Westport, Connecticut , United States
|| August 10, 1955
Nov 05, 2006 12:20pm
|Info||Diane Farrell just concluded her second term as the first selectwoman of the town of Westport, Connecticut. She was elected in 1997 by 59% of the vote and by 71% in 2001. Significantly, Ms. Farrell was elected to office on both occasions with the support not only of her fellow Democrats, but also a large group of independents and Republicans. |
In 2004, Farrell ran for Congress in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District. She began her campaign in the spring of that year, raised over a million and a half dollars and received 48% of the vote in one of the closest races for Congress in the country.
As First Selectwoman for eight years, and in her four previous years as an elected member of the Westport Board of Finance, Ms. Farrell became known for her superior managerial expertise, strong leadership skills, and popularity across party lines and constituencies. She maintained a strong record of accomplishment, achieved by a clear vision for the future, a skill for planning, and a talent for achieving consensus. She also demonstrated her commitment to fiscal responsibility and significantly elevated the town’s managerial standards.
Fiscally prudent, she held the line on town budgets while delivering quality municipal services. She provided tax relief for seniors, fought for adequate funding for the public schools, strengthened public safety, improved the town's infrastructure and recreational facilities, and had a marked impact on Westport's quality of life. In addition, she organized TEAM-Westport (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism) in 2003, an initiative aimed at promoting multiculturalism and tolerance in the community. She accomplished all this while fostering a highly open and participatory spirit of cooperation and communication across town boards, committees, and citizen groups, as well as with neighboring towns and organizations throughout the region and the state.
Ms. Farrell made her mark not only in Westport, but also as a leader on important regional issues such as transportation, homeland security, regional environmental quality, and the economy. She has long been an outspoken advocate for solving southwestern Connecticut's severe transportation problems. Due to her tenacity in working to bring statewide attention to this critical issue, she was elected chair in 2002 of the Southwestern Regional Planning Association's Metropolitan Planning Organization (SWRPA MPO) and re-elected in 2003. The group is a federally mandated organization designated by the State of Connecticut as the forum for cooperative transportation decision-making. She was also a member of the Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area unit of Connecticut's Transportation Strategy Board, and served on the National League of Cities Transportation Infrastructure and Services Committee.
At a critical time in the region's history, Ms. Farrell actively expanded the role of MPO chair to focus on other pressing regional issues such as homeland security, economic development, open space preservation, and environmental quality. In 2003, she took the initiative to organize a Bridgeport economic summit to focus on developing that city's role as a regional economic asset. To represent the district’s interests, she also served on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) that advocates on behalf of Connecticut's towns and cities with the state general assembly, executive branch, regulatory agencies, and courts.
Serving as First Selectwoman also enabled Ms. Farrell to express her strong interest in international affairs. Westport serves as the headquarters of the International Hospitality Committee of Fairfield County, a 23-town organization that hosts visiting individuals and groups from around the world. Ms. Farrell welcomed U.N. Secretariat families and delegates from countries around the globe including, most recently, the ambassadors of East Timor and Switzerland, and visitors from Westport's three sister cities in France; Russia; and People's Republic of China. She also met with delegations from Brazil, Argentina, and Russia through Rotary International, and conferred with delegates from Haiti through Westport-based Save the Children.
Early in her career, Ms. Farrell worked as a pre-school teacher and then as a media planner for Benton & Bowles, Inc. where she worked on the Continental Airlines account. She later became an account executive with J. Walter Thompson, Inc. advertising agency, where she worked on the Warner Lambert account.
While raising her two daughters, Ms. Farrell quickly assumed a leadership role in local government, school, church and community affairs. She became president of both the Westport Young Women’s League and the Coleytown Elementary School Parent Teachers Association and held positions with the League of Women Voters, Nursing and Home Care, Inc., the Girl Scouts and the United Nations Hospitality Committee.
Passionate in her commitment to public education, Ms. Farrell became a strong activist on behalf of the Westport public school system. It is a commitment deeply rooted in her family, which includes her Westport public school teacher mother (retired); two brothers, Tom and Jon Goss, currently teachers in Vermont and Idaho, respectively; and a sister, Holly, who works with the Stamford school system.
Ms. Farrell has also held leadership roles at Westport’s Green’s Farms Congregational Church, which she has attended since childhood. There she has served on several minister search committees, as Worship Department chair and as a member of the Stewardship Committee.
Ms. Farrell was awarded the 2004 Woodlands Coalition Environmental Gold Award and the 2003 Upper Fairfield County Distinguished Leadership Award from The Anti-Defamation League. In addition, she has been the recipient of awards from Leadership America Program, the Foundation for Women's Resources, American Association of Advertising Agencies and the University of Southern California Business School. She was also awarded the 2003 Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Westport Sunrise Rotary for her achievements on behalf of the town and surrounding communities.
Ms. Farrell’s other affiliations include the National Women’s Political Caucus, National Democratic Women’s Leadership Forum and the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee. She is a graduate of the Women's Campaign School at Yale University, where she has been a regular guest speaker.
Diane Goss Farrell moved to Westport in 1958 at the age of 3. She was born in New Rochelle, N.Y. on Aug. 10, 1955, the daughter of advertising executive Donald Goss, and long-time Westport elementary school teacher Lillian Goss. The oldest of four children, Ms. Farrell attended Westport public schools and later Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Mass. In 1977, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wheaton College, with a major in American Government and a minor degree in elementary education.
Ms. Farrell and her husband, Winslow Farrell Jr., have two daughters, Hilary, 23, and Margaret, 19.