on the roads and sidewalks.”

The DTC endorsed Stacey Tié and Julie Best for Board of Education seats.

“So many Darien parents know Stacie and Julie as tireless advocates for our children,” Bayne said. “For the two of them, the politics stops when our children’s educational needs emerge.”

Best said she chose to run for the Board of Education because the town still faces uncertainties related to the pandemic; there are challenges looming at the state level; and there is progress that needs to be made locally to maintain or improve the caliber of a Darien Public School education.

“I want to help navigate these challenges and steer our district through these difficulties,” she said. “I have spent a lot of years learning how things work, what needs work and what is important to members of this community."

Tié, who has served on the RTM, said the Board of Education was a natural fit since, whether as a PTO leader, Council of Darien School Parents committee chair, RTM member or professional non-attorney advocate, she has spent a good portion of her life advocating for children.

“And while Darien is an academically high performing district, we still have a lot of work to do for our kids, most notably in the realm of mental health and development of the whole student,” she said. “I know my experience working with families and administration will serve to help the entire community when it comes to making sure all needs of all learners are met.”

The remaining slate has present Selectman David Martin, a long-time financial executive, endorsed for the Board of Finance; Adam Balgach for the Planning and Zoning Commission; and Glenn Ritch running for reelection on the Board of Assessment Appeals.