Wilton Board of Selectman candidate: Ceci Maher
Democratic Board of Selectmen candidate Ceci Maher would like to remind her fellow Wiltonians what a beautiful, warm and friendly town this is at its core. She believes a lot of the negativity that sometimes surfaces can be diminished if the town adopts a forward-looking point of view.
“Without a vision, we don’t move forward,” she said.
Maher put her name in last year to fill a vacancy on the Board of Selectmen, but that seat went to Joshua Cole. She was then appointed to fill an open seat on the Board of Finance, where she still serves.
Maher is also the recently retired executive director of the nonprofit Person-to-Person headquartered in Darien.
“I’ve worked in seven towns for 14 years and New Canaan for five years before that,” she told The Bulletin. “I have a pretty strong overview of what’s happened to towns that P2P’s been engaged in and I’ve watched certain towns grow.”
Pointing to Darien, she said, “they took a town with empty storefronts, they were getting diminishing engagement from the greater community and they have transformed it into a place that’s vibrant and engaging. They are still continuing that work with their downtown redevelopment.
“And I look at Wilton and I know that this is a phenomenal place to live,” she said. “It is filled with really good people and very engaged nonprofits and a very — for the most part — engaged citenzenry who want a place that they can retire to, where their children can come back to live that is vibrant and has a feeling of future orientation. And I don’t feel right now we have that.
“We need to create a place where all generations can live together,” she said. That includes opportunities for millennials who will want to offer their children the same experiences they had growing up.
“If we do not have a train line or an engaging community, we will be bypassed, and I don’t want to see that happen,” she said.
Board of Selectman candidate
Current job/employer: Retired
Education: University of Massachusetts, post-graduate degree: Columbia University
The most important issue in this election: I will work to help Wilton create an engaging and vibrant downtown that is supportive to families, businesses, and vital nonprofits, such as the Library. The town will be enhanced with pedestrian-friendly gathering places, filled store fronts and a lively downtown that provides restaurants, services, and shopping for Wilton residents.
Other issues: We need to support the existing entities and organizations that make Wilton an excellent place to live, including our schools and nonprofits. We need to strengthen the grand list, and our infrastructure; including bridges and roads, renovating the Town Hall, and addressing the needs of the Police Station.
Transparency and collaboration in government are key components of this election. Wilton has a long history of engagement with its citizens and yet decisions are being made without open and transparent conversations.
Family: My husband, Rob, grew up in Wilton. Our three children attended schools in Wilton from kindergarten through high school. Katherine is the CEO of Wikipedia, based in San Francisco, James is a firefighter in San Francisco and lives in San Francisco, and Matthew is an artist and coder, living in Brooklyn.
Previous elected offices or community group affiliations: Wilton PTA; Chairperson of Minks to Sinks and member of the Auxiliary since 1989; President and member of the Junior League of Stamford/Norwalk which encompasses Wilton; Board Member of Wilton’s A Better Chance, ABC, for eight years; college coach for two Wilton ABC students; Wilton Library Board; Wilton Board of Finance.
Campaign website: None
“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take work … and I know it can be done in Wilton. And I’m very interested in doing that work.”
She is concerned about what she sees as a negative attitude toward the schools on the part of the Board of Finance.
“I want to make sure that our schools are supported and that the institutions in the town that are so much the fabric of the town — like the library, remember last year that the library was cut — I don’t want to see that happen again. It’s important that we support those institutions that are the cornerstones of our community.”
Maher said her skillset includes knowing how to bring about change. “I did that at Person-to-Person. … I’ve worked with businesspersons, I’ve worked with politicians, I’ve worked with community in creating change.”
Maher sees three other main issues facing the town: transparency, supporting the town’s infrastructure and building the grand list.
On the matter of transparency in government, she said, “I think we have always been a town where people worked together to make the town better. I was the chairperson of Minks to Sinks and the PTA Council and the ABC board and no one ever asked each other what political party you were, we just all worked together for the same goal.
“I have found working on the Board of Finance and watching the Board of Selectpersons’ meetings there is not a lot of transparency and there does not appear to be collaboration and engagement and that is something I believe in really strongly and I think it makes for a stronger community,” she said. “We don’t want to reflect the polarization that we’re seeing in our country.”
By infrastructure, she means supporting schools and nonprofits, and moving forward on the renovation of town hall, the police station, fire station 2, and road paving.
“While some of those things are being done, I also know some of those things are being put on the back burner,” Maher said.
Going hand in hand with revitalizing Wilton Center is “building the grand list, engaging businesses, economic development — very important,” she said.
She pointed to a news report from Bloomberg that indicated those in the generation after millennials (Generation Z) want the experience of shopping together and gathering in a communal space.
“I think every generation is different. Certainly millennials were the forefront of shopping online, now the next generation is coming up and saying they want that [hands-on] experience.” That offers the potential for retail to benefit, she said.
Through P2P, she said, “I have seen and worked with change and growth and that is something I believe is part of my skillset. And I believe engaging businesses around this and hearing what they have to say and how can we support them and grow that is part of it.”
Looking at the housing market and the trouble it has had rebounding from the recession, she said, “this is why I feel so strongly in doing this work to redevelop Wilton because if we create a vibrant and engaging center, then that is another reason for people to come to us, otherwise, why would they?”
“That’s one reason I want to grow the town, to work in this direction, because I think it will strengthen the town and strengthen housing. And when we bring in businesses and support the grand list, we will make the tax burden be less.
“At the same time it’s really important that we continue to support our schools. Very important. I heard anecdotally of people who decided not to move to Wilton after the budget was cut by over $1 million — there was a lot of concern about that — and Realtors told me that people pulled out. That’s something we absolutely have to keep our eye on.”