Prompted by Selectmen Bas Nabulsi, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) devoted time at its Dec. 20 meeting to further discuss the significance of the Sustainable CT silver-level certification earned by Wilton in October.
Discussions between the selectmen reveal they are somewhat divided on whether the silver certification warrants further acknowledgment or could be leveraged by the Town going forward.
As GOOD Morning Wilton previously reported, based on a press release issued by the office of First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice at the time of the award, Wilton was one of only eight Connecticut municipalities to receive the highest, silver-level certification this year.
While the non-profit Wilton Go Green was instrumental in seeking out and attaining the certification, Sustainable CT is not just about green initiatives. Sustainable CT also looks for communities taking action to build community connection, social equity, and longer-term resilience.
In addition to numerous environmentally-friendly programs — such as buy-local programs, expansion of recycling materials accepted at the Wilton Transfer Station, food waste reduction programs at the schools, air quality education programs, etc. — Wilton was also recognized for services for those experiencing economic hardships, investments in energy infrastructure, and even operational tools like See-Click-Fix.
A Matter of Pride… and Branding?
At the Nov. 7 BOS meeting, Vanderslice highlighted the news of the certification, specifically thanking Wilton Go Green President Tammy Thornton for leading the effort, and acknowledging Selectman Ross Tartell for his role.
But it was Selectman Bas Nabulsi who pushed the discussion further, suggesting the Town might consider additional recognition or “a celebration” of the effort.
“It’s an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the shared accomplishment,” Nabulsi said.
Nabulsi explained his thoughts stemmed in part from his experience with the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), which he said garnered significant public interest when it came to the connection of sustainability and town pride.
“We should look for opportunities to brand the community. That is part of our brand, that we [are] sustainably conscious,” Nabulsi said. “[Silver certification] was such an accomplishment, it feels like there’s an opportunity to celebrate that together.”
Vanderslice reminded the selectmen that the certification is broader than just environmental sustainability, and pushed back on the idea of a public celebration based on her expectation that Town employees — who were largely responsible for the work that was recognized in the certification — may not wish to participate.
One member of the public, Sarah Curtis, stepped forward to speak on the topic during the public comment portion of the Nov. 7 meeting.
“I hope the board will give some further consideration or have more discussion about the opportunity that the Sustainable CT silver award represents,” Curtis said. “We talk an awful lot about ‘what is our brand’ as a town… I agree [the silver certification] goes far beyond the environmental aspect, but I think it represents just the best of the Town of Wilton.”
“It touches on so many different aspects. I just think it broadly represents us a community and how a community comes together” Curtis continued, citing numerous non-profit organizations, the Wilton Public Schools, and resident volunteers in addition to Town employees working together.
“As we talk about branding, this gets into every aspect of the Town, so I’d like to see more thought given to what we could do that shines a light on Wilton. It’s a great chance to do that,” Curtis concluded.
“Every Aspect of the Town” Indeed
Vanderslice shared a breakdown of the various departments and organizations cited for their work. According to her count, the silver certification was the result of achievements made by 12 Town departments, six Town boards and commissions, and 19 other organizations, as listed below, along with their respective number of achievements:
- Wilton Go Green: 13
- First Selectwoman’s Office: 6
- P&Z Commission: 6
- Board of Selectmen: 6
- Conservation Commission: 5
- Social Services Department: 5
- Department of Public Works: 4
- Police Department: 4
- Parks & Rec Department: 4
- Environmental Affairs Department: 3
- P&Z Department: 3
- Wilton Chamber of Commerce: 3
Also cited for their contributions to the certification:
- Finance Department
- Fire Department
- Health Department
- Tax Department
- Town Clerk’s Office
- HDHP Commission
- Housing Committee
- POCD Working Groups
- Wilton Public Schools
- Wilton Library
- Ambler Farm
- Historical Society
- Norwalk River Valley Trail
- Pollinator Pathway
- Stay at Home in Wilton
- Trout Unlimited
- Wilton Commons
- Wilton Garden Club
- Wilton Land Trust
- Wilton Y
- Wilton Youth Council
- Woodcock Nature Center
The selectmen left the Nov. 7 meeting with an agreement to continue the discussion at a future time about whether and how to leverage the silver-level certification. They picked up the discussion again at the Dec. 20 BOS meeting.
Unique Opportunity or Business as Usual?
Vanderslice provided a summary of the specific work contributed by Town departments and boards. She sees them doing their jobs, as they should.
“Most of what was used to earn the points [toward certification] is work that is regularly done within somebody’s job description or is done by a board or commission,” Vanderslice said.
“I’m not diminishing anybody’s work,” Vanderslice continued. “I think everybody whose work earned points did a great job. But I’m not sure, because a lot of it was in the normal course of business, that you would do any kind of particular celebration.”
Nabulsi maintained his stance.
“It doesn’t change the spirit of what I had in mind, which is that it’s an opportunity that we shouldn’t waste,” Nabulsi said, calling the certification “a town-wide accomplishment that drew upon not only the critical staff that contributed but also so many volunteers.”
Nabulsi repeated his belief that the certification could be “part of a branding exercise for the Town” based on “the fact that we as a community so strongly believe in sustainability and everything that comes with that. It just feels like an opportunity… and I continue to believe that.”
Tartell also sees a higher purpose in the certification.
“[The list of contributing work] is a very striking document because of the breadth and depth of the actions,” Tartell said, ” As you [Vanderslice] noted, a lot of these are just because people are doing their jobs [but] the whole point to Sustainable CT is that you do things, you build these things into your ongoing job responsibilities, direction, and strategy for the Town. That it will take the Town forward and make it a great place to live and work and be a place that’s attractive. It’s conservation but it’s also the culture and feel of the Town and how the Town supports its employees and townspeople to be successful members and citizens.”
Vanderslice opposes the concept of further special recognition by the Town on the basis that it would be unusual and even arbitrary.
“This would be unique that we’re celebrating this particular thing,” Vanderslice said. “There’s so many good things that happen.”
She cited the fact that 70% of the Town’s electricity is served by solar power, which was not considered by Sustainable CT, but she feels is a significant accomplishment.
“We didn’t throw a big community celebration for that. I can think of a lot of things we did, and so I guess I’m wondering why we’re going to do some celebration for [Sustainable CT certification.]”
Tartell made a distinction between a celebration per se and an opportunity to publicize what Wilton’s priorities are.
“Rather than think of ‘recognizing’, it’s how do you demonstrate to the town that this is important and it’s being built into the way we do business? People look at where you shine your light, where do you pay attention? What do you recognize? What do you get excited about? And you can say, yeah, we did our job, which is true. But the point is, there are lots of towns that do their job and they don’t come out with silver [certification].”
The celebratory effort Nabulsi envisions would not necessarily be led by the BOS.
“I don’t know that it is the responsibility of anybody [within the Town government] to pull this off, but I think if [the BOS] thought it was a good idea, and an ad hoc group [were to] organize a celebration of sorts, that it would be beneficial for all of us,” Nabulsi said.
He seemed to be inviting community members to take his cue.
“I think if there was a grassroots effort from a group of Wilton community members… that would be a good thing,” Nabulsi said. “I’m supportive of it as a concept and would be happy to contribute separate and apart from being a [BOS] member to helping to organize it and make it a success.”
The board members agreed to further consider the topic of a celebration and what it might include beyond the Sustainable CT certification.
Wilton’s 2022 Sustainable CT certification report is available on Wilton’s Sustainable CT profile page.