Selectman Rob Richards will campaign for first selectman this year, leading a fresh slate of candidates confirmed by the Democratic Town Committee at their caucus on Tuesday night. Incumbent Marc Thorne and RTM Member Pam Sparkman are the DTC’s selectmen candidates, newcomers Jennifer Leahy and Glenn Ritch are nominated for the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Board of Assessment Appeals, respectively, incumbent Mike Burke has been confirmed for the Board of Education and Frank Huck will run to retain his seat on the Board of Finance.

Richards and Thorne are both serving their first term with the Board of Selectmen and their announcement places the full board on the ballot for re-election. Sparkman was elected to the Representative Town Meeting in 2016 and has a background in arts education. On Tuesday she credited Richards and former First Selectwoman Evonne Klein for inspiring her to greater political engagement.

“We all need to have a voice in our community and we especially need compassionate leaders, like Rob Richards, who are willing to listen and help their neighbors,” Sparkman said.

Leahy has been nominated to replace departing Planning & Zoning Commissioner Eric Voigt who has opted not to run for re-election after multiple terms. Voigt is the third commissioner to leave the commission in the last year; he was named vice-chairman following the departure of Republican Susan Cameron in March. The commission has been faced with a series of major tasks during the most recent term, including multiple redevelopment projects and an update to the Town Plan of Conservation and Development.

DTC member David Bayne said both Leahy and Board of Assessment Appeals candidate Glenn Ritch were moved to action by the 2016 election. Both Leahy and Ritch have careers in real estate and would bring their professional experience to their roles with town.

In a brief address to Democrats at Tuesday’s caucus, Selectman Richards said he seeks to “connect, empower and unite” Darien with his leadership. He said his first term as a Selectman had helped him develop new relationships within the community and he hopes to develop new ideas to continue uniting his neighbors. He pointed to the negotiation and approval of field lights at Darien High School as an example of how leadership can bridge the gap on a controversial issue. Richards also brought up to the town’s successful adoption of paramedics and regional emergency dispatch, a matter that was at the core of his 2015 campaign.

“Leadership should unite our community,” Richards said on Tuesday. “A good leader should be able to conceive ideas that solve problems and possess a temperament to respectfully engage those who disagree.”

Selectman Thorne recognized the the current Board of Selectmen has made during their first term, noting Richards’ willingness to shake things up in pursuit of progress. On the other end of the leadership spectrum, Richards thanked Thorne for his prudent advice and patient approach as they worked through the issues facing the town. They both said they feel as though the current board has been one of the most successful in recent memory. Still, Thorne asked that residents continue to bring him their problems and feedback so that the board can continue working on solutions.

“I want to hear from you, I want to hear your concerns, I want to see if I can answer your questions,” Thorne said. “I need your suggestions, I don’t get enough phone calls, quite honestly.“

RTM Member Frank Adelman was chairman of the caucus on Tuesday and urged all those committed to the party to volunteer as the campaign season begins. He noted that the election is less than 16 weeks away and as the minority party, the Democrats will have plenty of ground to cover in that time. For more information on the DTC and their campaign efforts visit Dariendemocrats.com.