Wilton selectman Michael Kaelin‘s surprise decision to step down from his seat on the Board of Selectmen, effective June 30, opens up a vacancy on the BOS that will need to be filled. According to the Wilton Town Charter, the other four BOS members have the responsibility of filling that seat themselves with a candidate to complete Kaelin’s term through its ending date of Nov. 30, 2019.

Indeed, at its meeting Monday night, June 4, the BOS began to discuss what will follow in the wake of Kaelin’s unexpected decision to resign. [Editor’s note:  only three members of the BOS were in attendance–Kaelin, Deb McFadden and Dave Clune; first selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice and Lori Bufano were absent.]

Kaelin suggested that the ideal replacement might be a retiree. He noted that retired residents are underrepresented on the BOS.

“It’s important that all segments of the community are represented on the board, and that’s the one piece we’re missing now. Every single member of the BOS now has a full-time day job. I think that’s unusual. In my experience in town, there has been at least one retired person or at least a person who wasn’t working during the day and that’s extremely useful to have somebody that has time to attend meetings during the day. I hope someone retired would consider applying for this position,” he said.

Kaelin added that he does not mean to exclude anyone, and that, “The more people that apply for it, the better.”

In his resignation letter to the BOS, Kaelin wrote that he joined the Board at a time that was more tumultuous–with “heated debate” over Miller-Driscoll renovations and a transition to a new first selectman–but that because the current Board seems stable enough, now is a good time for him to step down.

“Now that all of the members of the Board of Selectmen have been through at least two budget cycles, the time is right for me to leave to make room for a new member…The timing of my resignation is intended to give you ample time to select my successor and my successor plenty of time to prepare for the next budget cycle,” he wrote.

Read GOOD Morning Wilton’s interview with Kaelin about his reasons for resigning, here.

Kaelin says he has “no doubt” that the BOS will be able to find a qualified candidate to replace him.

After GOOD Morning Wilton broke the news on Saturday night about Kaelin’s resignation, Vanderslice told GMW that the BOS will consider replacement candidates according to the procedure it established in 2016.

“Interested residents are encouraged to submit their name for consideration. Those affiliated with a party are required to contact their party for nomination. Unaffiliated residents are required to submit a nominating petition. Information on petitioning is available by contacting Jackie Rochester in my office.”

Who Will Be Considered?

Both the Wilton Republican Town Committee (RTC) and the Wilton Democratic Town Committee (DTC) will be able to submit names of candidates for the BOS to consider. Neither party has hit the maximum number of BOS members, which is three. There are currently two Republicans (Vanderslice and Bufano), one Democrat (McFadden) and two unaffiliated members (Clune and Kaelin) serving on the BOS.

The most recent election for members of the BOS was in 2017 (municipal elections are held in odd years). There were four people who ran for two seats:  McFadden (D) andBufano (R) were the two highest vote getters, followed by Josh Cole (R) and Al Alper (petition).

Cole answered GMW‘s request for a comment on Sunday evening by saying he’s still interested in serving on the BOS.

“I’m aware of Mike’s resignation, thanks for reaching out. I have requested that the RTC membership endorse me to fill the vacancy,” he wrote.

Cole is likely to get his party’s support as well, judging by what William Lalor, the chair of the RTC, says.

“Josh is a friend of mine and a smart, very capable professional. I think he would make a fine addition to the Board of Selectmen, and Josh has my 100% support. It does seem from my conversations in the past few days that Josh has a lot of support in the RTC. We will take up the issue formally at our regular June meeting on Tuesday, June 12, and it is possible others may want to be considered. But I think Josh is the right person at the right time.”

Alper also responded to GMW‘s request for a comment, indicating he will likely not put his name into contention:

“Many people have contacted me–both on and off the RTC–urging me to put my name in for the vacancy. I very much appreciate, and am humbled by the nearly two dozen RTC members and countless Wiltonians who support me. However, I am not confident that the majority of the RTC members would go against their previous vote–if for no other reason than party unity. Therefore for me to be considered by the Board of Selectman I would have to leave the Party–not necessarily anathema to me.

“I have dedicated nearly my entire life here in Wilton to public service. I am committed to ensuring that the quality of life that drew my family here remains. If and when I run again it will be before the general electorate; I will not seek permission by a subset of elected officials.”

Wilton Democrats will be submitting a candidate to the BOS, according to DTC nominating chair Ross Tartell. He spoke during public comment at Monday night’s meeting.

“We will have a candidate to replace him. I know that the BOS will want to move quickly, because to be moving along with a vacancy puts a heavy workload on the remaining members, though we want to make sure the candidate we bring forth, we know when to do it, how to do it and to do it in a way that makes most sense for the BOS. We will have a candidate, it’s our responsibility to provide one,” he said.

DTC chair Tom Dubin declined to say whether they have anyone specific in mind to put forward to the BOS–but agreed that they do intend to participate in the process.

“We have a regularly scheduled DTC meeting Tuesday night [June 5] and will discuss then/there,” Dubin said, adding, “We look forward to working with First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice and the Board of Selectmen to help determine the best replacement.”

Dubin did add a comment about Kaelin’s departure:

“Wilton has been fortunate to have Mike Kaelin on our Board of Selectmen during the past three and a half years. Mike is deeply well-informed and has sought positions that balance competing views. Mike has distinguished himself with calm diligence and his service has been informed by one primary goal–the benefit of Wilton and our broader community. The DTC wishes Mike the best for his new-found free time.”