Leading the Republican ticket in the November municipal election are Jennifer Tooker, left, the first selectman candidate, and Andrea Moore, selectman candidate. / Photo by Thane Grauel

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — Two Republicans running for the town’s top elected jobs held a meet-and-greet Friday with a focus on the local economy.

Jennifer Tooker, the first selectman candidate on the Republican line in the Nov. 2 election, with running mate Andrea Moore, hosted the gathering outside Saugatuck Sweets. 

Tooker looked back four years, when as First Selectman Jim Marpe’s running mate, she was elected selectman when Marpe won a second term as the town’s chief executive.

“I said to Jim early on, the piece I want to own of the administration is to support the local economy, get to know and understand our business owners and what their challenges are,” Tooker said, “and really make sure Westport is a place where people want to start and own a business.”

She said she went around town introducing herself to business owners, and talking with them about their concerns. She said many were bothered by the perception that Westport does not have many local businesses, and that locals didn’t support them. 

And, Tooker added, business owners work so hard they rarely have a day off, and therefore little time to network with other businesses owners or find support.

So, she told the crowd, they launched the “Westport Means Business” series of events.

“It was very successful, pre-pandemic, and we’re about to relaunch it now,” she said.

Tooker had a 22-year career in the insurance business that took her around the country and overseas.

In 2008, she settled in Westport, with her husband, an insurance exec she met at a Gen Re training session. They’ve since had three kids, and planted their family flag firmly in Westport. Tooker recently helped her elderly parents to move here from Georgia.

After settling in Westport, Tooker immersed herself in local government, serving on the Conservation Commission, as chair of the Audit Subcommittee, and as a member of the Boards of Education and Finance, before winning the second selectman seat.

“I knew this was going to be home,” she said. “I really wanted to get involved and start to give back.”

Marpe isn’t running for re-election this year, and Tooker announced her bid to succeed him in April. 

State Rep. Jonathan Steinburg, D-136, is running for first selectman on the Democratic ticket with Candice Savin, the Board of Education chairwoman.

On the Libertarian line, TJ Elgin, who runs an agricultural nonprofit and is a brewmaster, is running for first selectman with running mate Louis D’Onfrio, a nurse practitioner who was formerly clinical director for the Westport-Weston Health District.

The Tooker/Moore campaign website lists as priorities leadership, maintaining world class schools, the local economy, finding solutions to traffic, enhancing the town’s beaches and parks, creating a culture of belonging, making Westport a leader in environmental stewardship and financial responsibility.

Tooker also served on the board of the Women’s Business Development Council, which provides support and training to current and aspiring entrepreneurs statewide.

Local voters listen to GOP candidates Andrea Moore and Jennifer Tooker, seated at right, during a meet-and-greet Friday outside Saugatuck Sweets. / Photo by Thane Grauel

On Friday, the topic of whether Westport needs a full-time economic development coordination came up. Tooker said that, unlike some municipalities, Westport doesn’t have large empty office buildings that need to be repurposed, so having someone do it part time makes more sense.

“I think focusing on having someone on our relationships with our businesses is critical,” she said. “If I’m elected, you get that.”

When asked what drew Moore to public service, she simply said: “I love Westport, I grew up here.”

Moore is a Westporter from the ground up, wending her way through Kings Highway School, Bedford Middle School and Staples High, before a career in investment banking. 

She is the parent of a senior, junior and freshman daughter in the town’s public schools.

She got involved in the PTA, and then, she said, some friends involved in the Representative Town Meeting approached her about running for a seat

“Long meetings, yeah, but it was a great background for this. On the RTM we learn about all the different pieces of the town, and the appropriations, and balancing priorities, not only on the town side but on the education side. 

“It was a great introduction to town government,” she said.

Then when Tooker ran for selectman with Marpe four years ago, Moore ran for the Board of Finance. She is the body’s vice chairman.

Learn more about the Tooker/Moore campaign here

For information about the competing candidates’ campaigns, visit the Steinberg/Savin website here and the Elgin/D’Onofrio campaign here.