Chris Spaulding is currently First Selectman. He previously served as a member of the Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission, and the Commission for Children and Youth. His Democratic Town Committee biography says he has "a long-term vision to protect Weston’s unique character, improve the quality of life for all residents, and maintain our high performing schools in the face of changing demographics." Dr. Spaulding holds a PhD from Harvard. He and his wife have two children who attend Weston Public Schools. He responded to Weston Today's questions in an interview.
"I've got stuff to finish. We have several complex, critically important projects going on. Particularly the sidewalks, the Fire, Police, dispatch and EMS public safety project, the new Library project, and working with Planning and Zoning to deliver the ten-year Plan of Conservation and Development."
"While we are moving ahead systematically, we are on 'municipal time.' In industry, there's one timeline. Municipal government is deliberately slow, with lots of checks and balances along the way to make sure everything is done right. So, two years was not enough time to get everything done. These are all things that are very, very important to me."
"I also want to make sure we follow through with the commitments we made two years ago, all of which were borne out by the town survey. Things like building a sense of community in Weston, creating an environment where Weston is 'stickier,' meaning that people want to stay here. We've made great strides, but we have a couple more steps to go before I will be comfortable handing it off."
"We're at a time when it's important to understand where Weston wants to go without changing Weston's fundamental nature. We have been coming to this point for a long time, and the long-range town plan may take it to another level. The Plan of Conservation and Development won't change the town's basic character. We will still be two-acre zoned, and the rural but sophisticated nature of the town will be intact."
"But there will probably be some changes in the central district, where the schools and municipal facilities are. I think the consumer district will necessarily have some evolution. Not revolution, evolution, primarily driven by private markets. We won't be building stores, but will create an environment where people who want to build them can, with proper checks and controls. The town won't become something the people don't want."
"The Library project is a big deal for Weston. It will create a centralized hub for arts and education. The school system is fantastic, but it doesn't cover everyone. The new facility will be a place to interact with neighbors and engage in creative pursuits. I'm very excited about it."
"The sidewalks project is a big deal too. We already have one grant in hand and another is approved. We're just waiting for funds to be released. A third grant is also a possibility once federal infrastructure plans are budgeted. With that, we would be able to create a connected, safe corridor to the schools and downtown."
"Then, we will continue to work on developing more everyday amenities like the Weston Flea and Explore Valley Forge. Those got universally positive reviews. Same with the new Town Green Founders Day event. The turnout was fantastic."
"And then there is maybe the biggest item on the table. We have to look at all the School District facility needs and the Town facility needs and figure out how to optimize how we use all the space. That will start soon, with lots of public engagement."
"The fact that I've talked to so many people and worked on all these issues from so many perspectives. When I served on the Conservation Commission I learned all about land use, the statutes, and how to work with citizens who want to get their projects approved. Serving on Children and Youth, I learned where the system is working for kids and families and where there are gaps. As a Selectman, I focused a lot on strategic planning and getting that off the ground."
"Then there is the regional aspect. I've had great success building relationships with other towns, like Westport and Wilton, sharing programs. We share the Juvenile Review Board with Norwalk and Westport. We have a virtual net metering deal with Westport and Wilton that reduces our energy costs."
"We have several other initiatives in the region we're looking at. Weston and Westport are looking into expanding the health district we share. We got a number of our grants passed by working closely with our partners in WestCOG (Western Connecticut Council of Governments). That's never happened before."
"The most important part is not just talking to other people, but listening, too, and finding a way to find common ground."