On Saturday, Feb. 1, State Rep. Terrie Wood held two community coffee sessions in order to introduce her goals for the upcoming legislative session; one at Darien’s Espresso Neat and one at Rowayton Market in Norwalk. Wood represents Darien and Rowayton.

The coffees drew about 25 guests in Darien and 20 in Rowayton.

The Darien event was held around the large table at Espresso NEAT. Wood maintained a discussion based Q and A style information session, answering questions from the diverse attendees, aging from teenagers to local seniors. Darien’s first selectman, Jayme Stevenson, was also in attendance.

Wood opened the conversation by thanking Espresso NEAT for their generosity in hosting the event. She also encouraged attendees to walk next door to Flour Water Salt on their way out, a bakery run by a Darien resident, Rob Vankeuren. She emphasized the importance of “the inspiration of a dream," when sharing the bakers story, as he left the corporate world to master the art of sourdough bread making with an amazing team his side.

Wood took advantage of her time, cutting right to the chase in order to give opportunity to the public to ask questions. She recognized her role as a representative, stating, “To represent is my job. I want to hear from you.”

Wood primarily stated that her priority with the upcoming legislative session is to turn the economy around and open more jobs for the public. One question focused on training for available jobs, as recently there has been more opportunity for employment in manufacturing fields. However, employees need training. One of Wood’s goals is to establish a system for this.

Wood also addressed her goals with the Connecticut Estate Tax. Her goal is to repeal the estate tax, as she stated it would benefit Connecticut by not driving the elderly away. Wood felt as though there is a disconnect between local and federal government with this tax, and she hopes to address it.

One attendee expressed concern with the 8-30g policy; the state’s affordable housing statute.

State statute 8-30g allows developers to circumvent local zoning in towns that do not meet the state’s affordable housing goals, which include making at least 10 percent of the local housing stock affordable.

Wood told The Darien Times that the 8-30g will become a focus of hers during the upcoming legislative session.

Another economic question an attendee asked revolved around fair share. Wood explained that as a town, every working individual in Darien contributed to the $220 million dollar share. She asked the table what they thought was returned— most guessed around $5 to $10 million. She said Darien received less than $500,000 returned. She hopes to change this.

In addition to economic-focused questions, attendees also asked questions revolving around education; specifically involving opportunities for those without a college degree, and Social- Emotional Learning.

Wood expressed interest in advocating for those who do not have a four year college degree. She hopes in the upcoming session to create more employment opportunity to those who are not able to participate in such an education.

In regard to Social Emotional Learning, commonly referred to as SEL, Wood stated the importance of SEL in early education. According to Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “SEL is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

By aiming to educate youth on self awareness and decision making, Wood hopes to tackle another issue that was brought up by attendees: The opioid crisis. Attendees expressed concern with the crisis and asked for Wood to advocate for police training and possession of Narcan, a drug that may help in case of overdose. Although as of 2015 Darien Police are trained and in possession of such a drug, Wood expressed the importance of education with this crisis, as not many people are aware of the police possession of this drug.

Education was a repeating theme through the Q and A. One attendee expressed concern with the state’s attempt in the past to regionalize public education. Wood stated that regionalizing public education would disturb the localized community and result in a lower quality education for students. Wood believes that public education should remain as local as possible to ensure an educational community.

However, with regard to public education, there were further questions revolving around regulating vaccinations with current issues such as MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella). Wood told The Darien Times that when fewer than 94% of a public school is vaccinated, they are at risk for an epidemic. Wood stated that although the controversy is difficult with regard to religious exemption, she believes in promoting vaccination education. There will be a discussion at the state level on this controversy on Feb. 19.

Wood shared her favorite quote with The Darien Times after the event, from The Dalai Lama: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”