For more than 30 years, resident Dick Dubow has served the town of Wilton, volunteering for all of the town’s three major Boards. He recently completed a six-year term on the Board of Selectmen, has chaired the Board of Finance, served on the Board of Education, and at various times was put on the ballot by both the Wilton Democratic and Republican Town Committees.

The Wilton Democratic Town Committee is hosting a celebration of Dubow’s contributions to Wilton Thursday evening, March 8 from 6-8 p.m. at Marly’s Bar and Bistro (101 Old Ridgefield Rd.).

Getting involved in municipal affairs was something Dubow did right from the start, running for the Board of Education in 1979, just one year after moving to Wilton. The campaign for his first BOE seat was one of his most memorable experiences in public service.

“Together with our five (at that time) children, we walked door-to-door, met neighbors and residents we otherwise would never have had the opportunity to meet, and learned what voters were thinking about almost every issue of the time. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for public office,” Dubow says.

He was successful in that first bid, and was reelected to the BOE; altogether, his first stint ran through 1987. During his time on the BOE he served on various search, planning and study committees; on the Board of Directors of CABE (CT Assoc. of Boards of Education); as CABE’s vice chair for state relations; and as CABE’s delegate to the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Mastery Testing, and State of CT Advisory Committee for Educational Services to Handicapped Infants and Toddlers.

Dubow thought 1987 marked the end of his life in public service–that was until he was asked to co-chair (with Malcolm Whyte) the Wilton Schools’ Program and Facilities Planning Committee (known as the “Gang of Seventy”).

After that, he gave in to being bitten by the public service bug:  two terms (1996-99) on the Board of Selectman; two terms (1999-2007) on the Board of Finance (one year as chair and two years as vice chair); a return to the Board of Education (2007-2011, including one year as vice-chair): and finally his return to the Board of Selectman (2011-2017, for a two-year term followed by one four-year term).

All the work as a whole has been important, he says, but the set of experiences that meant the most to him has been the opportunities to serve on so many town and school building committees.

“Building new or renovating existing facilities, by its very nature, requires a forward-looking vision and commitment to planning for the next generation’s future. It is what I enjoy most and believe is essential to public service. Furthermore, in starting from a point where others may not always agree, success requires a willingness to ask difficult questions, to seek common ground, and to build consensus, all things I like to think I am good at,” he reflects.

Getting involved in the first place wasn’t really a conscious decision; Dubow didn’t wake up one morning and decide to run for office. Instead, he says, others decided for him.

“Since I had always, even as a young child, been interested in politics and government, shortly after moving to Wilton I attended my first Town Meeting with no purpose other than to see what it was like. In listening to a heated discussion regarding the closing of an an elementary school (Comstock) a year ahead of schedule because of budgetary considerations, I found myself standing at the microphone asking several questions to which I and others felt there had been no adequate answers yet given. By the time I left the meeting and arrived home, I found several phone messages (there was no e-mail at the time) asking if I would be willing to consider running for a seat on the Board of Education. To this day, I am not entirely sure why I said, ‘Yes.’ However, I agreed to interview for the position, and as they say, ‘The rest is history.’”

Wilton–Then, Now and the Future

Dubow and his wife, Anna Dubow, moved to Wilton from New York City in 1978, with their five children at the time, plus a dachshund.

“We chose Wilton for much the same reasons people choose to buy here today–we found a house we could ‘afford’ that could accommodate a large and growing family; I could work at home yet also manage the commute to NYC two or three days a week when required; Wilton was known to be a premier school district; qualitatively, Wilton felt like a good place to raise a family; and we liked the more informal (no white gloves) and semi-rural feel of the town,” Dubow describes.

In those 40 years, the more things have changed, the more things have stayed the same in Dubow’s eyes.

“Yes, our population has grown a bit and our town center has expanded; yes, we have maintained and improved much of our infrastructure—Comstock Community Center, our schools, our roads, our playing fields; and, yes, we have conserved and protected considerably more open space. yet we remain a rather traditional, conservative, and relatively small New England town that continues to debate—with varying degrees of civility from one year to another—how much more or less we wish to be taxed and how anxious we are to embrace change,” he muses.

What were the three most significant changes he has seen over the past 40 years? The successful widening of Route 7 thereby substantially shortening travel time from north to south Wilton; a relative increase in multi-family and cluster housing, particularly in the center of town; and somewhat greater diversity among our residents… “— all good things to be applauded. My hope is that we continue to maintain the best of what we are, to welcome diversity, to respect each other’s views and values, and to resist the current trend toward a more angry, more combative and less tolerant political debate.

And what does Dubow envision for Wilton 50 years from now? It won’t be very different from what Wilton is today–just a bit more or less of what we see now, he says.

“We will have grown slightly in population. Despite the integration of more and more technology into our schools, we will still rely on effective teachers in the classroom. Our overall demographic will be older and more diverse. There will be more mixed-use development and multi-family housing, particularly in town and along Route 7. There will be more jobs here in Wilton and better public transportation to and from those jobs. Local municipalities will be more connected, engaged and dependent on regional relationships with surrounding cities and towns for shared public services. We will rely on ever-more efficient sources of energy and will create less waste in our daily lives. And with more leisure time, our residents will be expected, as volunteers, both personally and collectively, to assume greater responsibility for providing public services for themselves and others,” he describes.

As an ‘elder statesman’ who has given so much of himself to public service, he has some advice for getting involved.

“First, be ready to say, ‘Yes,’ if asked. Second, do not merely wait to be asked … step up and volunteer, even if not asked. I promise that you, the Town, and whatever other agency is involved will all benefit.”

And if asked again, would Dubow heed his own advice and say, ‘Yes’?

“It’s unlikely, though I never say never. Right now, all I do know is that I need a break and some time to clear my head. Anna Jo and I plan to spend more time visiting our seven children and eight grandchildren currently spread across the continent. Should there be an issue one day or another where I feel I can make a difference, I will certainly give it some thought. In the meantime, nothing planned.”