As part of GOOD Morning Wilton‘s coverage of the elections for the 2019 municipal elections, we have set out guidelines inviting each candidate to submit one 800-word op-ed piece before Election Day. Ceci Maher is a Democratic candidate for the Board of Selectmen.

I am Ceci Maher, running for Board of Selectmen. Wilton is the one of the best towns in Fairfield County but it needs to work for everyone–young families, seniors, empty-nesters, and millennials. Wilton is at a crossroads; to truly thrive we need a vision for the future.

Like many families, we moved to Wilton for the schools. My husband grew up in Wilton and had fond memories of Wilton when it was a small village with a single traffic light. When we bought our home there still weren’t many street lights, there were hand-stenciled street signs, and no real shopping to speak of beyond the Village Market, Open House, and Keeler’s Hardware. We were attracted to Wilton because it was a town with a long history in a beautiful setting. It had sensible and steadfast values, was supportive of families, had strong institutions, including a great library and a genuine sense of civic pride.

Wiltonians knew who they were and didn’t need to be more. However, times have changed and time has brought challenges to the town we love.

The economy is a struggle for most people, and more of our community is made up of two working parents so civic engagement comes on top of a long day and many other responsibilities. The library is excellent, as are the schools, and we have the NRVT trail, which is used by 6,000 people a year. We have more shops in town center, but many have struggled to keep their doors open. People worry about housing prices, taxes, and State budgets. The town’s political leaders speak of dangers from the Capitol, threats to “our way of life,” and urge belt tightening while using a sharp red pencil on critical town staff and programs.

Today it feels as though residents, and elected leadership, share a mood of pervasive worry–a worry which diminishes options rather than an outlook that creates momentum for the town’s future. I believe with a vision and a plan, Wilton can thrive as a vibrant town in a time of generational and economic change, while staying true to the strong sense of community that has sustained it for so many years. With vision, hard work and a plan we can infuse Wilton with new energy, new families, support for seniors, and a revitalized sense of community. I’ve seen how neighboring towns, similar in size, demographics, and opportunities, have made it work. I’m confident we can too.

I know that working together we can create change for Wilton. As chairperson of Minks to Sinks I marveled at how a small tent city grew twice a year at the town tennis courts.  The tents were animated by dedicated people who work tirelessly for 10 days to sort, ticket, sell and then sweep the area clean, all in the service of community. Hundreds of patrons come from dozens of surrounding towns to shop. Minks to Sinks is an example of what Wilton can accomplish when we put our determined work ethic behind a vision.

I have worked for the past 20 years alongside corporations, municipalities, state and federal officials, and volunteers. I have seen how other towns have evolved and grown to meet changing needs of residents, building welcoming town centers, encouraging businesses, welcoming new generations, and supporting the seniors who have contributed much to the town. My proven track record and experience in staff management, scanning the cultural environment to prepare for the future, strategic planning, collaborations, fiscal responsibility, and relationship building will be essential assets as a member of the Board of Selectmen.

Wilton has maintained a focus on core beliefs and principles, but lacks a vision for how it fits into the changing world. Old ways were sufficient before the recession, but in the years since, with falling house prices and different economic realities, what previously worked as a strategy now allows our town to slowly erode. Families come for the schools, but children are educated, leave, and are not moving back. Long-standing members of the community then move once their kids are grown and gone. In real terms, our investment in our schools has declined, which handicaps one of our strongest assets. Our farming roots left us with a legacy of beautiful open spaces, but without a connected and vibrant center.

Our town has the opportunity to define a vision that connects to new generations and welcomes them. Wilton has an opportunity to make the case for why people would want to live here, invest here, thrive here and stay here past their children’s school years. My hope for Wilton’s future is one of dynamic community involvement, civic pride, and welcoming of all of residents. Working together, with genuine engagement and collaborative input from the community, we can build a better Wilton for all.