Democratic Board of Selectmen Candidates, Bill Kelly and Janet Stone McGuigan: Immersed in Greenwich

Democratic candidate for Greenwich First Selectman Bill Kelly and candidate for Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan opened up about their reasons for running for office.

Sitting down in the new Greenwich Library Café, Mr. Kelly listed an impressive list of volunteer positions, including Representative Town Meeting (RTM), Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) and the Board of Education (BOE). He also served as the BOE liaison to the board of Parks and Rec.

Mr. Kelly, an attorney, and his wife of 40 years, Barbara, moved into their house in Old Greenwich in 1993 and their daughters Elizabeth and Kristen attended Greenwich Public Schools.

“We came to Greenwich for the great schools, low taxes, and diversity. I didn’t want to bring up my kids in an insular type of environment. I wanted them to have exposure,” he said. “They had a great time at Greenwich High School.”

Elizabeth, now a lawyer, lives in Riverside with her husband and two daughters. Kristen, a doctor, is chief resident at Mt. Sinai ER. She was president of the Greenwich High School class of 2005.

Mr. Kelly is brimming with ideas for the job of First Selectman, which he feels uniquely qualified for, having lived in town nearly three decades and having served on key town boards.

Asked about the location of a new Hamill Rink, he replied, “We will rebuild on the (existing) site. That’ll be the end of that. We’re not touching the memorial or the ball field.”

Asked about the upgrades to Greenwich Ave, he said the job was about “management, leadership and judgement,” adding that the town is facing many issues.

“We have rising water and we’re talking about bump outs?” he asked, referring to the intersection upgrades at Elm Street and Greenwich Ave, and the five additional ones planned, following the removal of police from directing traffic on Greenwich Avenue.

One change he would like to make involves park access. Specifically, he said the limited hours at Tod’s Point and the pool at Byram Park.

“Why does Byram Beach open at 11:00am?” he asked.

“Tod’s Point should be open twilight to twilight,” he added. “You want the right thing for everybody. Everybody who lives in Greenwich should have all the benefits of Greenwich and should not be restricted.”

He elaborated about why he believes he is uniquely qualified for the job of First Selectman.

“First, I’ve had experience with everything that is under the purview of the First Selectman. Start with the law department,” he said, adding that as an attorney for 40 years, he has and is managing law firms.

“The law department. Come on! The Republican party determines who is going to be the law dept (town attorney),” he said.

Second, he brought up the Greenwich Fire Department, and recalled his involvement in what he referred to as The Clifford report.

“I drafted the report after a major accident on the Merritt Parkway required the Hurst tool (aka Jaws of Life),” he said.

“Greenwich’s Hurst tool was in Cos Cob when it should have been in Glenville, resulting in a delay. We interviewed approximately 20 firefighters and supervisors. Jimmy Clifford (former Glenville Fire Department Fire Chief) and Joan Caldwell were on the committee. We called it ‘The Clifford Report’ because Jim was the chair.”

“We called for stopping these multiple responses. You had fire trucks running all over town,” he recalled. “You might have Sound Beach (Fire Dept) responding to the Cos Cob area, or even to Central’s area, and the risk and safety that that presents itself. The matrix report said you should stop that and have single engines respond.”

“We said, ‘Stop having these trucks running all over town.'”

Kelly said he served on the BET’s Audit Committee, and that back in 2011, Parks & Rec director Joe Siciliano advised about a large number of unregistered boats.

“He said, ‘It’s a continuing problem. We try and get these people to register and we can’t get them to. They won’t do it.'”

“I said, ‘Joe, it’s our property. We’re going to burn he boats. You tell them we’ll burn the unregistered boats in a bonfire in two weeks.’ Three weeks later, all but a few were registered. If you have rules, enforce them. Otherwise don’t have rules.”

On the theme of enforcement, Kelly said back in 1994 when he joined the Claims Committee, which involves litigation against the Town, lawsuits would routinely be settled.

“It had been, ‘Okay, the outside counsel says we should settle. And I teamed up with a lot of my Republican colleagues, and said, ‘Enough. We are a patsy over in Superior Court in Stamford. We will be a patsy no longer.'”

At the time he said the town attorney was John Meerbergen. “He was a very good trial attorney. I said, ‘John you’re going to try some cases over there,'” he recalled.

