12:00 p.m.—This story has been updated to better explain the meaning of the minority representation rule and to add more details of the selectmen’s conversation about how member nominations are considered and made.
At their meeting last night, Tuesday, Jan. 19, the Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted 3-1 to name Lori Bufano to the open seat on the BoS. As is customary, Bufano, a Republican, had been recommended by the Republican Town Committee (RTC) to fill the BoS spot left open when Republican Ken Dartley resigned in November; in a surprise development, however, the members of the BoS found themselves also considering the nominations of two Democrats—Deb McFadden, who lost the November race for first selectman, was recommended to the BoS by the Democratic Town Committee (DTC), and Brian Lilly, who ran unsuccessfully for the BoS in November as well, submitted his own name for consideration.
The ensuing discussion and vote included debate about who should get to suggest names of residents to fill open spots on town boards and commissions—whether it should be the sole province of the political Town Committees, or if the process of nominating someone should be more open.
Bufano was the only candidate the board interviewed (in closed-door, executive session) immediately before last night’s meeting. Then, during open session, Michael Kaelin nominated her, and first selectman Lynne Vanderslice seconded the nomination. Dick Dubow nominated McFadden, and David Clune seconded that nomination. Lilly did not receive a nomination from the board.
When the votes were cast, Clune voted with Kaelin and Vanderslice to put Bufano on the board; Dubow’s was the lone vote cast for McFadden.
“I’m happy and honored to be chose for the Board of Selectmen. I’m looking forward to working with the other board members, and I truly believe that the best years for Wilton are ahead of us,” Bufano told GOOD Morning Wilton following the meeting’s adjournment.
In nominating Bufano, Kaelin said he has known her “as long as [he] can remember,” and that she comes from a “great, longtime involved Wilton family.” He spoke to her history as a graduate of Wilton High School and as having an MBA, “something we haven’t had on this board. I think that’s a good thing.” He said she also represents an “important constituency…she’s someone who has chosen to live in the town of Wilton even though she does not have kids in the school. She grew up here and she chose the town because she loves the town.” He also mentioned her background in health care, which he said would be “helpful.”
Vanderslice spoke to Bufano’s professional experience and financial knowledge as well as her history volunteering with the town.
“She has almost 10 years combined between P&Z and ZBA [Zoning Board of Appeals], that is unique to this board—none of us have that experience. She’s a single woman who chose to live in this town who doesn’t have children and that is clearly a demographic that is not on this board, so she does represent a segment of the population that’s not currently represented.”
Vanderslice also looked back to the election of 2011 when Bufano, McFadden and Lilly were all running for town positions unopposed. “Lori received significantly more votes than both, very many significantly more than Deborah McFadden.” She added that based on her own extensive vetting of McFadden when they ran against each other, and based on what she knows of both women, she was opting to vote for Bufano.
Clune cast his vote for Bufano, and said he appreciated her willingness to step forward and that she has served on P&Z and within the RTC, adding, “I’m hopeful that the BoS will find places for Deborah McFadden and Brian Lilly, if they are willing to participate. I do appreciate very, very much both the fact they were willing to run for office in November and then come back and put themselves forward for consideration again.”
Part of what the selectmen were considering—with regard to what political party a potential nominee needed to be—related to the state’s “minority representation rule.” This rule limits the number of seats any one party can have on a town board or commission. In Wilton’s case, no political party could hold more than three out of the five BoS seats.
The selectmen agreed that because selecting any of the candidates would not be in violation of that rule, they could fairly consider all of them, regardless of from where the recommendation came—whether political town committee or not.
The all echoed a desire to encourage anyone to step up and volunteer.
Clune, who ran and won election as an unaffiliated candidate in the last municipal vote, hoped that the board could help residents better understand their options if interested in serving.
“In the future this is something we should maybe make more clear, that as a member of the public you can go to the RTC or the DTC, but also you would have the opportunity to walk in and say, ‘I’m interested, I want to be considered,’ he said.”
“Legally, the only people who can make the nomination to fill a vacancy are one of the five members of the BoS. We’re the people who make the nomination and can vote on the nomination. Anyone interested in serving on a town board or commission, when there is a vacancy, can really go to any of the five of us. Or you can go to the DTC or the RTC,” both of which he said serve “an extremely valuable function in recruiting and encouraging people to serve and vetting people and making recommendations to the board.”
But, he said, it’s just that, a recommendation, and one that the selectmen are not legally obligated to accept.
They mentioned that Vanderslice is currently working on creating a more formalized process for residents who want to serve on a board or commission and who does not want to go through on of the town committees. For the time being, contacting the first selectman is encouraged.
“Go to Lynne, we want you and we appreciate you,” Kaelin said.