Kupchick gets up to speed, hires staff in week one as Fairfield First Selectwoman
FAIRFIELD — Brenda Kupchick has been First Selectwoman for just over a week. But she’s already hard at work learning the ropes and filling vacant positions.
The former state representative defeated eight-year incumbent Mike Tetreau in a landslide victory in November on promises of increasing transparency and accountability.
The Fairfield Citizen sat down with Kupchick Tuesday to hear what she’s been up to since being sworn in last Monday.
A lot of that time has been spent getting up to speed. From meeting town staff and volunteers to learning what her duties are during various town events, Kupchick has had her hands full.
“I want to make changes that’ll be positive for our town, but I have to learn the ropes first,” she explained.
And it’s certainly been a transition. One of the biggest adjustments, she said, has been switching from working as part of a caucus team in the state legislature to having sole, final decision-making responsibility.
“Here, you’re it,” Kupchick said of the new pressure of the First Selectwoman job.
She has also been busy with typical first-week business, including reshuffling some town positions. She’s brought on Jim Baldwin as town attorney, replacing Tetreau-appointee Stanton Lesser. She’s also replacing much of Tetreau’s administrative staff with her own.
In addition, Kupchick’s had to fill empty positions. This has included both appointing members to fill empty spots on boards and commissions, as well as hiring for vacant employee positions.
She has officially hired state Department of Transportation veteran Douglas M. Novak as the new superintendent of public works, and she is in the process of looking for a new director of public works.
The two positions have been vacant since Joseph Michelangelo and Scott Bartlett were fired after being charged with illegal dumping and bribery in connection with the Julian Enterprise-managed fill pile.
On a larger scale, she is trying to wrap her hands around the ongoing fill pile situation, which has led to a million-dollar testing and cleanup project to rid nine town sites of contaminants, including arsenic and asbestos.
This has included meetings with lawyers about the town’s ongoing civil suit against Julian, as well as a trip to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Wednesday to discuss the notice of violation sent to the town earlier this month. The notice warned the town of penalties for contamination at the fill pile, which remains in violation of state cleanup standards.
Kupchick said Tuesday that she hoped the visit to DEEP would clarify the fill pile situation, which became deeply political this fall and divided the town during the election.
But Kupchick remains committed to the call for bipartisanship and civility she made at her inauguration. This call, she noted, was received positively by stakeholders on both sides of the aisle.
“[Republicans and Democrats both] said to me, ‘We just want to put our swords down and work together,’” Kupchick said. “I hope that’s my legacy.”