Focus On: Westport Third Selectperson, Melissa Kane

Melissa Kane is Westport’s Third Selectperson. Raised in Manhattan she spent summers in Westport as a child in historic houses that her parents rented which she calls “magical places that made Westport a very special place for me. Spending summers in Westport is what I looked most forward to all year.” Kane, her husband John and son George, now 21, moved to Westport when her 2nd child, Lily was born 17 years ago. 

“I’ve not physically been back to Town Hall since March 12. Working remotely, I’ve been a liaison between the community and the administration with a focus on making sure people have access to the information they need at all times and that they are able to direct their concerns where they need to go and the opportunities to channel their energies into something positive. 

So, I’m focusing a lot of my time on putting together town-led volunteer efforts. So many people want to be doing something right now. I think that at a time like this, when you lose control over everything, there is a sense that if you can just grab onto one thing and be helpful–whether that’s people making masks or working on feeding workers on front line—it allows people to gain a sense of, if not control, some accomplishment. I personally feel this as well. You feel you are moving the ball forward a little bit when you feel helpless otherwise. 

At state level, one of the projects I have been working on, is trying to get better guidelines and regulations for food safety working with organizations like the CT Food association and CT Restaurant Association. I’m also advocating to the governor for these guidelines and regulations to be put out with executive orders and working with Mark Cooper at the Westport-Weston Health district about setting up to have Chamber of commerce field calls about citizens’ concerns about safety when they go to the grocery store or any stores that are open—where there is no uniform way that safety is handled it’s not uniform in any way . Even though there are state regulations, methods vary and that makes people uneasy so I’m working on how you create some uniformity at the state and town level.  

I’m also working on something really cool with our Department of Health & Human Services which has an incredible list of resources for people who are having a hard time practically and emotionally right now. It is really important to talk about the concept of grief that people are feeling now—grief for a life that has been lost. There is so much to unpack around what grief is and what we judge as grief, and what people should be “allowed” to grieve. For example, my parents are 85 and 88 and at risk and scared. I think about them and seniors everywhere who are worrying if they will be spending the end of their lives so isolated. What can we do to alleviate this fear and the grief that comes with it?  

I do believe we will all come out and hopefully there will be a future and it will be really wonderful but it is going to be a changed world and people are realizing that normal will be different. 

people are realizing that normal will be different

I feel extraordinarily lucky to live in this incredible community which has had sickness and will have more, but we have roofs over our heads and we care about those who don’t and we want to help. It feels good to work with a municipality working so hard to keep people safe.” 

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To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.