Wilton First Selectman candidate: Deborah McFadden
Deborah McFadden is running for first selectman to build a better Wilton. “A lot better,” she said.
McFadden is the Democratic party’s standard bearer in this year’s municipal election, when voters go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5. McFadden responded to questions about her campaign via email.
“I have knowledge and experience, both inside and outside of Wilton and the problem-solving skills necessary to move forward to a better future for this town we love,” she said. “But more important, I know that the best ideas and biggest achievements are never done alone. That’s why whatever I have accomplished has come through hard work, shared insight and collaboration.”
First Selectwoman candidate
Current job: Business Development Director/Stronger International
Education: Utah State University, BS Journalism and Political Science
The most important issue in this election: Wilton is at a crossroads. We need a vision for the future. Engaging all stakeholders in town, together we can develop a shared plan to attract a new wave of residents, enhance the town center, diversify housing, and support businesses, schools and gathering places, being fiscally responsible while building a strong community.
Other issues: Focusing on economic development to grow our tax base, including diversifying our housing in appropriate locations.
Exploring new opportunities to leverage resources, especially public/private partnerships.
Giving infrastructure needed attention, such as a leaking town hall, crowded police station, and track at the high school.
Greater citizen participation, working collaboratively will build a better Wilton.
Family: My husband Jack and I moved to Wilton because of its family values and an excellent, school system. We have lived in Wilton for more than 20 years. Like myself, my family has been deeply involved in the community. Jack currently serves as President of Kiwanis, on the steering committee of WI-ACT, and on the board of STAR (serving people with disabilities). Our son Joey, an Eagle Scout, is now attending Ithaca College where he plays football.
All four McFadden children attended Wilton schools, including our daughter Melissa, whom we lost to leukemia, a trailblazer for students with special needs, who we lost to leukemia. We take pride in the diversity and accomplishments of our children and are grateful to our friends, neighbors, and the institutions in Wilton that have helped shape who they are. Our family has joyously increased with the addition of four grandchildren.
Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Elected offices: Wilton Board of Selectmen, Wilton Constable, 2008 Electoral College representing Connecticut.
Community Groups: Norwalk River Valley Trail, NRVT - Steering committee; STAR Lighting the Way - Fundraising and Gala Committee; Wilton Security Task Force - Board of Selectman Liaison; Trackside - Board of Selectman Liaison.
Campaign website: https://wiltondems.org/campaign-2019/
McFadden sees Wilton at a crossroads.
“We need a vision for the future. Engaging all stakeholders in town, together we can develop a shared plan to attract a new wave of residents, enhance the town center, diversify housing, and support businesses, schools and gathering places, all while maintaining a fiscally responsible approach to building a stronger community,” she said.
She singled out support for schools, saying, “Our schools are a critical factor in attracting new residents. The phrase, ‘Striving for Excellence’ needs to be applied to the level of education of our young people and not just the sign over the doors of the high school. Our standing amongst our Fairfield County neighboring towns in our DRG [District Reference Group] is critical in attracting young families.”
Her priorities include:
Building Wilton’s brand and marketing its safe, family-friendly community in a positive way.
Exploring opportunities to leverage resources such as public/private partnerships and shared services. She used the Wilton Library as an example of a successful public/private partnership.
Focusing on economic development to grow the tax base, including diversifying housing in appropriate locations.
Addressing infrastructure needs such as a leaking town hall roof, crowded police station, and track at the high school.
Achieving that new vision for Wilton can best be done, she said, through “greater participation in town decisions and on issues that impact this community. Enhanced involvement within our town will ignite the passions and talents of our greatest resource — each other.
“Together we will build a new vision for Wilton that not only lifts our performance to address the challenges we face today, but also sets our priorities for tomorrow.
“Greater citizen participation, and working collaboratively will build a better Wilton,” she said.
McFadden has practiced what she preaches, having served Wilton in a number of capacities. She is on the Board of Selectmen and has served as a constable. She represented Connecticut in the 2008 Electoral College.
She has also been involved with the Norwalk River Valley Trail, Wilton Security Task Force, Trackside Teen Center, the Boy Scouts and Riverbrook Regional YMCA. She is a longtime member of the Democratic Town Committee, having served as chair.
McFadden believes the breadth and diversity of her experience, including in municipal government, community action groups, nonprofits, and special needs school programs make her a good candidate, having expanded her “understanding and appreciation for differing perspectives.”
“I have broad reach and connections with leadership in surrounding towns and across Connecticut contributing to an amplified awareness of opportunities as well as relationships to get them done,” she said.
“My leadership style is collaborative, a welcoming, open process. More important the work gets done, than who gets credit,” she added.
McFadden said that as she is out campaigning, she welcomes engaging with potential voters and hearing their views.
“We want to create and build a dialogue that will have lasting impact and lead to true results. … I will challenge those I speak with to think about issues important to Wilton and essential for growth such as the grand list and what kind of events and amenities we think will attract more families and the kind of town that will work for all of us in the future,” she said.
McFadden also wanted to talk about real estate. For most people, their home is their most important financial investment.
“We should be focusing on what can make these investments as competitive as possible by increasing Wilton’s attractiveness for new families and enhancing our expectations of what Wilton can be.
“Wilton will be attractive to new families if we maintain fiscal discipline, invest in our schools and create some entry level housing. We can explore the development of more diversity in our housing options. Millennials and seniors often desire walkability with local businesses and places to gather,” she said.
She is also concerned about the environment and would like to see Wilton as a leader.
“The threat of a warming world is too great and teaching our children and the next generation of Wiltonians these lessons is a vital gift,” she said. “I am part of the effort to get Wilton recognized and certified with Sustainable CT, a program that promotes thriving and healthy communities within Connecticut. So, I know how these collaborative, innovative, and forward-thinking actions can create real results for our community.”
She also gave a shout out to her fellow Democrats running this fall. She described them as an “extraordinarily well-qualified and united team that will work with our citizens in building and executing on this new vision for Wilton.”
Finally, she said Wilton must do “a better job of touting and leveraging our accomplishments” and assets.
“As a community, we need to identify a clear and compelling brand of who we are and what we have to offer. Then we must promote and market Wilton.
“We need to market Wilton more aggressively and accommodate the right kind of businesses to make Wilton their new home. Wilton must be known as not only a place for businesses to prosper but also a place for their employees to call home.
“Creativity and working with local stakeholders to enhance the business and real estate environment is essential,” she said. “It is not one size fits all, we have different types of businesses in different parts of Wilton. Re-energizing and clarifying the focus of the Economic Development Commission and working collaboratively within the region and state is needed, including taking a hard look at impediments and obstacles to appropriate development.”