Boutelle leaves RTM for Housing Authority

Representative Town Meeting (RTM) veteran Jim Boutelle will soon bid farewell to the legislative body after 25 years, taking his experience to the Greenwich Housing Authority, where he will serve as one of five commissioners.

Mr. Boutelle was nominated for the post by Selectman David Theis after being interviewed by the selectmen for consideration for the open spot. His nomination had been put forward initially by the Selectmen’s Nominations Advisory Committee.

“Jim has a long history of service in the community,” Mr. Theis said, adding that Mr. Boutelle was once a student of his when he was a teacher at Greenwich Country Day School. “He’s a good community-minded guy that I enthusiastically support putting forth his name as a commissioner for the Housing Authority.”

Unlike most town boards and commissions, the Housing Authority does not require RTM approval for appointment of its members once the Board of Selectmen have agreed to the selection. This means Mr. Boutelle will not be in the position of having his selection evaluated by his soon to be former colleagues in the body.

Additionally, the Housing Authority recently requested that its number of members be expanded in order to maintain a quorum and to allow broader citizen participation in property management, providing the opening that Mr. Boutelle will fill.

“I’m looking for a new challenge,” Mr. Boutelle said of his transition onto the board.

Having served a quarter of a century on the RTM, there are plenty of fond memories and “characters” Mr. Boutelle will miss, he said, but he has accomplished all he could in that role.

It’s time for a new crop of people with fresh ideas to enter the body, he said.

Perhaps more instrumental in Mr. Boutelle’s decision to leave is the way the RTM has changed over the years.

“The tone of the RTM has changed,” he said. “People are taking things personally these days,” which didn’t used to be the case, he added.

With a substantial background in politics, having worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Mr. Boutelle said he knows when it’s time to get out.

“When times are tough, economically, it’s hard to govern … I got out of politics when it got nasty,” he explained.

Although Mr. Boutelle said he would not describe the RTM as “nasty,” its changing dynamic and his lengthy tenure have pushed him to try something different.

Fortunately, Mr. Boutelle’s background in housing and social services has prepared him well for his new post.

He has been involved in virtually every housing organization in town, including serving as chairman of the Community Development Advisory Committee, which helps determine how Community Development Block Grants are allocated.

Additionally, Mr. Boutelle is the executive director of the Transportation Association of Greenwich (TAG), a non-profit transportation service for elderly, disabled individuals and transportation-disadvantaged people of all ages.

Mr. Boutelle said he is happy running TAG but would like to further serve the town through the Housing Authority. The two organizations, in fact, share certain similarities, such as the clientele they serve, their need for carefully overseen finances and their roles as non-profits.

As a Housing Authority commissioner, Mr. Boutelle said he will do all he can to improve the quality of public housing in town. And, while it’s difficult to increase quantity, he will work hard to maintain quality, using past experience as a guide.

“Jim is very thorough in whatever he does,” First Selectman Peter Tesei said. “He’s well versed on town issues related to governance and I think he’ll be a good asset to the Housing Authority as they endeavor to move forward with some redevelopment plans and trying to improve the overall quality of the town’s housing stock.”

Some of the challenges he’ll face on the board include how to shelter residents when their aged housing needs upgrading and making sure that the Housing Authority is providing “a step up” rather than creating a generation of people who perpetually live in public housing, Mr. Boutelle said.

The Housing Authority functions very differently from the RTM, he explained.

“The RTM is reactive. Greenwich town government is a series of hurdles and the RTM is the last hurdle.”

In contrast, the Housing Authority is proactive, allowing board members to take initiative, he said.

In addition to Mr. Boutelle, the selectmen appointed Abe Curdumi to the Housing Authority along with Agripina Lopez and Robert Simms as citizen representatives from town housing. All were approved by unanimous votes.

The selectmen paid particular note to Mr. Boutelle’s appointment, noting his decades of service to the body.

“It’s the RTM’s loss but the Housing Authority’s gain,” said Selectman Drew Marzullo.

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