Kit Devereaux: Democrat eyes new role in local government
Updated 8:23 am, Monday, November 6, 2017
NEW CANAAN — Kit Devereaux moved to New Canaan 25 years ago. She’s been involved in the community for nearly as long.
“I left New York because we had a 3-year-old daughter and the city at that time was quite dangerous,” she said. “We looked at lots of towns and this is the one we settled on because we just thought it was wonderful.”
Devereaux, who worked at an investment bank for eight years before her daughter was born, said she and her husband were drawn to New Canaan for its town center and beautiful topography. Within their first couple of years in town, Devereaux got involved with the League of Women Voters.
Devereaux served eight years on the Town Council and eight years as a member of the Board of Finance. She also served on the town’s charter revision commission, was on the Land and Open Space Committee and is on the Parks and Recreation Commission. Now she’s hoping residents vote her into the town’s top spot.
“I love being involved in our town, and the reason I’m running for first selectman is because these 25 years that I’ve spent here have been the best of my life,” she said. “I have a big stake in preserving what we have here.”
Specifically, Devereaux, 72, wants to preserve the small-town feel that attracts people to New Canaan.
“The fact we are a small town does, in fact, create a real community,” she said. “You walk down the street and you see people you know, and it’s a wonderful environment. It’s a great place for kids and personal safety. My child was able to enjoy a lot of what I did when I was growing up outside of Philadelphia in the sense of really being able to stretch your arms out and not feel at risk.”
However, Devereaux said New Canaan does need to “catch up with modern times” in some senses, something she hopes to help with as first selectman. If she’s elected, Devereaux said her top priority would be saving the town money, especially in the wake of potential restraints from the state budget.
“We have a lot of liabilities coming down the road,” she said. “I think this budget cycle we’re going to be relatively safe from the state, but that is not something that’s going away. It’s still coming and we have a lot of pressures on our own budget. What we need to do is institute ways we can shepherd our money in the best, most fiscally responsible way.”
Devereaux wants to institute a zero-base budget and adjust the midbudget request cycle so town agencies don’t have a tough time requesting more money if there’s a shortfall in their budget. She also would like to assess town fees, including user and rental fees, to see if more revenue could be generated. She’d like to similarly inspect the town’s energy portfolio for further savings.
“We need to look for efficiencies in our operating budget between departments and between schools and the town and make sure we are as efficient as you can be in how we’re taking care of our money,” she said.
Devereaux is also looking to improve town cell service and commuter parking, two hotly debated issues in town. When it comes to cell service, she said she would look at studies to determine where service in town is light and work with the utilities committee to put the least-intrusive equipment possible in the most premier spot.
If elected first selectman, she plans to take a similar approach with the parking situation, looking at studies to see which lot in town would be most suited for expansion and to see if the town could handle an increase in commuters going to an expanded lot.
“I’m not talking about a lot of time,” she said of assessing commuter parking. “We need to pull everything out, really assess it and get the community to agree with the decision and then move forward. It’s too big a project to just say we’re going to do it.”
Should she be elected, Devereaux said her first move would be to look at the parking and cell tower studies to plan her next move, as well as meet with all town boards, commissions and employees to talk about budgeting. Once those issues are tackled, she said she’d like to move forward with a governing style focused on civility, something she said is occasionally missing from town meetings.
“We’ve had town meetings that were less than civil where people who were volunteering their time were ... attacked,” she said. “My view is you can have differences of opinion — it’s healthy to have differences of opinion — but you need to be able to express them in a respectful way. If I were in the room and several people were attacking the head of the commission, I would need to stand up and defend that person because it’s just not right. If you want people to continue to give their time to the town, it’s got to be in a sense of civilization and a civilized way of being.”