A year in review: Westport and Weston’s top 10 stories from 2021 💥👩👩💥

Throughout the last year, Westport and Weston has been home to many big stories — from the fallout to the pandemic to making local history. In the same vein, residents of both towns witnessed shocking and devastating news and have battled through unimaginable adversity.

Jennifer Tooker and Andrea Moore win election

Republican candidates Jennifer Tooker and Andrea Moore defeated Democrats Jonathan Steinberg and Candice Savin, as well as Libertarian candidates TJ Elgin and Louis D’Onofrio in the Novemeber election. Tooker and Moore ran on a platform of dealing with the pandemic fallout, local government control, addressing affordable housing, finding a solution to traffic and making Westport more resilient overall.

Controversy erupted over who the third selectman should be after Steinberg declined to take the seat following the election. Elgin argued he was the rightful candidate based on the town charter and state statute since he was the only other first selectman candidate. He filed a lawsuit against the town, claiming his right to the seat, but it was ultimately withdrawn. The Democratic Town Committee believed that as the defeated party with the next highest number of votes, they get to fill the spot.

The town attorney said Elgin was not “entitled” to that seat and since Steinberg declined the seat, the town was dealing with a vacancy, which meant Tooker and Moore had to fill the position with a member of the same party as Steinberg.


After in-fighting amongst the DTC, the group unamiously endorsed Savin for the third seat and on Nov. 23, Westport made local history making it the first time all three of Westport’s selectmen seats are filled by women.

Mother, daughter homicide-suicide stuns community

Around mid-June, Westport was home to “a shocking tragedy,” when police responded to a Lyndale Park home after a report of a “unresponsive female.” The police found the bodies of a woman and 7-year-old girl in the house.

The two victims were identified as 46-year-old Tracy Do and her daughter, Layla Malon.

According to Dr. James Gill, the state’s chief medical examiner, Do died by suicide. Gill said Layla Malon died from drowning, and ruled her death a homicide.

Layla Malon’s death marked Westport’s first homicide in nearly 10 years. According to FBI data, the last two homicides in Westport prior to that occurred in 1996 and 1991.

Coleytown Middle School reopens

There was a particular buzz at Coleytown Middle School this August as students were welcomed back to their first full year in the building after it was closed for mold issues in 2018. It reopened in January after a $32 million remediation project, however, August was the first time in a while that Coleytown students began the school year in their own building.

CMS staff and students spent the past two years sharing space at Bedford Middle School, which was a situation made even more challenging during due to the pandemic on top of the teachers and students constantly having to switch classes.

Coleytown was treated to a makeover with all new tiles in the hallways, windows replaced throughout the school and a new HVAC system was installed. The library also had a huge overhaul with flexible furniture and new books and the atrium was completely cleaned.

Affordable housing project settled after 18 years

An 18-year saga over a contentious affordable housing project in the Saugatuck neighborhood was finally settled after the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a settlement between the town and Summit Saugatuck LLC in May.

Commissioners and Town Attorney Ira Bloom said the settlement came about because they were worried they would lose the lawsuit in court and this was the way to gain some local control over the project, including scaling it back and adding protections.

A key part of the agreement is it let the town keep its moratorium against proposals filed under the 8-30g state statute, which allows developers to circumvent local zoning laws if a certain percentage of the development has affordable housing.

That law was a main point of contention raised throughout the process because commissioners said it was the only reason this development is being built in this spot. They said the project went against Westport’s zoning and raised concerns about traffic and the size with more than 150 units slated for the neighborhood, largely made up of single-family homes.

The proposal originally called for 187 units, but the commission brought the figure down to 157 during negotiations, eliminating one of the five proposed buildings and requiring some of the units to have three bedrooms to better serve families

Westport rejects police commission review board

The Representative Town Meeting rejected an ordinance that would create a civilian review board to help investigate complaints against police officers in September.

The ordinance, which had been in the works for more than two years, was defeated 32-1, with one abstention. Most RTM members said they were in favor of having greater oversight on the police department, but there were too many issues with the ordinance as it was written.

Under the proposal, the police would have handled the majority of investigations into complaints, while the review board would conduct the interviews and take the sworn testimony of the complainant, the accused police officer and their respective witnesses.

The town currently has a civilian review panel, which was created in 2020 following protests for further police accountability after the murder of George Floyd. Panel members are picked by the first selectman.

The lead petitioner on the proposed ordinance was Jason Stiber, who made headlines back in 2018 when he was given a ticket for distracted driving. The officer claimed Stiber was on his phone. Stiber said he was eating a hash brown, a claim which was later resolved in court in his favor.

Stiber had criticized the panel, saying its powers are limited and there are potential conflicts.

Weston man calls for police change after he says he was racially profiled

Walter Simpson, a Black Weston resident, called for changes within the police department and commission, as well as throughout the community this May, after he said he was racially profiled.

