Cos Cob resident Jim Finn announced on Wednesday that he is a Democratic candidate for Greenwich First Selectmen. The municipal election in Greenwich will take place on November 7, 2023.
Earlier this month, Republican First Selectman Fred Camillo announced ahead of an RTC endorsement that he was running for a third term. Also announcing candidacies for re-election were Republican Selectwoman Lauren Rabin and Republican town clerk Jackie Budkins, but not tax collector Heather Smeriglio.
Finn, 61, recently retired after a 30+ year career in politics, journalism and corporate communications where he had roles as chief communications officer at Chase, Oracle, Avaya and Computers Sciences Corp.
Finn and his wife Irene Cunanan, who works at Chase Bank in Greenwich, have lived in Cos Cob for 27 years. Finn said their sons James, 31, and Sam, 29, had great experiences attending Greenwich Schools in grades K through 12.
Finn explained that he did not have the DTC’s endorsement, but indicated to them he was pursuing the nomination and had recently appeared before their nominating committee.
“I expect to learn more in coming days as they pursue their slate of candidates and indicated that I’m pursuing the nomination for First Selectman.”
“What’s really animating me for this run is that I’ve noticed is that our neighbors are talking to each other in ways I don’t recognize. We need to restore civility in this town. Unfortunately there is one party with a cult problem in the RTC,” he said. “As a result we’re not getting what we need for our schools. We’ve gotten to the point where we condemned Central Middle School. We need to fix and fully fund the schools.”
Also, he said, “We need to take these culture wars out of here. They need to get the heck out of our libraries,” he continued. “This is a very smart town and people don’t need to be told what they can and can’t read. I’ve seen some of these Patriots come to my church and use inappropriate language to our Governor and Rector.”
Finn said he believed 2023 was the year Democrats could take back the First Selectman job.
“We haven’t had (a Democratic First Selectman) in 20 years, and the town has been under Republican control for 98 of 100 years. We need to elect a Democratic First Selectman and a BET that is Democratic. Otherwise we won’t fix and fully fund the schools.”
Finn said he was concerned that the town might miss the June 30 deadline to apply for state grant money for a new Central Middle School.
“We’re facing a situation where just a few weeks ago we thought we were $20 million short, and now we’re $40 to $50 million short based on the newest construction estimates,” he said.
“The Board of Education knows what’s needed in education and (their estimate) came in in the right place, but unfortunately the Republicans have decided that we can’t have good schools.”
Finn said he believed the key skills for a successful First Selectman were communications and leadership, and that those skills had made him successful in his career working with world class CEOs like Larry Ellison at Oracle and former Chase CEO Bill Harrison.
“We did the JP Morgan/Chase deal together,” he said. “That’s the centerpiece of the First Selectman role: It’s a communications role and a leadership role. You have to have a vision for what you’re trying to communicate.”
Finn said it would be his priority to fix the public schools.
“When I hear we have the largest capital budget in history – there’s a reason for that. It’s because you were so far behind and you’re catching up,” he said. “We can do better.”
Finn said his neighborhood had “re-gentrified” in the past three years with mostly young families from places like Brooklyn, whose children attend Cos Cob School, and that the value proposition for Greenwich real estate remained consistent with when he moved to Cos Cob.
“Great public schools are driving of property values,” he said.
“They came for the same reason I moved here from Paris in 1996. I could have had more property in a competing town, but I came here for the schools – great teachers, students and parents,” he said. “The next generation is here.”
As for his next steps, Finn said he had yet to register his campaign with the state.
“I will when I know more from the nominating committee, that hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “But I think a Democrat can win. I think people really upset about what’s happening at Old Greenwich School and CMS and the kind of things they’re saying, and a Republican BOE member going on a nationally viewed program and talking down our schools is unacceptable.”
Asked his next step if the DTC leadership does not nominate him for First Selectman on the party’s slate, Finn said, “It will help people tune in if there’s multiple candidates. We’re the party of ideas.”
“We have one job: fix the schools,” he said. “We don’t have a ‘wokeism’ problem in Greenwich Schools. This town is too smart for that.”
Reached for comment, DTC chair Joe Angland said the DTC Nominating Committee was interviewing prospective candidates for all positions, and expects to report on them to the DTC at their June 14 meeting. The DTC will then endorse candidates at its late July meeting.
“At this point, there is no recommendation from the Nominating Committee, much less decision by the DTC,” he said.