Election 2017: Republicans tout experienced leadership on Board of Selectmen
DARIEN — Republicans Susan Marks and Kip Koons believe Darien needs experience on its Board of Selectmen.
“I think it’s critical right now that the town of Darien has experienced people on the Board of Selectmen,” Marks said. “It’s not the time to be learning the job. We have a lot of things we need to cover.”
Those things, according to Marks, who is running for her third two-year term on the board, include major land-use decisions on places like the recently acquired Ox Ridge parcel, managing downtown redevelopment and, of course, the state budget.
“Until last Thursday we didn’t know what the heck was going to happen,” said Koons of the recently signed budget. “We were going to lose $5 million and having to make some really tough decisions. All of those issues and you need people who have experience and maturity and judgment.”
Koons, who is seeking his second term, and Marks will square off Tuesday against their Democratic challengers Marc Thorne, who is seeking his second term, and Pamela Sparkman, who is seeking her first. They are also pitted against the candidates for Darien’s top job. If either of the runners-up in the first selectman’s race garner more votes than any of the selectman candidates, he or she will secure one of the other four spots on the five-member board.
It’s conceivable that, because of state minority representation rules that require a five-member Board of Selectmen to consist of no more than three majority representatives, and because losing first selectman candidates enter the Board of Selectmen pool, the board will remain unchanged.
Koons was born in New York City, but moved with his family to Darien when he was a baby. He was a student at Darien public schools until eighth grade, and then attended St. Luke’s School in New Canaan. He graduated from Cornell University and received a law degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Though Koons feels the town will experience a brief period of stability with the passage of Hartford’s biennium budget, he doesn’t believe the problem has been solved and thinks all town bodies will need to be diligent in looking for efficiencies to cut costs, including the schools.
“I think we really have to look hard at our education budget. It’s two-thirds of the dollars going out of taxpayers’ hands. I hope the Board of Education and the powers that be think hard and long about our expenditures,” said Koons, before adding, “Maintaining good schools is important to all of us.”
Koons also said the town will need to continue to keep watch on state Democrats pushing for increased regionalization in the form of councils of governments. First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, a Republican, is chairwoman of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments.
“Having Jayme as president of WestCOG now is very important,” Koons said.
Marks, who grew up in Pound Ridge, N.Y. and moved to Darien in 1989, said she believes her “boots-on-the-ground” approach and years of getting to know residents has allowed her to represent a broad swath of Darien residents.
“I think I represent a lot of voices on that board because of all my activities in town,”said Marks, who has volunteered extensively in town.
Prior to her election to the board, Marks ran Republican political campaigns in town, served on the Representative Town Meeting, co-chaired the Darien Fireworks since 2015, volunteered at the Senior Center and has been part of the Parent Teacher Organization at several Darien schools.
“We have a lot of tough jobs,” Marks said. The governor signed a state budget, “but that doesn’t mean we end things there. We have to keep finding efficiencies. The town is changing. We need to make sure we attract new families, new young people to town, as well as keep our seniors here.”
Marks hopes people in Darien will get out to the polls on Tuesday.
“It’s critical to vote for the president, it’s critical to vote in state elections, but it’s even more critical to vote in municipal elections. That’s what affects your wallet more than anything else,” Marks said.