The marine industry in Connecticut lost a veteran advocate June 1 when Grant W. Westerson retired after 31 years on the board of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, the last 27 as president.
“I just turned 67, and I’m in great health. We’re coming off another great Hartford Boat Show at the Connecticut Convention Center and a legislative session in which we didn’t uncover any land mines by the politicians,” Westerson says. “I figured it would be really good for my ego to go out while things are going well. I wanted to go out on top of the world, and that’s what I’m doing.”
The CMTA commended Westerson “for all he has done for the association and the marine industry. His vast knowledge of all things boating helped to shape CMTA as it is today. We wish him the best of luck on his future endeavors.”
The CMTA has formed a selection committee that will search during the next few months for a new executive director. Westerson will become president emeritus of the 300-member CMTA, but he has no plans to leave the industry. Over 50 years, he has made a career as a marina owner, a boat dealer and broker, and an accredited marine surveyor. He plans to return to surveying.
“In this industry, Saturday and Sunday is no different from any other day,” he says, explaining that “Joanne, my wife of 45 years, is very understanding.”
Westerson owned and operated Yacht Distributors Marina in Old Saybrook, Conn., which was also a Bertram dealership, for 25 years until the state purchased his property in 1990 to build the new Baldwin Bridge where Interstate 95 crosses the Connecticut River.
Westerson joined the trade group in 1983 and was elected chairman in 1987. He oversaw the purchase of the CMTA’s office on Plains Road in Essex in 1988 to give the group room to grow and host seminars. The association also assumed responsibility for producing the annual Hartford Boat Show, which has been held in January for 45 years.
“I’m comfortable that the association, which is a diverse group with a lot of experience, is heading in the right direction with plenty of energy, momentum and vision for the future,” he says.
Westerson also was chairman of the New England Marine Trades Association and the National Marine Trades Council. “The thing I’ll miss most are the daily calls from members looking for advice on taxes, out-of-state sales and the like,” he says. “I was proud to be the buffer between the regulatory agencies and our membership — the go-between to help them get the answers promptly — and the credibility the association has earned in Hartford with the legislature, as well as the various state agencies. We’re known as straight shooters.”
A few months after coming into office in 2011, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law the largest tax increase in state history. “Five of those taxes would have impacted recreational boating,” Westerson says. “We were able to get four of the five squashed. The fifth one, the state luxury tax, proved to not generate revenue and was hurting business, so the luxury tax on boats was repealed almost unanimously.
“We got a lot accomplished in the past 25 years, and I’m very proud of that. Hopefully, it will get better,” he says. “And I’m not going anywhere. I’m always at the end of the telephone if anyone has any questions.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue.