Greenwich Democrats Recommend Candidate Slate for 2023 Municipal Elections. “We have a good shot this year.”

On Wednesday night the nominating committee for Greenwich Democratic Town Committee recommended a slate of candidates for the November 2023 municipal elections.

Next, the DTC members will vote on candidates at their July 20 meeting, where other candidates may be nominated.

Anthony Moor from the DTC nominating committee announced the candidate recommendations. June 14, 2023 Photo Leslie Yager
Jim Finn, who had hoped to get the nominating committee’s nod for First Selectman, said he would step aside to make way for the recommended Democratic slate to begin campaigning. June 14, 2023 Photo Leslie Yager

Concerns about having two people seeking the top job in town hall were assuaged at the start of Wednesday’s meeting.

Anthony Moor from the nominating committee introduced Cos Cob Democrat Jim Finn who had come forward several weeks ago as a candidate for First Selectmen.

Finn described himself as the son of a bricklayer from a working class New Jersey family. He talked about having put himself through college as a union laborer and the first in his family to graduate from college.

He said the Democrats had the best chance in many years to win in November.

“I am animated by the fact that one party in this town has a cult problem,” Finn said. “It has become more than an irritating distraction. It is hurting our schools and dividing our town.”

“As I talk to voters I see a huge opportunity to appeal to unaffiliated voters and moderate Republicans who know that we in this iconic town are smarter and better than this. We don’t need anyone to tell us what books we can and can’t read, and we don’t ban books,” he said.

“Voters need to elect the first Democratic Selectman in 20 years, and a Democratic BET, ending a near 100-year monopoly. Otherwise the schools won’t get fixed,” Finn continued.

“In the name of party unity, I will step aside so this Democratic slate can start campaigning tomorrow,” Finn said. “The other side is already out there with bumper stickers. Time to get moving, Democrats. And let’s win in November!”

Laura Erickson is the Greenwich Democrats recommended candidate for First Selectperson. June 14, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager

“The current Republican First Selectman is not pushing back on the far right wing of his party. Our values and norms are being dismantled. We need to reset and recalibrate… Greenwich needs a leader who will not back down under political pressure.”

Laura Erickson, DTC nominating committee’s recommended candidate for First Selectperson

Leading the ticket is the recommended candidate for First Selectperson Laura Erickson, a former commercial banker in the technology sector who is in her second term on the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), where she serves on the Budget committee.

A graduate of Middlebury College, Erickson also served four years on the Board of Education where she was chair for over a year, a time that encompassed two budget cycles and the Municipal Improvement process for New Lebanon School.

But prior to serving on these two high profile boards, she joined the Representative Town Meeting when her children were very young and served there for 13 years, including as a member of both the Finance and Health & Human Services Committees.

“My first year as a parent at Riverside School was an eye-opener,” she recalled. “The school was overcrowded and there was redistricting, which resulted in the reopening of ISD (International School at Dundee). I became very involved in the public schools.”

A 30-year resident of Greenwich, Erickson’s three children all attended Greenwich Schools from grades K through 12. She is also a former PTA co-president at Riverside School and Greenwich High School.

Explaining why she was running for First Selectperson she said budgets under the Republican-controlled BET had failed to properly address the town’s infrastructure and public safety.

“I am done with kicking the can down the road. This has to stop. The chair of the BET is a powerful position because of the tie-breaking vote, which has been wielded with impunity by the BET Republican caucus. There is a better way, but we must first win both the First Selectperson and the BET.”

She said she would work with the BET and RTM to present a fiscal plan that is clear, transparent and keeps taxes low.

“The current Republican First Selectman is not pushing back on the far right wing of his party,” Erickson said. “Our values and norms are being dismantled. We need to reset and recalibrate… Greenwich needs a leader who will not back down under political pressure.”

Lastly, she said the townspeople simply deserved better from its local government.

“The traffic and parking situations need a plan. Fire protection needs to be responsibly addressed. The ice rink replacement project has bobbled all over the place.”

She added that it was a shame that it took 20 years to finally see progress on a new Eastern Greenwich Civic Center.

“We need to prepare for severe weather events sea level rise. And the schools need to be fixed without the delays and obstructionist tactics,” Erickson continued. “These delays cause projects to be more expensive. They deprive us of appropriate facilities. And they add risk to the town.”

