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Mayor's race coming up in Norwich

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published November 13. 2012 4:00AM

Norwich - With the 2012 election in the rear-view mirror, Norwich now looks ahead to a mayoral election year in 2013.

Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom's four-year term enters its final year with many issues facing the city, including the failed effort to build a new police station, the still-shuttered YMCA building on Main Street and the stagnant economy.

Nystrom won handily in 2009 in a four-way race, defeating former Alderman and City Manager Robert Zarnetske, who ran on the Norwich for Change party line, current Democratic Alderman Mark Bettencourt and petitioning candidate, Taftville businessman Joseph Radecki Jr.

"I very much enjoy the work, the people, the members on council," Nystrom said. "At this point in time I don't see any reason why I wouldn't run. I do have the support of my family to run again."

Several Democratic city leaders offered differing answers on whether they would consider challenging Nystrom or another Republican candidate.

One leading possible candidate could be freshman Democratic Alderman Charles Jaskiewicz, who serves on the state Board of Education. Jaskiewicz was chairman of the Norwich Board of Education when he was named to the state board in 2011. He resigned from the Norwich board, but then ran for City Council.

Jaskiewicz said he is considering running for mayor, but has to talk to his family, supporters and others. Jaskiewicz said people have approached him and asked him to run.

"I respect people thinking of me as a good candidate," Jaskiewicz said. "I like getting things done. I'd consider it after talking to my family and others. Is it a possibility? Sure. But I need to think of my family first."

Democratic Alderman H. Tucker Braddock, the retired former owner of AP Savage hardware store in Greeneville, called Jaskiewicz "a tough opponent." Braddock said he is unsure whether he would enter the mayoral race, like Jaskiewicz saying family considerations would come first. He said he has talked to people and received support for a possible run.

Braddock already has issues in mind for the coming race, including the police station, YMCA and economic development.

Braddock said the YMCA was a prominent issue early in Nystrom's term, but has fallen to the back burner. Braddock hopes to spark renewed interest in the vacant building, because the city's youth still need a recreation center and having an indoor pool would be an attraction for Norwich.

Four people mentioned as possible mayoral candidates said Monday they are not interested.

Bettencourt, the 2009 Democratic mayoral candidate, announced at the last Democratic Town Committee meeting that he would not run for mayor. Bettencourt said the campaign was tough on his family and doesn't want to go through it again.

Democratic Alderman Francois "Pete" Desaulniers, the council president pro tempore, presiding at meetings and functions in the mayor's stead, also dismissed any consideration of a mayoral campaign. Desaulniers recently was named chairman of the Norwich Ice Rink Authority in an effort to turn around that financially struggling city-owned facility.

"I just wouldn't be interested," Desaulniers said Monday.

Former Norwich alderman and Republican state Rep. Christopher Coutu, who last week lost a contentious state Senate race to Sprague First Selectman Cathy Osten, said he too is not interested.

"I'm focused on my family," Coutu said. "The last five years have been great serving the people. Now is time to focus on the rest of my life."

If anyone asked former Democratic Mayor Benjamin Lathrop four months ago his answer would have different than it is today. Three months ago, Lathrop was hired as president of the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, a full-time position Lathrop loves and said he is very busy.

Lathrop said he appreciates that so many people asked him to consider a second run for mayor after he decided against seeking re-election in 2009.

"I said before I took this job that I would consider running for mayor," Lathrop said. "It's unbelievable the number of people who have asked me if I would consider running for mayor. If I could do it and keep both jobs, I would consider it. No, you can't do it justice."

c.bessette@theday.com

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