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Endorsement: Tesei, Marzullo, Toner for selectmen

November 5, 2017 GMT

During recent debates, incumbent First Selectman Peter Tesei has been unable to resist trying to summon sound bites about his rival Sandy Litvack’s tenure as vice chairman of the Board of Directors at Walt Disney Co., referring to his economic development plan as “pixie dust” while declaring that “Greenwich is not the Magic Kingdom.”

Litvack resisted such phrases himself, save for a perhaps unintentional reference as he offered a view through “the looking glass,” coined by Lewis Carroll and introduced to generation after generation by Disney.

As Tesei pursues a record sixth term, it’s worth considering a view through the looking glass that would put Litvack at the helm.

The Democrat is arguably the most accomplished person to ever seek this office. His Disney tenure is but one highlight on his resume. He previously served as U.S. assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, and was one of the best-known litigators in New York before his years in California.

On a campaign trail he is exploring for the first time in his 80 years, Litvack has spoken of bringing his management skills to the daily operations of the Town of Greenwich, and using the pulpit to yield better results from outside town borders. He promises to deliver a visionary economic plan he feels has been lacking under Tesei’s watch.

The Republican knock on Litvack is that he has only voted in a single election during his 11 years in town. Litvack graciously acknowledges the shortcoming, saying President Donald Trump’s election served as a political wake-up call for him. But it remains a fair criticism. While Litvack is a rookie at political engagement, Tesei has been serving town voters since he was elected to the Representative Town Meeting at 18 in 1987. If Litvack wins the resume battle, Tesei has been tireless in his commitment to public service.

During his 10 years in office, Tesei has defined himself by his work ethic and passion for championing the whole of Greenwich, recognizing its often-overlooked diversity and collaborating with residents in disparate neighborhoods. He has been fiscally responsible and seeks to guide the conversation to improve Greenwich’s infrastructure.

The League of Women Voters’ recent Board of Selectmen debate underscored the absurdities of the election process. Democrat Selectman Drew Marzullo and Republican Selectman John Toner hold responsibilities that are distinct from those of the first selectman’s office, so in theory they should be considered unopposed incumbents (and certainly shouldn’t “debate” the other candidates). Yet one of them can be dismissed by the runner-up in the Tesei-Litvack race. Confused? We don’t blame you. Voters get one choice in each race, but the three-member board is made up of the first selectman winner and the top two vote-getters among the remaining three candidates.

We’re not convinced either candidate for the higher office has any interest in the consolation prize, seats Toner and Marzullo have served well while expressing no desire for promotions. Adding to this Rubik’s Cube is that Marzullo faces stunning charges for shoplifting, which has resulted in fissures within his party. Marzullo’s stellar service to the community has earned our support. It would be easy for him to drop out given the glare of the spotlight during troubling times in his personal life, but he deserves points for his willingness to serve despite his detractors.

Toner, meanwhile, remains a dignified presence on the board, serving as a reliable wingman for Tesei. Toner and Marzullo should remain in their positions.

While we would welcome Litvack serving as first selectman, and applaud him for running, we endorse Tesei for his track record, experience and passion for his hometown.

Litvack has the potential to bring an outsider’s perspective to Greenwich, which has a nagging tradition of being insular. Litvack has also been unflappable, presenting himself with a poise that has remained elusive for Tesei despite his years in public office. Those are views though the looking glass we hope Tesei can consider.