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. Deb McFadden is the Democratic candidate for First Selectwoman.

Moving Forward Together for a Better Wilton

My family and I decided to move to Wilton 22 years ago. This is a wonderful community, however, today the economy, demographics and broad social issues have shifted.

Wilton’s homes are no longer the sure-fire investment they once were. Residents are anxious about property values, taxes, and how decisions made in Hartford may impact us. These are not challenges we choose, but we need to face them with eyes open. We must be forward-thinking. Of course, cutting costs and belt tightening are important, but more must be done to prosper and ensure Wilton lives up to our incredible potential.

Wilton is at a crossroads. We need a vision for our future. Engaging all stakeholders in town, together we can develop a shared plan to attract a new wave of residents, enhance the town center, diversify housing options, and support businesses, schools and gathering places, all while maintaining a fiscally responsible approach to building a stronger community.

We need a clear image and brand of who we are. Then we need to tell our compelling story. We have done a poor job of promoting our community. When people think of Wilton, what comes to mind should be our excellent schools, historic treasures, open green spaces, arts and cultural activities, and a lifestyle that is family-friendly in a welcoming and safe environment.

Wilton must be proactive in building our future and not satisfied being stuck with the status quo. I want Wilton to reach its full potential through increased citizen engagement that will deliver more innovative and inspiring solutions for our community.

We need to explore opportunities to leverage resources such as public/private partnerships and shared services to expand our town’s assets and attractions. The Wilton Library is an example of a current successful public/private partnership.

There needs to be increased focus on economic development to grow our tax base, including diversifying our housing options in appropriate locations. We should be focusing on what can make these investments as competitive as possible by increasing Wilton’s attractiveness to new residents and enhancing what Wilton can be.

Our schools should continue their journey toward even greater excellence. And it should not be lost on anyone that the strength of our schools is the single most important factor supporting our home values.

A big reason my husband Jack and I moved to Wilton was because of the schools, specifically the special education program. Our daughter, Melissa, had Down Syndrome; Wilton allowed her to shine. She was in the pioneering class to mainstream through the Wilton School system, and not be sent out of the district. Together, we stretched what was possible, such as Melissa joining the cheerleading squad and as a receptionist at the YMCA.

She blossomed in the nurturing Wilton environment. We loved that Wilton was accepting and inclusive. Unfortunately, her senior year, we lost her to leukemia. Once again, the Wilton community rallied to our support.

The other McFadden children also thrived in Wilton. Andrew followed in his older sister, Rebecca’s footsteps and was in every play, and musical performance he could be in at Wilton High School and the Wilton Playshop.  He now earns his living singing around the world. Joey excelled at sports and is currently a college athlete.

Along with our exceptional schools, Wilton’s rich history and remarkable landmarks and spaces set us apart from other communities. We need to find ways to preserve and promote our unique attributes.

In addition, our town center should be consistent with the character of Wilton and be as charming and attractive as the town that surrounds it. We should promote our businesses with up-to-date signage and marketing that energizes our town. We need to work collaboratively to attract the next generation of Wiltonians with the amenities and culture they are looking for.

We need to build on what we have already accomplished on environmental issues and continue to lead.

Wilton has a diverse and accomplished population of artists and cultural leaders and organizations. We must do a better job to promote our arts and cultural community.

How will we get this accomplished? My leadership style is collaborative; a welcoming, open process. It’s more important that the work gets done, than who gets the credit.

I have broad reach and connections with leadership in surrounding towns and across Connecticut contributing to an amplified awareness of opportunities as well as relationships to accomplish our goals.

I have many years of municipal government experience, both inside and outside of Wilton and the problem-solving skills necessary to move forward to a better future for this town we love. But more important, I know that the best ideas and biggest achievements are never done alone. Whatever I have accomplished has come through hard work, shared insight and collaboration.

Join me in building an even better Wilton. A lot better.