Last evening, Monday, June 7 the Board of Selectmen (BOS) held a special meeting to discuss the compensation paid to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
Vanderslice recused herself from the meeting in which the BOS heard public comment before considering re-instating Vanderslice’s salary at its “pre-pandemic” level. The public comment was entirely in Vanderslice’s favor.
In February 2020, the BOS set the 2020-21 salary for Vanderslice at $139,511. However, in June 2020, Vanderslice volunteered to take a $30,000 pay reduction when she and other town officials became concerned about possible budgetary overages due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the uncertainty, the budget was adjusted accordingly.
More recently, during this year’s budget planning process, members of the BOS agreed to discuss restoring the first selectwoman’s salary.
Along with the public notice of the special meeting that had been posted, officials posted a file listing the salaries of town leaders in surrounding towns for comparison. GOOD Morning Wilton also publicized the special meeting yesterday, along with detailed history about Vanderslice’s compensation since she took office in 2015.
That history includes an appeal to the BOS not to increase the salary for the position at the start of her term (when an increase was customarily given) and gifting back the raised amount to the town. Since 2015, her salary never went above the roughly $139,500 level.
But even without raises, Vanderslice’s salary is third-highest in the region, behind Greenwich ($149,953) and New Canaan ($147,000) — both of which also have town administrators, unlike Wilton. With the temporary reduction, she was among the lowest-paid leaders.
Public comment had been invited prior to the meeting. Second Selectwoman Lori Bufano read the comments during the meeting.
At least a dozen letters (the exact number was unclear due to a frozen Zoom screen as Bufano was reading) from Wilton residents were read into the public record, all in favor of the salary reinstatement. Some advocated for an additional raise as well.
Praise for Vanderslice was abundant. Jeffrey Rutishauser, who is also the longtime chair of Wilton’s Board of Finance, offered his “wholehearted support.” Other residents referred to her as a “true gem” with “farsighted leadership” who “performed brilliantly” and “never faltered” during the challenges of the pandemic (or in other town emergencies).
Anne Kelly-Lenz, the town’s Chief Financial Officer, spoke on behalf of other town department heads in also voicing support for the first selectwoman’s salary adjustment.
Ross Tartell was struck by the outpouring of support in the residents’ letters. “How many CEOs get public response [like this]? This is genuine and remarkable … a good reflection on Lynne and a good reflection on the town,” he said.
Joshua Cole said he supported restoring Vanderslice’s salary “100%.”
“Lynne did a tremendous job managing everyone’s fears and anxieties. She was like a war-time president for the town, she got us through probably our darkest hours,” he said.
Deb McFadden observed that the residents who submitted letters “covered the political spectrum,” noting, “She really does have broad-based support for what she has accomplished.”
McFadden went further, though, inquiring whether the BOS should consider reimburse the amount Vanderslice forfeited with her voluntary salary reduction. While that discussion was outside the intended scope of the meeting, the BOS agreed to determine the forfeited amount and consider further action at a future meeting.
At the conclusion of the Special Meeting, the BOS voted unanimously to restore the first selectwoman’s salary to $139,511 effective as of the next pay period.