Today is the first day on the job for Wilton’s new town administrator, Matt Knickerbocker. After quickly getting the lay of the land, meeting town employees and getting down to work, he’ll cap off the day at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
Shortly after First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice announced Knickerbocker’s hiring, he told GOOD Morning Wilton he was pleased to be starting the role. “It’s an exciting opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to getting started and meeting the staff and seeing how I can contribute to the success of the town. It’s a, it’s a wonderful town. ”
Knickerbocker spent the last 13 years as first selectman of Bethel. During that time, he worked closely with Vanderslice on various municipal and regional projects as part of WestCOG (Western CT Council of Governments).
“Lynne is a terrific leader. We’ve been colleagues on WestCOG for a lot of years now and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her leadership ability. We are very, very similar in our views on how a municipality should be managed and I’m very, very happy to be coming to work for the town and for Lynne,” Knickerbocker said.
He’s looking forward to working with the other town leaders as well. “You’ve got a great Board of Selectmen, too. I really enjoyed my [interview] conversation with those folks.”
Wilton has rarely seen political differences get in the middle of municipal operations, and keeping politics out of overseeing the town is one of the things Knickerbocker strongly agrees with
“That’s the only way you can successfully run a municipality. I’ve always told people, even from the day I got elected back in 2009, and before that [when] I’d spent 10 years on [Bethel’s] Board of Education — the politics has to stop at the door. One of my favorite quotes, which I will paraphrase, was from Fiorello LaGuardia, who said that “there’s no difference between a Republican sewer, and a Democratic sewer,” Knickerbocker joked. “They all have to work.”
That’s the goal — you serve the community, not the party. I believe that firmly, that’s the only way it can work,” he added.
Knickerbocker is also very well aware that the role of town administrator is being introduced into Wilton’s town structure for the first time.
“I consider this to be an awesome level of responsibility, especially in that this is a brand new position. So I have the mission of making sure that this brand new position gets off on the right foot and meets the expectations of Lynne and the Board of Selectmen and the community as a whole,” he said
Knickerbocker also called the move “one of the smartest things that a town with a selectmen form of government can do.”
“It really is the future of the smaller towns of Connecticut, because the goal of providing management consistency, when the elected leaders change every so often, our form of government in Connecticut and largely in New England, really relies a lot on volunteers. The town administrator position, to really take on some of the daily operational burden to, to assist the first selectman or selectwoman is critically important,” he added.
He believes it’s a step that modernizes the running of the town.
“I applaud Wilton for its vision in looking into the future and saying, ‘This is something we need to do to, to modernize our government. So this is a great thing that Wilton is doing. I am tremendously honored to be chosen, to take on this responsibility. I take it very seriously,” Knickerbocker said.
He also started off on the right foot with GMW, revealing a ‘secret’ that’s a great scoop: Knickerbocker started his professional career working in Wilton, so accepting a spot with Wilton’s town government is a bit like coming full circle.
“When I moved here right out college, to Connecticut from Michigan, my wife and I moved to Bethel, we had just gotten married. And do you remember the PhotoMat cCorporation? That was my first marketing job out of college, and the company had built a new headquarters right on Rte. 7, just south of the intersection where, Outdoor Sports Center is,” Knickerbocker recalled, adding, And now I’m back in Wilton again.”