Following a valiant campaign, Deborah McFadden lost the race for Wilton’s first selectman. As a result of committing to fight for the first selectman’s seat, she had to give up her spot on the Board of Selectmen, and thus will bid ‘so long’ to a specific role in Wilton government when the new board is officially sworn in next Monday, Nov. 30. But that doesn’t mean she’s saying ‘goodbye’ to public service. GOOD Morning Wilton asked McFadden to answer some questions in her last week as a selectman.
GMW: Reflect back on the change in yourself from when you first took the seat to now. What changes do you see in yourself and what it’s meant?
Deborah McFadden: I knew I’d enjoy serving on the Board of Selectmen; but the experience exceeded my expectations. It’s been an exhilarating ride with more drama during this period than we are used to in Wilton—most notably for me highlighting issues I believe are most critical for Wilton during my run for first selectman, the Miller-Driscoll controversies, and the actions of Sensible Wilton come to mind. I also think the composition of the Board made for lively debate. Although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, I have huge respect for those I was privileged to serve with from both a personal and public servant standpoint. The current and new Board have both talent, and I believe, a willingness to work together for the benefit of our town. I wish Lynne [Vanderslice], Mike [Kaelin], David [Clune], and Dick [Dubow] great success in the years to come.
GMW: Where have you had the most impact as selectman?
DM: I hope to have had a positive impact among all areas of my responsibilities, but there are two achievements I am most proud of. First, was running a competitive first selectman campaign where issues were discussed and the citizens of Wilton were given a reason to vote. I know that Lynne shares my pleasure with the relatively high voter turnout. And second, was standing strong in advancing the Miller-Driscoll projects while balancing fiscal responsibility with open discussion amid an emotionally charged environment.
GMW: One of the things that was so remarked upon during the race for first selectman was that a lot of what you and Lynne said was the same or similar. Have you looked at ways to stay involved once Lynne becomes first selectman?
DM: As fiscal conservatives and long-time Wilton residents, while our priorities may have differed somewhat, the areas of focus, in my view, were the same. I would welcome opportunities to serve Wilton in the future where there is a good fit and I can best leverage my talents and experience.
GMW: What kind of role could you envision for yourself?
DM: Without ruling out any possibilities, I think my understanding of Wilton’s most pressing issues coupled with connections among leaders of neighboring communities as well as throughout the state could be leveraged for the betterment of Wilton. My past municipal experience in bringing groups together to collaborate is particularly pertinent to the challenges Wilton faces. Within Wilton, I would think having a respected moderate voice from the minority party would be beneficial.
GMW: Post-campaigning, at the end of your term, perhaps now you can speak a little more freely: What should Wilton do to move forward and away from the confrontational/litigious era we’re in?
DM: I think this is a pivotal time for our community. Paul Hannah’s recently shared views–“What has Wilton come to?”—offers a concerning perspective that should give us pause. I am hopeful that level-headedness will ultimately rule the day.
We’ve seen a disheartening mean-spiritedness and bullying in conjunction with the Miller-Driscoll project. Despite all of the noise, I believe both sides agree on more than they disagree. It’s time for everyone to rise above the tumult and join together to make the project achieve high quality and safety goals while coming in on schedule and under budget. I think we are off to a good start.
During my campaign I spoke strongly about the need to develop/reinforce a positive Wilton brand. I also stated that “our people are our greatest asset.” My fear is that willingness to volunteer, the lifeblood of our community, has been damaged by the tactics of a small but vocal and well organized segment of our community, whose actions–perhaps well-intentioned and commendable at the start –have gotten out-of-hand.
The reaction of my mother and sister, who came from the West to join me for the election, after seeing one of our recent Board of Selectman meetings was: “You really want this job?!?” Without hesitation I responded with an emphatic “Yes!” But I can understand their reaction. Fortunately, they didn’t read some of the more argumentative letters to the editor, which would have really had them shaking their heads as they left town.
Without going into detail, I think more of our citizens need to participate in town government, share their voices, and vote. Paraphrasing Edmund Burke, we can’t have a town where harsh voices prevail and many good people remain silent.
GMW: What parting words do you have for readers?
DM: I believe in Wilton and our fellow citizens. I believe we will weather the current contentiousness. I’m hopeful that going forward, party affiliations aside, our citizens will be guided by the better angels of their nature to do what is best for Wilton. For this to happen, more of us need to be actively engaged in our community. Be part of the solution, not the problem.