“I am all in on this mission,” she said. “This is not going to be easy, but Democrats know how to do hard things. So let’s get started.”

Ms Erickson is running with Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan who is completing first term in that office.

Stone McGuigan, who is liaison to the EMAC and Harbor Management Commission and co-chair of the Sustainability Committee. She also serves on the Old Greenwich School and Julian Curtiss School building committees.

“I’ve brought forward issues that would have otherwise been ignored, most recently the Fair Rent Commission ordinance,” she said. ‘I was the first to say the Board of Selectmen needed to issue a joint statement condemning the hate signs that appeared after our fantastic pride celebration.”

“You can count on me not to backpedal,” she said.

Janet Stone McGuigan is the Greenwich Democrats recommended candidate for Selectperson. June 14, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager
Lucy von Brachel is the Greenwich Democrats recommended candidate for Town Clerk. June 14, 2023

I really enjoy processes, policies, and making it easier for everyone in town, no matter who they are, to interact with government, understand how government works, and to do their business with the town.”

– Lucy von Brachel, recommended candidate for Town Clerk

Another highlight of the meeting were remarks from Lucy von Brachel, recommended candidate for Town Clerk, who Mr. Moor described as the “heart and soul” of the Byram neighborhood community and key figure in the 230-member RTM.

Ms von Brachel, who attended Greenwich Public Schools herself, recalled being moved to run for RTM after attending her first RTM meeting during a critical vote on New Lebanon School. She described the meeting as, “fascinating, upsetting, offensive, eye-opening, and a strange roller-coaster-of-a-meeting.”

Since serving on RTM she said she realized public service and working in municipal government was her calling.

“I really enjoy processes, policies, and making it easier for everyone in town, no matter who they are, to interact with government, understand how government works, and to do their business with the town,” von Brachel said. “I really like this stuff, so it’s a perfect fit for me.”

As an advocate for her neighborhood, through the Byran Neighborhood Association that she and Joe Kantorski revived, she said a new blight ordinance was drafted and ultimately approved by the RTM.

Also, she said that through her role on the BNA, she had worked with and became familiar with all town departments.

Ms von Brachel’s background is in photography and appraising photographs, including working at museums and in the art world, where she gained experience working in archives. She said that would be a skill she’d bring to the town clerk’s office given that office maintains the town’s historic records and minutes.

Ms von Brachel noted the she would benefit from the many years of experience of the town clerk’s staff.

“But I believe I can be additive to that department, positive, and I’m excited to make certain changes,” she said. “The town clerk is responsible for elections, for example, and they are the repository for all municipal campaign filings. I believe the person in the role of town clerk needs to go the extra mile to make sure there is transparency and accountability in those processes to avoid any semblance of being partisan.”

Other efforts von Brachel would like to undertake include posting all the municipal SEEC filings online and making it easier for voters to lookup the records of their RTM representatives.

“The clerk also processes absentee ballots. I will do everything in my power to make it easy to understand how to fill out your ballot properly so that they are all counted,” she said. “As we all know, in Trevor’s (Crow) campaign there were 75 rejected ballots. We need to get that down – whether that is through videos or social media, I can do it. I will make sure that everyone does it properly and knows this is available.”

von Brachel noted that Early Voting would be a transition for the town. “I’m excited to play a role in that and make sure that the department is ready to make your voting experience seamless.”

Board of Estimate and Taxation

The six recommended Democratic BET candidates are a mix of incumbents and new faces, all with decades of banking and finance leadership positions, as well as town government and volunteer experience.

The incumbents running for re-election were Leslie Moriarty, David Weisbrod an Stephen Selbst.

The three new candidates recommended by the nominating committee were Elliot Alchek, Matt DesChamps and Scott Kalb.

Mr. Moor explained that the six candidates will be on the BET. However, he explained, “The key thing is, whichever party gets more votes in total for their candidates gets the tie-breaking vote, and historically for 98 of the last 100 years, it’s been the Republicans.”

Moor said this year there was dissatisfaction at the lack of bi-partisanship and the use of tie-breaking votes of by the Republican party who control the BET.

Matt DesChamps was unable to attend the meeting, but send a statement pledging transparency and clarity.

