It was the political fight that wasn't.
The Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) unanimously elected Republican Michael Mason chairman of the 12-member agency that oversees the town's purse strings and sets the annual tax rate.
In the days leading to last night's organizational meeting, insiders speculated there would be a faceoff for the chairmanship between Mason and another long-time member Leslie Tarkington. But in the end, it took less than a half-hour for the BET to unanimously elect Mason, fellow Republican Arthur Norton as vice chair, and Democrat Mary Lee Kiernan as board secretary.
The meeting was a veritable fest of bipartisanship with Republican Joseph Pellegrino nominating Mason and Democrat William Finger seconding. In his nominating speech, Pellegrino described Mason's "working knowledge of the town is second to none...he is most knowledgable of the issues before us." He added, " His vision of the town is rooted to being a lifetime Greenwich resident."
Both Pellegrino and Finger both referred to Mason as being "thoughtful, calm, collegial and cooperative and a good listener." Mason nominated fellow Republic Arthur Norton as vice chair with Finger seconding the motion.
And Mason yielded the floor for Finger to nominate fellow Democrat Kiernan, a corporate lawyer whose volunteer work includes stints with the Greenwich Library, Greenwich United Way, the Junior League, the Greenwich Parents Together and the Greenwich League of Women Voters. Mason then seconded the nomination which also passed unanimously.
After taking the dark-hued wooden gavel, Mason said his election was "very humbling" and "very frightening." Addressing the fact that the board has 5 new members, Mason said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are serving the ladies and gentlemen of Greenwich. ... We are providing our brand — the Town of Greenwich."
Finger said that with Mason's inclusionary approach — evidenced by allowing him as minority party caucus leader to speak — was indicative of "a truly bipartisan board. We can have disagreements, differences of opinion. We listen, make our decision and move forward."
Mason also announced committee assignments with Pellegrino getting the plum assignment as budget committee chair. Fellow Republican Tarkington and Democrats Jeffrey Ramer and Finger, round out the four-member committee.
The audit committee, headed by Norton will include three newcomers — Gregory Bedrosian, Robert Brady and Sean Goldrick; human services committee: Marc Johnson, chair; with Randall Huffman, Kiernan and Tarkington; investments: chaired by Bedrosian, with Finger, Goldrick and Norton; law —chaired by Ramer with Tarkington. Finger and Pellegrino will comprise the policy and procedure committee.
In other action, the board unanimously reappointed comptroller Peter Mynarski to a two-year term with an annual salary of $177,460.