Simpson said he experienced “unnecessary aggressive” behavior from a responding officer and proposed adding community engagement training, a civilian police review panel to oversee complaints and a false alarm ordinance that would penalize people for making false 911 reports. He said all of these are directly connected to address his experience so it doesn’t happen again and “for the safety of all Black people” in town.

The incident happened in November 2019. Simpson was at his mailbox at the end of their road where he waited everyday for his children to get off the school bus. This particular day he arrived there before the rest of the parents on the street. While he was checking his mail, a white woman called 911 and reported a suspicious man.

A police officer arrived while Simpson was waiting for his daughter and confronted him, questioning if Simpson lived there. He said for him, the officer’s hand was a little too close to his gun and only backed down once one of Simpson’s white neighbors intervened and addressed Simpson by name.

More than 50 people spoke during a commission meeting, which lasted about 3 1/2 hours. It had to be rescheduled because so many people wanted to join the meeting after a letter to the editor describing Simpson’s experience and asking people to come out and support him, exceeding the commission’s usual 100-person Zoom cap.

Dozens of residents who spoke at the meeting expressed frustration at how it took 17 months for this incident to come to light, with some calling for the commissioners to resign and for the police chief to be fired.

Westport returns to in-person, experience busing issues

Westport schools returned to full in-person learning this year after going remote and then hybrid due to the pandemic.

One challenge has been bus driver shortages that have created issues with reliable and consistent transportation. What started off as concerns about drop off times at the elementary level gradually evolved to impact all schools.

Dattco, Westport’s transportation provider, lost nine drivers, a dispatcher and the operations supervisor at the beginning of the school year, Superintendent Thomas Scarice said. This caused several problems in the district and ultimately led to Dattco reallocating staff from other locations to assign more people to Westport. The school district then reduced the number of bus routes from 57 to 51, requiring six fewer drivers.

Scarice said condensing the routes helped get most of the buses back on time and, despite some struggles remaining, he’s been “encouraged” by the progression.

In November, Scarice said 14 drivers are currently in the queue to come to Westport. The district will consider returning to the original routes once there’s a full roster of drivers, but that is not expected to happen for months.

A group of Westport Parents emerge opposing CRT

A group of 37 anonymous parents, Westport Parents 06880, formed in June and launched a website to raise awareness to what it claims was an “increasing focus” on racism in the town’s schools and community.

“We are united to keep our schools focused on academic achievement,” the group states on its website. “We reject political activism and moralizing intrusions into the classroom.”

Then First Selectman Jim Marpe said that while the group used the address for Westport Town Hall as its mailing address, “it has nothing to do with the official operations of the town and is not physically based in Town Hall,” adding it was unclear if it was even based in Westport despite the name.

The site pointed to Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice’s strategic plan, which “asserted that institutional and systemic racism are a significant problem in Westport, and that an Equity Audit was necessary to determine the level of racism as well as to propose remedial measures going forward.”

Harold Bailey Jr., chair of TEAM Westport, called the group and its website “an invitation to cultural toxicity.”

Amazon possibly replacing former Barnes and Noble building

The possibility of an Amazon Fresh coming to Westport came up at a public meeting this fall that discussed an unnamed grocery store replacing the former Barnes & Noble location at 1076 Post Road East.

Christopher McLean, an engineer from Langan CT, gave a presentation about the traffic study at the proposed redevlopment locations, however, he did not confirm whether it would be an Amazon Fresh. He did say the applicant is aiming to open the store in 2022.

Art Schoeller, president of the Greens Farms Association, said “it’s kind of the worst kept secret that it’s Amazon.”

Within the last year, Amazon Fresh stores have been rumored to be coming to several different Connecticut locations.

Weston first selectman resigning for health issues

First Selectman Christopher Spaulding resigned this year before his term ended, citing health concerns. Then Second Selectwoman Samantha Nestor assumed his duties beginning Aug. 2.

Spaulding announced his resignation during an emotional, virtual Board of Selectmen meeting this summer. He didn’t elaborate on his issues, except to say “I’m good. Everything’s stable, but I need to keep it that way.”

Prior to the announcement of his resignation, Spaulding, a Democrat, said he would not seek a third term because he wished to spend more time with his family. He said he regretted not being able to finish out his term, but had faith in Nestor and other town officials to carry on in his stead.

Nestor was officially elected to the job by Weston residents, beating Republican candidate Kirby Brendsel.

Honorable mention: Weston Market closing

Peter’s Weston Market closed this January after years of declining revenue, a monthslong eviction process and dealing with the fallout of the pandemic.

The Weston market operated in town for nearly 50 years and became sort of a “right of passage” for the family owned business. It was also located in a plaza with several other businesses, essentially the only area to eat or shop in town.

Owner Jim Magee,posted on the market’s Facebook page in January that they were saddened to announce that the business would be closing its doors permanently at the end of the month. However, he also mentioned that retailers, especially small businesses, have been struggling for the last 15 years and theirs is no exception.

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A year in review: Westport and Weston’s top 10 stories from 2021

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