By Jarret Liotta
WESTPORT — Jonathan Steinberg gets very serious when he starts talking about the primary issues he sees leading his campaign for first selectman — traffic, infrastructure, and the crafting of a downtown that he said for too long has underutilized its key resource with the adjacent Saugatuck River.
“Downtown we have this river, this gem there, that we put our parking lots on,” he told a small gathering last Sunday morning at the Westport home of supporters Ken and Wendy Epstein.
Instead, he’s envisioning a playground, picnic areas, and possibly European-style vendors that set up carts by the riverside, where a water taxi could even do runs to and from the Saugatuck area.
A native of Westport, Steinberg is a well-known figure, primarily from his six-term tenure as the town’s state representative for District 136. Now, alongside running mate Candice Savin, who chairs the Board of Education, he’s leading the Democratic ticket for Westport’s top office.
“Candy and I will be serious leaders,” he said. “This is not about photo opportunities and ribbon cuttings.”
He’s asking Westporters to be “high-information voters and to actually discern the differences.”
“He really gets things done,” Savin said, “which is one of the things that really attracted me to working with Jonathan.”
Steinberg sees his connections at the state level as playing a key role in his ability to create change in Westport, starting with the ever-increasing problem of traffic and the need to involve the Department of Transportation in changes.
“I’ve got a relationship with the DOT,” he said, as well as a series of ideas that he said — when combined — would make a substantial difference in abating Westport’s traffic problem. Among these are real-time signal adjustments and a reimagining of the most congested junctions, such as the infamous triangle at the intersection of Easton and Weston Roads.
Steinberg brought a diverse background into politics. An M.B.A. from New York University’s Stern School of Business, he also holds a teaching certification in history and social studies. The father of three girls — along with his wife, Nancy — he was the deputy moderator of the Representative Town Meeting for three terms before heading up to Hartford.
There he leads the House Democratic Moderates Caucus, and notes both his involvement in implementing fiscal discipline measures, and his work building budget consensus — things he feels aid him in his ability to work with people on both sides of the aisle.
A graduate of Duke University’s School of Law, Savin grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Westport 20 years, along with her husband, Daniel Gross, and their son and daughter. Having served in various PTA roles and with other civic organizations, including The Westport Library, Savin joined the Board of Education in 2016 and became its chair in 2019.
“I don’t know if people fully realize the importance of the selectman’s office,” Savin said, noting it as the focal point to bringing any and all work forward for the town.
“I have such great plans for Westport,” said Steinberg, noting that their campaign slogan — “Making Westport Better Than Ever” — was specifically aimed at not accepting the status quo.
There are issues confronting our town that need to be addressed,” he said, pledging the return of regular “brown bag” lunchtime forums with the first selectman in an effort to augment transparency and better communication with Westporters.
Learn more about the Steinberg/Savin campaign here.