DARIEN \u2014 Residents got a chance to hear from candidates in next month\u2019s local elections, including three candidates vying for first selectman. Democratic candidate Tara Ochman, Republican candidate Monica McNally and petitioning candidate Chris Noe all took the stage to discuss everything from how to protect the town from flooding and climate change to how to approach planning and zoning in the face of potential changes at the statewide level. Jean Rabinow, debate moderator and membership chair of the League of Women Voters of the Bridgeport Area, asked the three candidates what the town should do about flooding, preserving greenery, Pear Tree Point Beach, and maintaining local zoning control. Ochman pointed to her five years on the Board of Education as an example of how she could lead on a town level and emphasized the importance of a plan to map out where and how the town can spend on capital projects which would help with projects like Pear Tree Point Beach. She also advocated for the town taking zoning into their own hands to set an example, saying she went to Hartford to speak out against other Democrats\u2019 proposals to have the state take control of local issues, such as school regionalization. \u201cI hear my opponent talking about what was and what failed and not what could be,\u201d she said. \u201cI think that\u2019s where we need to focus ... Darien\u2019s future needs energy, enthusiasm and pragmatic open mindedness focused on results-based solutions. We face challenges gone unaddressed for years and we have an opportunity to plan for our future with fresh ideas, forward thinking and meaningful solutions.\u201d Meanwhile, McNally pointed to her experience in the nonprofit, private and government sectors, including eight years on the RTM and a recent appointment to the Board of Selectmen as equipping her for the top job. She said her focus is helping Darien stay the course while maintaining local control, especially given how developed the town already is and the struggle to balance growth with the need for open space. \u201cHartford yearns to take hold of Darien\u2019s destiny and I promise to work tirelessly to preserve local control and decision making,\u201d she said. \u201cI\u2019ve spoken with many residents. I know most of you want Darien to grow and prosper in ways we can all share. I also know most of us do not want Darien to lurch left or veer right...I want to keep the Darien dream alive.\u201d Noe, now on his seventh race for first selectman, said he spent four years on the RTM calling out problems in town. His insights fell on \u201cdeaf ears\u201d which is why he\u2019s continuing to pursue office. \u201cI don\u2019t have party support but I do have ideas on what needs to be done and how to do it,\u201d he said. \u201cI learned a lot on how the town works and doesn\u2019t work. Right now it has a lot of things that don\u2019t work and I don\u2019t see them getting repairs so I continue to run...someone has to do it and it\u2019s just not getting done.\u201d On the issue of flooding, which has affected the town heavily in light of recent storms, McNally advocated for working with landowners to improve impediments, widening channels, and increasing waterway capacities while Ochman suggested soliciting feedback from those most affected, advocating for more infrastructure funding from the state and federal government, and doing an updated flood plan. Noe said his own home was flooded recently and while the town has tried to address this before, nothing\u2019s happened. Ochman and McNally also said they were both in favor of working to regenerate and preserve trees in town, something that\u2019s also become an issue due to the outages Darien\u2019s greenery has caused in recent storms. Ochman suggested updating plans to help figure out where trees can be added without power line interference whereas Noe advocated for \u201cfree rein,\u201d claiming town officials have ordered invasive species to be planted in the past. \u201cThe stupidity is deep in this town,\u201d he said. \u201cSo I think we should allow owners to plant whatever trees they like.\u201d First selectman candidates were also asked about whether town boards should have to obtain financial data from each other via Freedom Of Information Act requests, something Noe and McNally were against and Ochman said was \u201ca great resource.\u201d \u201cWe have to be very, very careful,\u201d Ochman said. \u201cWe\u2019ve received legal council advice. This is the proper way to do things. FOI requests aren\u2019t adversarial at all.\u201d The issue came up again as a point of contention doing the selectman\u2019s portion of the debate where Democrats Michael J. Burke and Sarah Neumann and Republicans Marcy Minnick and Jon Zagrodzky faced off. Candidates mostly agreed on taking a holistic approach to the flooding problem, the tree plan, and keeping the four-day work week at town hall when asked about these topics. But Zagrodzky also used his time to mention that when he was on the Board of Finance, they requested information from the Board of Education, which Ochman was on at the time, and had their request denied until a town attorney said the BOE was required to turn the information over. \u201cThe reality is we\u2019re all elected officials working in the same town,\u201d he said. \u201cThe idea we had to go through that much time and effort...is simply outrageous. When Ms. Ochman talks about transparency, I can tell you...in that particular capacity it was not transparent.\u201d Burke, who also previously served on the Board of Education, objected to the comment. \u201cThe BOE is the most transparent in this town,\u201d he said. \u201cAll our meetings are in public. Every single cent spent, every dollar proposed is vetted and discussed in public long before it gets to (The Board of Selectmen). I feel his remarks were tailored to attack our candidate.\u201d The school board candidates also debated Tuesday night, sharing their positions on masks in schools, vaccine mandates, and parental involvement in curriculum, all hot-button topics over the last year. While state orders require masks in schools until at least next February, candidates said they\u2019d be open to making a different decision based on medical advice come that time. This story has been updated to correct that Ochman went to Hartford to oppose school regionalization.