WESTPORT - The race is on for Westport's highest elected position.
Real estate broker Bruce Ware has announced his candidacy for Westport town supervisor, a post that has been held by Dan Connell for the better part of a decade.
"I've been thinking about doing this for a while," said Ware, who frequently attends town, school, and other community meetings. With his two children soon reaching adulthood, he saw this as the appropriate time to take a more active role.
"I realized that if you want to set the agenda, you really have to be at the head of the table," he said.
Ware, 52, has lived year-round in Westport since 1989 when he and his wife, Carolyn, took over operations at Ernie's Market. In 1993 he became licensed in real estate and has owned Weichert Realtors Venture North Associates since 1996. This will be his first run for an elected public office.
Ware said he's noticed a steady loss of jobs in Westport over the past five years; a trend that he hopes to reverse if elected.
"I'm alarmed at the way things are going, and think I can make a difference for the community," he said.
Ware said he'd like to bring a more proactive approach to town government, using his experience in business to attract more jobs and year-round residents to Westport.
"I hope to get the community more involved with government," said Ware. "The taxpayers are concerned about how their money is being spent."
If elected, Ware said his plan is to continue as a real estate broker, but would take a more hands-off approach to selling homes. He said he had difficulty imagining any situations where there might be a conflict of interests between the two positions.
"My capacity as a realtor is really selling the town of Westport to people who don't know it," he said, noting that he could only benefit by improving conditions in the town. "If there is a conflict, I think you have to identify that, but I don't picture there being one."
Ware will likely face off against another Republican who has thrown his hat into the ring: Bruce Dunning. Ware plans to circulate petitions as an independent candidate and will also seek the endorsement of the Conservative party.
"I have a lot of respect for Dan Connell," Ware added, "but I take exception to the direction the town is going. I think the people want a change."
Now in his fourth term, Connell, 64, has put in his bid for re-election and is looking to continue managing some of the major projects that he's undertaken for the town.
"Basically, I'm running on my record," said Connell, "a record that I think shows a lot of leadership in Westport."
During Connell's administration, more than $10 million in grants and low-interest loans have been secured for town infrastructure such as parks and playgrounds, water and sewer systems, roads, and the architectural planning of a shared municipal garage.
"All of the water and sewer systems, we were told by the state of New York we had to do," said Connell, adding that spending control is another one of his major goals. He said that town staffing levels have been cut by more than a third to that end.
Connell said he hopes to continue oversee the proposed hamlet expansion in Westport so that people who want to settle in the town have more space to build homes.
"If re-elected, I will continue to work to control taxes at both the town and county level," said Connell, "and also to maintain the infrastructure in the town of Westport.
Connell, a retired Essex County Cornell Cooperative Extension agent, said he intends to remain a full-time town supervisor if re-elected, and will continue to debate issues he feels are important at the county level.
"I think sometimes people forget that's part of the job," he said.