Kent first selectman touts sustainability initiatives, COVID management in her reelection campaign

Kent First Selectman Jean Speck

Kent First Selectman Jean Speck

/ Jean Speck

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four profiles on the first selectmen candidates in Kent.

KENT — Incumbent First Selectman Jean Speck said she has managed a number of large issues during her first term in office — including the pandemic.

“Management of the complex, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a primary focus for all town chief elected officials in the last 19 months,” Speck said. “I have been an outspoken advocate for my community, including bringing a state-sponsored test site to Kent.”

Speck, a Democrat, has been first selectman since 2019. She’s running against Rufus de Rham, a petitioning candidate who is unaffiliated; Selectman Ed Matson, a Republican; and James E. Rundall, a petitioning candidate.

In this year’s municipal elections, she is one of only four women running for the highest elected offices at the local level in the Danbury area — making up just 18 percent of the total candidate pool of those vying for mayor and first selectman.

In her time as first selectman, she said she has focused on creating a more sustainable future for Kent.

“I was one of the first towns to join the CT Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management. I brought the town transfer station into state regulatory compliance,” she said. “I worked with Housatonic Regional Resources Authority to add glass recycling as part of a pilot program and created the Kent Sustainability Team, a local advocacy committee that is creating actionable change based on the statewide Sustainable CT programming.”

Additionally, Speck said she has focused on community engagement during her tenure.

“I redesigned the monthly community newsletter, began utilizing social media as a communications pathway, created ‘Community Conversations’ which is a more in-depth single-topic communication, and adopted a model I experienced in my work in state government of topic-specific subcommittees made up of resident volunteers to address topics such as noise and traffic, broadband-for-all and the municipal affordable housing plan due to OPM next year.”

Speck said she recognized the need for investment in Kent’s emergency management.

“I built a new team and created the first-ever Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT), and I’m improving the town’s cybersecurity posture,” she said.

If elected for a second term, Speck said she plans to continue to educate residents on preparing for weather emergencies.

“We know the effects of climate change will continue to bring more dynamic and extreme weather our way,” Speck said. “Educating our residents on ways to prepare and stay safe before a weather emergency hits actually helps the entire town be more resilient.”

She will also continue to focus on technology-related initiatives, “including a nearly-complete project to move data and documents to a virtual storage model” to better protect the town’s data from cybersecurity attacks, she said.

“Every week, I read about ransomware and other cybersecurity attacks on municipalities across the country,” she said. “The message that is repeated is ‘it’s a matter of when, not if’ and I will continue to work with state and federal partners to improve our cybersecurity posture to better protect our infrastructure in the case of an attack.”

Speck recently received the green light from the Board of Selectmen to form a Broadband Committee, which, she said, will make recommendations on capabilities, infrastructure and funding needed to bring fiber to every home in Kent.

“The pandemic has shown us that it’s time we treat internet connectivity as a utility, not an accessory. The digital delivery of education, communications, and even healthcare should not be dependent on how long your driveway is or what your income level is,” Speck said. “Reliable internet can also make interacting with town government more convenient to all residents.”

Speck and her family have lived in Kent for 24 years. She and her husband Tedd Speck have two adult children.

If re-elected, she plans to continue “to ensure Kent continues the delicate balance of growth and resiliency through a sustainable, engaged and prepared community.”