Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 23, 2012
Three to vie for two selectmen’s seats in Stonington
by Alice Wilkinson
The March 5 town meeting elections will give Stonington voters a choice among three candidates running (two on the ballot, and one running as a write-in candidate) for two seats on the Board of Selectmen.
The Sanitary District candidates are running for three open seats, two in-district, and one out of district.
Chris Betts, write-in candidate
Persuaded to be a write-in candidate, Chris Betts says he is willing to serve, but probably not for the whole three years. “I’ll go for a year or two,” he said, adding, “people have to make up their own minds. If people really want me to stick around a little longer, I will.”
Betts has been a selectman for 21 years, and says there are always projects, but the town really needs more long-term planning for infrastructure and equipment, adding that there should be a policy of replacement of equipment after a number of years, while there is still some trade-in value in the equipment.
“I don’t see any big thing ready to explode…we’re over the economic crisis…hopefully. I trust the selectmen who are in there. They’re doing a good job.
“Stonington usually faces up to reality and does what’s right. We don’t sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away.”
Betts was born at the hospital (now gone) in Castine, and lived here until he was five. His family moved to Connecticut, where he finished high school and one year of college before moving here in 1978. He is married with two children.
Evelyn Duncan, who has been a selectman for 12 years, is running again “because we are still in economic turmoil and a financial bind, and I think I can help keep the town running as well as it is now.”
She added that the town itself is in “marvelous shape. We have done a lot, but there’s always more to do.”
It is with pride that she points out that the town has been able to hold taxes down and still accomplish a lot.
For Duncan, the key project facing the town is downtown development through economic development.
A grant the town applied for and received promoting the lobster industry is key, she says, to helping the town by enabling the lobstermen to make more money because lobster is very valuable to the economy.
As for the biggest problem facing Stonington right now, Duncan says it’s the local economy. “I would like to see more economic diversity. There is still a lack of full-time employment available.”
Duncan grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Boston College with a degree in economics. Before moving to Stonington with her husband, David, 18 years ago, she owned and ran a boatyard in Bridgeport, Conn.
Robert Ray, the current chairman of the clam committee, is running for selectman because, he says, “a lot of people are reading about decisions that have already been made. I would like to tell people involved if there’s something affecting them that will be coming up. You might get more involvement if people knew about something before the fact”
For Ray, the only real problem facing the town is that there is “just not enough information. [The selectmen] need someone to explain why things are happening. The town is in pretty good shape.”
Before becoming chairman of the clam committee three months ago, Ray had been a member of the committee for its entire existence.
Having been a clam-digger since age seven, Ray says a key component in the industry is good relations with shorefront owners. He said he is proud of the relationships clammers have with property owners, often serving as property-watchers, noticing if something is wrong.
He says his strength is the relationships he has with many kinds of people, and, if elected, he intends to use those relationships to tell people what is going on.
Ray has lived in Stonington all of his 47 years and is a graduate of DI-S High School.
Two of the three people running for the Stonington Sanitary District board are already serving on the board: Ronald M. Eaton, who has served on the board for over 10 years, and Stephen York, who was appointed to the board last year to fill an unexpired term.
The third candidate, Frederick Whitford, has lived in Stonington for 10 months, although he has been a summer resident for the past six years.
Eaton’s reason for wanting to serve another three-year term on the board is simple: he likes to work with and for the town. He enjoys the work, and says the board works well together, and he’d like to continue working with them. A life-long Stonington resident, Eaton is a fisherman.
York is running partly, he says, because it is so difficult to get an in-district person to serve on the board. He is currently the vice-chairman, and is working with the board to clarify the policies and rules of the district. He is also the minister of the Methodist Church, and is running for a seat on the school board.
Whitford starting attending SSD board meetings in October, to “see if it is a fit,” and thinks it is. As a new resident, he says he wants to become active in the community. Currently he is working on rewriting the policies, but says he has a lot to learn. Before moving here he was a math teacher, a financial adviser and an engineer, and he substitute teaches at the high school.
Voters are called to the polls on Monday, March 5, from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. upstairs at the town hall. Town meeting reconvenes at 3 p.m. to address the rest of the articles.