The Day – Martha Shoemaker for Old Lyme premier selectman
If only the candidates for local elective office came forward fully trained, experienced and public-minded. But voters must choose between people who bring what they have to the contest. There will be both strengths and weaknesses.
The weakness of inexperience can be remedied if the elected representative consults those who have institutional knowledge and governs transparently and with respect for the voters who have put them there. Humility helps.
Old Lyme voters have such a choice to make for the first selectman: incumbent Republican Timothy Griswold has a two-decade record in office and the old-fashioned approach of a CEO who thinks he knows what’s good for the city. This concerns voters who want more consistent progress and more transparency. Challenger Martha Shoemaker, a Democrat and elected member of the Lyme-Old Lyme Regional School Board, has experience as a career teacher and union official, but no history of elected municipal office.
Tim Griswold served seven terms as first coach before a losing race in 2011. He came out of retirement in 2019 when his successor, Bonnie Reemsnyder, ran unopposed but faced the political fallout of his tenure at the Authority. Connecticut Port. He collected the signatures of more than 5% of the city’s registered Republicans to vote and won. He is running for a ninth term this year.
With this long tenure, the incumbent played a key role in the main problems encountered by Old Lyme during the 2000s. Many of them remain on hold even longer than the slowness expected from public projects: construction planning sewerage over several decades, as part of an agreement that includes State DEEP and three beach associations; non-resident access to the public beach at Soundview; redevelopment proposals for the Halls Road shopping district; and efforts to bring affordable housing to cities.
More recently, the first selectman has confused many residents by consistently refusing a colleague’s request to bring any discussion of a resolution that racism is a public health issue to the selectman’s board of directors. More than 20 cities in Connecticut and the General Assembly passed such a resolution, and this month more than 100 residents showed up at city hall to discuss it anyway.
In a debate with his opponent hosted by The Day, Tim Griswold did not acknowledge that any of these issues needed more attention. Asked about the sewer project, he said: “It’s going to take time,” citing higher-than-expected bids and the possibility that either side’s withdrawal could block it for even longer. He dismissed residents’ complaints about the lack of information ahead of a town hall vote as being “in the eye of the beholder.”
As a challenger with no record to defend, Martha Shoemaker leads her course as a critic of the conduct of municipal government for the past two years. She offers clean water funds and long-term loans available to help fund the sewer project and said Old Lyme is behind schedule in its decision to spend $ 2 million in federal funds for the plan. American rescue. She promises greater transparency and says it shouldn’t be complicated to put backup data on a screen during a Town Meeting.
She is also running for re-election to the Regional District 18 school board; while not a legal conflict of interest, it could prove to be a challenge, especially at budget time.
Neither candidate offered much leadership on an issue that should be at the forefront for Old Lyme: affordable housing. The city did not back a proposal in 2019, leaving the issue in the hands of a committee for almost two years now. The next first selectman must show leadership because economic diversity makes sense for growth, not just because the state says so.
Municipal governments are not the governments of one. They consist of many councils with volunteer citizens and small departments that deal with details, such as public works and the police. The role of the first selectman is to be the manager of all parts of the work. Given the wealth of experience in these other functions, it should not be too risky to elect a leader who is an admitted novice in this role but has experience in public life.
Old Lyme needs to get back on track. Approval of the Day goes to Martha Cobbler, with this advice: Townspeople have made it clear that they want to be heard and that they want to be kept informed.
The Day’s Editorial Board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and meets weekly to formulate editorial perspectives. It is made up of President and Editor Tim Dwyer, Editor-in-Chief Izaskun E. Larrañeta, Editor Erica Moser and the retired Associate Editor. Lisa McGinley. However, only the editor and the editor of the editorial page are responsible for the preparation of editorial notices. The board operates independently of the Day newsroom.