First Selectman Jayme Stevenson announced Wednesday night that she’ll be leaving office after 10 years at the head of Darien’s town government: She won’t be running for a sixth term. Early Wednesday evening, Stevenson sent out a news release titled: “Jayme Stevenson, Darien’s First Selectman, will not seek 6th term.” She concluded the announcement by saying: “For me, I’m closing this chapter. As new doors open, there may be different ways for me to continue to show my love and commitment to our incredible town. It’s been a privilege of a lifetime to serve as your first selectman for the past decade.
Monica McNally was unanimously chosen by the Board of Selectmen to be Darien’s newest member of the board, filling in the seat left empty by Christa McNamara — who, as the new town clerk, administered the oath of office to McNally. About 11 other people attended the meeting, including her husband and members of the Representative Town Meeting. “I’m truly honored to be selected for this position,” McNally said in a soft voice after the swearing-in. “I recognize, from my work on the RTM how much the Board of Selectmen does, and I’m really looking forward to working with this team of great people. “On the other hand —” at this point, apparently overcome with emotion, she turned around and put her hand up for a couple of seconds, then quickly turned back around and said, “You can cut that, Jim,” referring to Jim Cameron, apparently operating the Darien TV79 camera recording the meeting.
The Darien Republican Town Committee announced Thursday that it has nominated Representative Town Meeting member Monica McNally to fill the seat on the Board of Selectmen being vacated by Christa McNamara, who will become town clerk. “I would like to thank the Republican Town Committee for their support in nominating me,” McNally said in an announcement from the committee. “I am honored to be considered for the open seat on the Board of Selectmen and I look forward to interviewing for this position with the board in the near future.”
The GOP town committee interviewed and confirmed McNally in a special meeting on May 24. “Throughout their years of service to the people of Darien, Monica and Christa have each shown themselves to be thoughtful, hardworking, competent and collaborative,” said Alexander Davidson, the RTC chairman. The Board of Selectmen gets first crack at appointing its fifth member.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson sent this statement to Darienite.com, referring to Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral:
“Ms. Feral is correct in that I was attempting to appeal to her sense of public safety. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the conversation when she hung up after calling me ‘ridiculous’ for suggesting a child could catch a tire on the heaving sidewalk and fall into the street in that heavily trafficked area. I love trees too but the safety of our residents will always come first.”
Stevenson also said in an email to concerned residents of the Littlebrook Road area: “No tree removal work will occur until 1) we walk the street again with Eversource, 2) a public hearing is held and 3) a replanting plan is presented to stakeholders, including Little Brook residents impacted by the planned removals.” UPDATE, 12:58 p.m.:
Friends of Animals sent Darienite.com this statement quoting the organization’s president, Priscilla Feral, referring to her talk with First Selectman Jayme Stevenson about tree removal:
“I agree the conversation did not go well. However there wasn’t any name calling.
The League of Women Voters of Darien invites the community to its Annual Meeting to be held online on June 2 at 7 p.m.
Patricia Russo , executive director of the Campaign School at Yale will address the topic “Lessons Learned: Tales from the Campaign Trail.” — an announcement from the Darien League of Women Voters
The program will be hosted by the Darien Library and is free and open to the public. You can register here through the Darien Library website. Russo is a nationally respected leader focused on achieving political parity in the United States and the world. For over 30 years she has held numerous leadership positions in the public, private and not for profit organizations centered on gender equality.
Christa McNamara, a Republican member of the Board of Selectman, was appointed Monday night to the vacant position of Town Clerk from June 1, 2021 through Jan. 3, 2022. The position has been vacant since Caryn Diller’s death on Nov. 14, 2020 from glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer. The board’s vote was 4 to 0 in favor, with McNamara abstaining.
The Swap Shop at the Darien Transfer Station and Recycling Center is opening Monday for the first time since the pandemic closed it, town officials have announced, and they’ve explained why the shop won’t be open on Saturdays yet. The town Department of Public Works announced that the Swap Shop will now be open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
DPW Director Edward Gentile said in an email Thursday that “the additional hours and days could be expanded further to include more hours and even Saturdays once we are back open and running during the week,” he said in an email Thursday. “The crowds have been larger and volunteers fewer. […] We are always looking for volunteers.” He said the idea for keeping the Swap Shop closed on Saturdays came from Craig Flaherty, chairman of the town Advisory Committee on Sustainability. Flaherty returned a phone call asking for comment late on Friday.
