Wilton Democrats name slate for November election

Deborah McFadden, who ran unsuccessfully for first selectman in 2015 against Lynne Vanderslice, will challenger her once again for that position, leading a slate of 18 Democrats in the November election that includes former Republican Selectman Michael Kaelin, who is seeking a seat on the Board of Finance.

The slate was chosen at the Democratic caucus that took 10 minutes on Tuesday evening, July 16, at Comstock Community Center. The slate was elected unanimously by the 37 Democrats present.

Also nominated were:

Selectmen: Ceci Maher, Ross Tartell

Board of Finance: Michael Kaelin, Jung Soo Kim, Chris Stroup (full term)

Board of Finance: Kevin Gardiner (two-year term)

Board of Education: Savet Constantine, Ruth DeLuca

Planning and Zoning Commission: Jeremi (Rem) Bigosinski, Florence Johnson (full term)

Planning and Zoning Commission: Peter Squitieri (two-year term)

Zoning Board of Appeals: Sunila Kapur, John Gardiner

Board of Assessment Appeals: Bob Zsunkan

Constable: Bo Mitchell, Ernie Ricco, Paul Soley

When asked about making her second run for what the Democratic Town Committee called first selectperson, McFadden said she wanted to work with the rest of the slate on elevating the brand of Wilton “to build it as a place to come with families, to work here and to have businesses here.”

She added they “would continue efforts in fiscal responsibility.” McFadden currently serves as a selectwoman, having led Democrats to a strong showing in the 2018 municipal election.

Kaelin said he was moved to run for the Board of Finance when the present “Republican members voted to cut the school budget before presenting it to the Annual Town Meeting. I thought the decision of the Board of Finance was wrong on every level.

“Four individuals made a decision on what they personally thought right instead of making it based on input from the public, the Board of Education and the school administration. That’s the process,” he added.

Their decision, he said, “was based on fear. They were afraid of what was going to happen instead of having confidence in the town, in all of us and in the schools.”

Kaelin, who served as a Republican member of the Board of Selectmen from 2014 to 2018 changed his affiliation to unaffiliated at the end of 2016, saying politics had become too divisive. He resigned his position as a selectman in 2018.

He became a Democrat and joined the DTC’s nominating committee to have a say in who would run for office.

Running the town, he said, “is not about any one person. We’re supposed to be running ourselves.”

As a member of the nominating committee he “looked for the most diverse in point of view and background so we can best represent everybody.”

Those thoughts were echoed by DTC Chairman Tom Dubin.

“We are excited by the truly high caliber of our 2019 slate, and we thank the candidates for their willingness to serve our town,” he said. “Each one of the Democratic candidates is fully engaged in the life of Wilton. They understand our town, our schools, and our neighbors, and they will make real differences in the tone and responsiveness of our town’s government.”

The candidates for Board of Selectmen — Ceci Maher and Ross Tartell — both serve the town.

Maher, who recently retired as CEO of the nonprofit Person-2-Person, serves on the Board of Finance.

Tartell, who last year unsuccessfully challenged state Sen. Tom O’Dea to represent the 125th House district, is a fire commissioner and for 22 years chaired long range planning teams for Wilton’s schools.

In addition to Kaelin, the Democrats have endorsed Kevin Gardiner, Jung Soo Kim, and Chris Stroup for Board of Finance. Gardiner is senior vice president of operations at a Wilton-based holding company focused on talent acquisition and development. Kim is a product specialist at a global data and software company serving the financial industry. Stroup is the chairman and chief executive officer of a reinsurance company and previously served as a member of the Board of Education.

For Board of Education, the Democrats endorsed Savet Constantine and Ruth DeLuca. Constantine has held numerous leadership positions in support of Wilton’s public schools, most recently as Wilton High School PTSA president for the past three years. She has one child who is a graduate of Wilton High School, and another who is a rising senior.

DeLuca is an attorney who has worked in the biotechnology industry and now focuses her career on healthcare advocacy and immigration. She has two children enrolled in public school and one in preschool.

“The Democrats have assembled an incredibly talented group of candidates, who were chosen because of their remarkable competence, strong work ethic, and their proven ability to work well with others,” said Ross Tartell, Chair of the DTC’s Nominations Committee. “They are an extraordinary group whose common goal is to keep Wilton a great place to live.”