FAIRFIELD — Brenda Kupchick is the second-ever elected female chief executive of the town.

Kupchick, who has officially decided to go by First Selectwoman, follows in the footsteps of Jacquelyn “Jacky” Durrell, the beloved First Selectman of Fairfield who served in the office for 10 years, from 1983-1993.

According to an obituary published in the Connecticut Post after her passing in 2009, Durrell was known for her commitment to making Fairfield accessible to all. She helped establish the Operation Hope homeless shelter, the Senior Center, group homes for the mentally ill and affordable housing in town.

Kupchick has cited Durrell as a role model. And as the second First Selectwoman of Fairfield, she hopes to be a similarly unifying force for the town.

“[Durrell] led compassionately. She cared about helping people who were having a tough time,” Kupchick said. “That’s how I see myself.”

Kupchick said she believes women bring a unique compassion to leadership that makes them well-suited for the job.

“I just think women are naturally more nurturing and compassionate — mothers mostly,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that women aren’t tough, because they are.”

Kupchick aspires to be a role model for young women and girls in Fairfield. She also hopes to emulate some of Durrell’s strategies for showing how much she cared about the town and its employees — such as giving out awards for 10 years of service in town government.

“I want to do those things, like Jacky did,” Kupchick said, “She was so respected and loved, and I want to do that. The highest compliment you can pay is to imitate someone.”

Kupchick and Durrell do indeed share similar stories. Both Republican women began their political careers working their ways up through the Board of Education and state legislature.

Kupchick said people often compared her to Durrell during her time in those roles, noting that she had Durrell’s combination of fieriness and compassion.

And the similarities don’t stop there. In the First Selectman election, both women wrested control of long-Democratic seats by landslide margins.

According to a Nov. 9, 1983 article in the Fairfield Citizen, Durrell took the seat of retiring 24-year First Selectman John J. Sullivan, beating Democratic RTM member G. William Smakal by almost 4,000 votes and winning 12 out of 14 districts at the time.

“Durrell made local electoral history on two counts: she will be the first woman to hold Fairfield’s chief executive post and the first Republican to capture the town’s top job in 24 years,” the Citizen wrote.

“Selectman Durrell piled up huge pluralities in the town’s traditional GOP strongholds, and managed to embarrass the Democratic ticket in many of its east-side bastions,” added the Citizen.

Kupchick seemed to repeat history in her almost 3,000-vote victory over eight-year incumbent Democrat Mike Tetreau on Nov. 5. Like Durrell, Kupchick managed to win over historically Democratic voters, gaining the majority in nine of 10 districts.

A third woman, Selectman Sherri Steeneck, served as Acting First Selectman for just over a month after Kenneth Flatto resigned in 2011. Steeneck did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kupchick will be sworn in as the second elected First Selectwoman of Fairfield on Monday, Nov. 25.

rscharf@hearstmediact.com