The Carriage Barn Arts Center will open an exhibit, May 27, “She Is Rising,” a celebration of women of various ages, backgrounds and ethnicities — some captured from life, and others imagined — who represent female power. — an announcement from LiveGirl
LiveGirl, a co-sponsor of the exhibit, also will host a “celebratory event” outside the Carriage Barn on Friday, June 4. “Family Fun Friday” is a “celebration of female power and the arts” featuring carnival games, an art scavenger hunt, cocktails, Flaco’s Taco Truck, Darien artist/activist TL Duryea “completing a masterpiece,” live music by Melissa Wasserman. Family Fun Friday runs from 5 to 7 p.m., June 4. Tickets are $25 and available here, on the LiveGirl website.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, in her latest pandemic update Thursday, reported COVID-19 was found in only two-thirds of a percent of all COVID-19 tests of town residents over the past two-weeks. And there wasn’t a single case in the past week. She was careful in describing how good the shrinkage in the coronavirus is, saying she’s “very pleased and cautiously optimistic” about the low numbers. Stevenson also provided a list of vaccine providers. Her full message is attached, along with the town Health Department’s weekly report.
While Friends of Animals’ work extends internationally, Monday morning it hit close to home—literally outside a window of the organization’s downtown Darien headquarters at the corner of Sedgwick Avenue and the Post Road. “A crew from the Darien Public Works Department began the removal of the first of four HEALTHY trees abutting sidewalks around our office building,” a news release from the animal advocacy organization said. “Friends of Animals’ staff stood in front of the second 100-year-old tree, forcing the crew to stop what they were doing and leave until town officials could hear FoA’s reasons for opposing the dreadful plan.” At least one tree was removed by the DPW, and a tree remains on Sedgewick Avenue. The remaining tree now has a sign on it, saying, “Removing this healthy tree is a crime against nature and humanity.”
The Darien Transfer Station and Recycling Center is reopening the Swap Shop starting this Monday, May 10, the town Department of Public Works announced. The shop, located in the dump at 126 Ledge Road, will remain closed on Saturdays but be open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Please note that COVID-19 social distancing rules remain in full force and effect,” the DPW announcement said. UPDATE: DPW officials could not say why the Swap Shop will remain closed on Saturday, although Edward Gentile, director of public works, said the reopening had been initiated by Craig Flaherty, chairman of the town Advisory Committee on Sustainability. Gentile said that as more volunteers are found or come forward to staff the Swap Shop, it could open later:
“The additional hours and days could be expanded further to include more hours and even Saturdays once we are back open and running during the week,” he said in an email Thursday. “The crowds have been larger and volunteers fewer. […] We are always looking for volunteers
Darienite.com left a message for Craig Flaherty early Thursday afternoon.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill will provide a detailed explanation of how our state protects election integrity during an online talk from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., this Thursday, April 29. — an announcement from Darien Library and the Darien League of Women Voters
Merrill will also talk about how the state assists voters in casting their ballots — before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2020 elections may be over, but our questions about voting aren’t. What are the reasons for our existing rules? How did we manage the increase in absentee ballots in our last election? Why should voters trust our system?
The Darien Department of Public Works has hired a consultant to perform planned inspections of the sewage collection system in the central and east-central areas of town, starting Friday, April 9 and running through mid-June, the department announced late Friday afternoon. — an announcement from the Darien DPW
Expect to see work along these roads, as well as their side streets (also, see the map accompanying this announcement):
Southern Mansfield Ave.;
Southern Brookside Rd;
Old Kings Hwy South;
Old Kings Hwy North; and,
Side streets and connectors in these areas. The work will continue for eight weeks through mid-June 2021. Town government personnel will accompany the consultants at all times while this work is performed. Most work is scheduled for the daytime hours. Some work on the Post Road will occur at night, and Darien police will be made aware of any nighttime activity.
You may see or hear activity in these areas. There is no action required on your part. No one will need access to your home as part of this work.
The Board of Finance unanimously approved a $152.7 million operating budget, which would increase the mill rate to $16.84 a 3.15% increase from this year’s $16.33 if the Representative Town Meeting on May 10 passes the spending and tax plan unchanged. The board had received spending proposals from the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education which would have increased taxes by 7.32% Finance Board Chairman Jon Zagrodzky said at the board’s Tuesday night meeting. “Nobody likes a tax increase,” Zagrodzky said, but after to the “scary” budget proposals sent to the Board of Finance, the 3.15% mill rate increase “is much more palatable than what we started with, and not completely out of line, given the mill rate increases we’ve seen in the past. “But also, frankly, the expenditures that both boards [Education and Selectmen] are having to make, not just for operations, but for things like debt service,” he said. “So when you take all that into account, my general view is that we’ve ended up in a very good place — if you, again, think of everything from the union contract increases to COVID spending to general operating increases across the board.
The League of Women Voters of Darien has scheduled several programs of interest to the community this Spring:
A further discussion about the future of Darien within Fairfield County; a discussion about voter access and the security of the voting system with the secretary of the state; and a discussion with leaders of several town government boards. — an announcement from the League of Women Voters of Darien
All will be held online and are free and open to the public. In addition to these three programs, the Darien League’s annual meeting at 7 p.m., June 2 will feature as its keynote speaker Patti Russo, executive director of the Campaign School at Yale University. The League doesn’t have much information yet on the discussion with leaders of various town boards. The date and time will be announced later.