Tooker and Moore plan to lead Westport out of pandemic if elected

Republican selectman candidates Andrea Moore, left, and Jennifer Tooker in Westport, Conn. on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.

Republican selectman candidates Andrea Moore, left, and Jennifer Tooker in Westport, Conn. on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Jennifer Tooker and Andrea Moore plan to address the pandemic fall out, local government control and affordable housing if elected to the town’s two top spots.

The two are the Republican candidates running for first selectwoman and second selectwoman for Westport, hoping to replace incumbent First Selectman Jim Marpe, who announced he wasn’t seeking reelection earlier this year.

The two candidates said some of the main issues they want to address are continuing the positive trend of the economy, further investing within downtown, addressing affordable housing, maintaining local government control and focusing on social and emotional mental health.

“It’s amazing once you get involved in local government how you realize the decision that you’re making truly impacts people’s daily lives,” Tooker said. “They impact the education of your children, they impact the upkeep of your beaches and parks and recreation facilities and they impact the safety of the community because local government oversees first responders.”

“The amount of positive impact you can have as a local elected official is really so amazing and incredibly rewarding,” she added.

Tooker, 52, moved to Westport 13 years ago. Within a short period of time she knew Westport would be the place she would raise her family and call home. Within six months, Tooker got involved and was appointed to be a part of the conservation commission.

She would later serve on the board education, before retiring as the global head of marketing and communication at Gen Re, to pursue a career in public service on the board of finance and later as a selectwoman in Marpe’s administration.

Moore, 54, began her career in local government six years ago as part of the Westport RTM. Encouraged to run for the position by a few friends, Moore served for two years before retiring from her private sector job as the vice president of institutional equity sales at UBS to continue to pursue local government. Moore has been on the town’s board of finance for the last four years.

Moore said she does it to give back to the community she grew up in.

Tooker said that when she decided to run for the top spot after hearing that Jim Marpe would not seek a third term there was no other person that she wanted to run with.

“For me the choice was absolutely clear and there was no doubt in my mind that Andrea was the right person to do this job with,” Tooker said.

Tooker said they like to frame their approach to the issues they would like to address, by understanding a lot, if not all, of their residents are making different lifestyle choices as society tries to emerge from the pandemic.

“Residents are no longer commuting five days a week,” Tooker said. “That means our residents are spending a lot more time in our community, on our roads. Also people are not back on public transportation and our kids are not back on school buses.”

Tooker and Moore said on top of dealing with the roads being more clogged and more people staying in the community, the two also want to address residents using the beaches and parks and recreation facilities, which they say are being used much more frequently since residents are around more.

“Our downtown is also thriving again so now it is the time we really make the right investments for the future so the positive momentum of our local economy and the direction it’s going will continue,” Tooker said.

Another issue the two mentioned was state statute 8-30g, which allows developers to circumvent local zoning laws to build affordable housing.

“I think that Westport is very dedicated to having diverse housing, however. I do not believe 8-30g is a good state statute for Westport and I don’t think it incentives the right results,” Tooker said. “We know that there’s a movement in the state legislature to take more local control away from our planning and zoning officials so that has us very concerned.”

“We have a long rich history developmental affordable housing in Westport and doing it under local control and we want to continue to do that,” she added.

Tooker and Moore also said that the pandemic highlighted that town residents are struggling with social and emotional health and well being issues. As the town comes out of the pandemic, they will be looking to make sure residents have the right support in that area.

What draws Tooker and Moore to these positions is the accountability that they feel they have towards the community. Tooker said it is “at an all-time high.” Moore said that while at the state and federal level can be overwhelming, in local government they really can have an impact.

“You cannot go to the grocery store and run in in for five minutes and come back out,” Tooker said. “Nine times out of ten, you’re stopped by somebody who wants to share their opinion. You’re constantly getting really great feedback.”