“We just stopped paying and took some cases to trial,” he recalled. “The whole perception of Greenwich changed in Stamford superior Court.”

Kelly served on the Claims Committee starting in 1994. He continued until he was elected to the Board of Education in 1999, where he served two four-year terms, wrapping up in 2007.

“On the Board of Education, we did a lot of really good stuff. Sandy Waters was the chair.”

He recalled how the headmaster of Greenwich High School had boasted the school gave 400 AP tests and the average score was a 4.1.

“I said, ‘Excuse me, but aren’t there 700 seniors and 700 juniors, why only 400 tests given?’  I said nonsense,” he said. “This AP gatekeeping has to go.”

Referring to the impressive GHS course of study guide, which rivals that of a college, Kelly said the BOE switched the decision making to the students themselves.

“Went from 400 AP tests to 1,200 tests in just a few years. And our 4.1 went to 3.8. All these kids, all these years could have been taking AP. Our Board of Education did that. I think it changes lives and saves parents money on college.”

Recalling his fellow board members, Ginny Gwynn, Genny Krob and Sandy Waters in particular, he said, “We did amazing things. We had a great time.”

“We calculated volunteering 650 hours a year,” he added. “We liked and respected everybody on the board. Nobody there was the bad guy. We had a great time and respected each other.”

Kelly said he first waded into town government right after he moved to town. He said Coline Jenkins recruited him onto the RTM after he spoke publicly in favor of the pavilions at Tod’s Point.

“We all need shade, this is a good thing. We’re not Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard.” He laughed when he said he learned there was an opening and was elected by just four votes. He served on the RTM for six years.

“I think pretty much everyone in town should at one point or another should join the RTM,” he said. “You find out how the town works. More than 90% of the time the RTM gets it right. You have conservatives and liberals. They ultimately coalesce around the right thing. That was my feeling after six years.”

Kelly said that back in January 1998 he worked on a Sense of the Meeting Resolution (SOMR) with Parks & Rec Joe Siciliano to reprioritize the assignments of the town’s athletic playing fields.

“At that time kids couldn’t get fields – they were really tight. I went to town hall and I said we need to fix the field situation. There are more kids and we need more fields. They said, ‘Oh no we can’t do that. We assign them based on who had them a year ago.'”

“So some fat old softball player has priority over little kids? I drafted a resolution. I was in constant communication with (Parks Rec director) Joe Siciliano, and we reached an agreement on a SOMR. I got 25  signatures. I brought the SOMR to the RTM.”

“We said, ‘We have reached an agreement on a Sense of the Meeting Resolution that from now on, the children of Greenwich Schools will have first priority for field use. Children of Greenwich have second priority. Third priority goes to Greenwich adults, and fourth priority goes to others.”

Kelly has also served on the BET for four years.

Ms Stone McGuigan said her interests dovetailed well with Mr. Kelly’s.

“I think we compliment each other. I’m coming off a lot of community boards right now, and I have deep experience in Town.”

Stone McGuigan resigned from the LWV Greenwich board to run for Selectperson, and ended her time as co-President of the GHS Band Boosters this year since her younger son graduated GHS in the class of 2021.

“With both of my boys in college now, this is my time to take my service to the town to the next level. I’m definitely experienced and qualified.”

Stone McGuigan holds a dual degree in civil engineering and economics, and has a Master’s degree in public policy. She has worked the environmental policy field as a policy analyst at an environmental economics think tank. She was also a mediator on federal regulatory negotiations.

She said topics that get her excited include drinking water, wind energy, combined  sewage overflow.

“My husband is from Greenwich, but we moved a lot,” Stone McGuigan added. “We moved here in 2006. I was home with the kids and started getting involved with PTA and the PTA Council for 8 years.”

Also she said, she was committee chair for fund development for the Greenwich Jr League, and is still a Sustaining Advisor.

She has since resigned her position at LWV in order to make her run for Selectperson.

She also serves on the RTM and is an alternate on the on Education Committee.

As if that weren’t enough, other volunteering includes the board of CCI and committee chair for a Boy Scout Troop.

Mr. Kelly agreed that he and Stone McGuigan share a similar approach.

“It’s about good management, leadership and cooperation,” he said. “Janet and I bring that.”