He pledged to champion sound financial planning that addresses both the current and longer term capital requirements of the town.

“Such a comprehensive plan will best protect tax payers by addressing funding needs with all available financial resources and halt the current short-term, kick-the-can-down-the-road approach that has resulted in diminished public services and ballooning capital project postponements that cost taxpayers significantly and deny our community long overdue municipal improvements.”

Elliot Alchek from Old Greenwich is a recommended candidate for BET. June 14, 2023

Mr. Moor introduced BET candidate Elliot Alchek, who has an extensive financial management experience, especially in municipal finance.

Mr. Alchek said his family had been grateful for the outpouring of support when their house in Old Greenwich burned down during Hurricane Sandy.

“That had a big effect on our lives and also my desire to try to give back,” he said. “I’d never been interested in politics until DJT won the election in 2016.”

Alchek has an undergraduate degree in finance from Wharton School at U Penn, went through the credit training program at what is now JP Morgan, and graduated with honors with an MBA from the University Chicago.

“My honors thesis was on an econometric model on municipal bond yields,” he said. “I knew early on that I was focused on municipals.”

Achek went on to spend nearly 20 years at Goldman Sachs, mostly in municipal business. He added that over the years he had traded hundreds of billions of municipal bonds, including in the state of Connecticut.

“When I heard how the town’s finances were run, I literally could not believe it. Virtually every school district in the US issues 30-year debt to finance their schools. The Town of Greenwich issues five-year maximum debt. That’s crazy.”

Lastly he said, “Delay, plus inflation, equals higher costs and higher taxes. But it’s the exact opposite here.”

“As for capital expenses for schools. You’re being asked to pay right now and the people who are going to enjoy the benefits of the school system for years to come are not paying,” he said. “That’s why when I was at this meeting months ago, 75% of the people at that meeting were screaming, ‘Give us our schools.'”

Scott Kalb was recommended to be a candidate for the Board of Estimate and Taxation. June 14, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager

Recommended BET candidate Scott Kalb, who has lived in Greenwich for 24 years and raised four children here, said it would be critical to appeal to the ‘moderate middle’ in the upcoming election.

On the RTM the past four years, Kalb said, “I’ve been beating my head against the extremist right wing Patriot, MAGA, libertarian group we face off against.”

“This year we have defeated them on about 80% of the issues that have come before us. They are in trouble,” he said.

Referring to the recent attempt to rescind an RTM vote, he said, “We’ve been able to appeal to the moderate middle, and get them to join us. That’s what we have to do in November.”

Mr. Kalb said the current Republican controlled BET had underfunded school budgets, infrastructure, town services and equipment, public parks, libraries, public servants.

“All in relentless pursuit of cutting mill rates, no matter the cost to our quality of life or the future of our children. The sad thing is they have no long-term plan or strategy to face our future funding needs,” he said. “The bill is going to come due.”

Joe Huley is the recommended candidate to run for Tax Collector. June 14, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager

Tax Collector Joe Huley

The recommended candidate for Tax collector is Joe Huley, currently a member of the Board of Assessment Appeals and a volunteer firefighter.

Mr. Huley said he lives in the house he grew up in in Banksville and was both a volunteer firefighter and EMT. He previously served on the RTM.

“I think we have a good shot this year,” he said.

Board of Education

For Board of Education the nominating committee recommended two candidates: incumbent Karen Hirsh and Sophie Koven, who is a lawyer and professional mediator who lives in Riverside. She is the parent of four children, two who graduated GHS, one at GHS, and one in third grade at Riverside School.

Recommended Candidates:

First Selectperson: Laura Erickson
Selectperson: Janet Stone McGuigan (incumbent)

Town Clerk: Lucy von Brachel

Tax Collector: Joe Huley

Board of Estimation and Taxation
Leslie Moriarty (incumbent)
David Weisbrod (incumbent)
Stephen Selbst (incumbent)
Elliot Alchek
Matt DesChamps
Scott Kalb

Board Of Education
Karen Hirsh (incumbent)
Sophie Koven

Board of Assessment Appeals
Joe Huley (incumbent)
Bill Grad (incumbent)

Donnie Romeo (incumbent)
Dawn Fortunato (incumbent)

More on the Democratic candidates is available here.