Tesei to run for another term
GREENWICH — Peter Tesei plans to run for a seventh term as Greenwich’s top elected official, the first selectman told a Chamber of Commerce audience Monday.
Tesei, who was first elected in 2007, has another year left in his current term. At the end of his State of the Town speech on Monday afternoon, he answered a question from the audience about his political plans for the future.
“I like what I do and I enjoy it very much, otherwise I would not be here today,” Tesei said before his audience at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Old Greenwich. “If you’re asking me today, I would like to continue to do what I do but the election is about a year away. My answer today, if you’re asking me, is ‘yes.’”
After the speech, Tesei confirmed his intention is to run for another term. He was elected easily in his first five races but saw his margin of victory shrink significantly in 2017. He had won with 75 percent of the vote in 2015 but in last year’s election he defeated his Democratic challenger Sandy Litvack by less than a thousand votes.
Tesei revealed his intentions after a speech declaring the state of the town to be “strong and unified,” which he attributed to the civic engagement of Greenwich residents.
“Our people are involved through the institutions and organizations that support our community life,” Tesei said. “They also have, in collaboration with us, a shared vision and plan to continue to move our town forward. While we are living in a time of division fueled by the 24/7 news that can be communicated to people with the click of a button. I believe we are fortunate to say that in Greenwich we have thrived because we have been united on doing what’s best for Greenwich, irrespective of outside influences and trends.”
The first selectman also did acknowledge the challenges facing the town, noting what could be a difficult upcoming budget year. The Board of Estimate and Taxation last week passed guidelines for the upcoming 2019-20 budget that set the stage for a possible mill rate increase between 2.25 and 3.25 percent. For the current year, the town was able to pass a municipal budget without an increase in the mill rate.
“That’s going to be something collective for all of us in this room,” Tesei told his audience. “The BET, the RTM and citizens are going to have to decide what type of service levels are you willing to pay for. What kind of service levels are you willing to relinquish in exchange for keeping your mill rate at a steady and predictable level? It’s not an easy decision, but it’s a decision that’s at the core of the value of our community. We’re going to need to have an honest, difficult but direct dialogue. I know we’re going to do just fine because we always have.”
The ongoing work on the town’s 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development, which is set to be finalized and voted upon in 2019, was another topic of Tesei’s talk. He said he can see competing visions out there for the POCD, which will be a challenge in determining a direction for the town.
“Our communities are seeing transformation,” Tesei said. “You can’t pick up the paper or go online without seeing the ongoing debate between those who are trying to preserve the character of Greenwich and those who are looking to modernize it and provide amenities and living arrangements that are tailored to modern life. That’s the balance, and the balance is something that we all strive for. It is at the heart of our neighborhoods.”
Tesei did not specifically mention a proposal to potentially increase the floor-area-ratio limits for public and private schools, which has drawn pushback, but he stressed the importance of the town’s schools.
“Education is what brings people to Greenwich,” Tesei said. “So my message today is while we want to support and listen to the neighbors’ concerns, we also want to recognize the schools are the lifeblood of this town. They bring youth and vitality and they provide the next generation.”
He praised the ongoing project to build a new building for New Lebanon School, calling it transformative, and adding he thinks in 10 to 20 years people will say, “Thank goodness Greenwich made that decision and thank goodness we made that investment” because it will bring economic vitality to the neighborhood and to western Greenwich.
As part of his remarks, Tesei pointed to several citizen-led initiatives that have been approved, including a ban on one-time-use plastic bags and a ban on the use of fracking waste in town. He praised those who got involved and led the way in making the initiatives successful, saying their hard work is what Greenwich is all about, praise he also shared for the town’s non-profits and their volunteers.
Tesei additionally singled out partnerships residents have made with the town to advocate for veterans, increase accessibility for the disabled, promote diversity and advance economic development. Tesei said he was particularly proud of his Economic Advisory Council, which he said has become “an incubator of ideas” that have improved life in Greenwich, including through improvements to the town permitting process.