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. Ross Tartell is a Democratic candidate for the Board of Selectmen.

I am running for the Board of Selectmen because Wilton is at a crossroads. Our world is changing, and Wilton needs to be able to respond decisively. I believe that our community has strong assets that enable us to invest in our schools, expand our grand list and keep our town a place families want to call home.

My vision for the town differs from that of the Republicans. While we must be fiscally responsible, Republicans have a singular focus on costs–a focus that does not give sufficient weight to Wilton’s assets:

  • Our town’s stellar Aaa credit rating and fiscal strength
  • Our excellent schools
  • Our focus on our children and families
  • Talented citizens who volunteer to serve our town
  • A safe and beautiful community

Do we take advantage of these enormous assets as the base to build a future that is attractive, engaging and draws people to our town, or do we hunker down, slash costs, watch our pennies–and sacrifice the very things that make our town desirable?

That is the basic difference in vision between the Republicans and Democrats in this election.

As a Selectman, my priorities will be:

  • Responsibly investing in Wilton’s focus on education, children and families. A recent Board of Education meeting noted that the education budget averaged an increase of just over 1% for the last six years. That is less than the rate of inflation, and less than half the rate of increase in our neighboring towns. I will work to support budgets so our schools can maintain their luster and be a magnet for new homeowners.
  • Growing our grand list to reduce our tax burden and ensuring a wide enough range of housing to meet the needs of millennials, seniors and growing families, while maintaining the character of our town. We can develop or redevelop South Wilton and Wilton Center, Cannondale and Georgetown. Other towns have taken a long-term view on developing their town centers that has helped moderate the growth of their mill rates. I will work to do the same.
  • Partnering with Wilton’s volunteers and nonprofits to fully benefit our community:

Wilton has a vast reservoir of people who volunteer to serve our town. It is an enormous strength, and one that we’ve not fully used to advantage. Think of it – many of our volunteers can command significant salaries, yet provide their talents to the town for free. Proper utilization will engage and empower our citizens and create partnerships to build an enticing future.

We need to fully utilize and support the many nonprofits that provide us with significant services. The Wilton Library, the Wilton YMCA, Wilton Historical Society, Wilton Land Conservation Trust, and Stay at Home in Wilton are just a few of the many organizations that are centers of town life or provide critical services. I pledge to strengthen partnerships with all these organizations to build a great future for Wilton.

My wife Karen and I have lived here for 30 years. We came to this town because of the schools and the recommendation of good friends. Our son graduated from Wilton High School and is now in graduate school–a tribute to the quality of education he received here.

Serving our community has always been important to me. I chaired long-range-planning teams in the Wilton schools for 22 years, and for the last five years I’ve served as a Wilton Fire Commissioner. I’ve always been active in many organizations that are so vital to our town’s success.

I believe my professional background has prepared me to be of real service on the Board of Selectmen. I spent 18 years at Pfizer, where I led Leadership Development for North America. At GE Capital, I was involved with leadership and communications. I currently have my own executive coaching consulting firm. I have an M.Ed., MBA, and a Ph.D., and I teach courses at the graduate level at Columbia University on managing change and designing successful organizations.

I have spent my professional career helping people find common ground and creating plans that will enable them to succeed. I will use those skills to enable our community to make good strategic choices that will benefit us now and for the long term.

This year, the Democratic candidates are a remarkable, multi-talented group. Each Democrat running for office has extraordinary competence and a long-term commitment to our town, and they are all collaborative. Wilton has a history of non-partisan boards and commissions, and our candidates aim to keep it that way.

As I seek to serve Wilton as a Selectman, I make this promise:  I am committed to doing everything in my power to help Wilton define and implement strategies to ensure it remains one of the best towns in Connecticut.