Stonington - This year's race for first selectman and Board of Selectmen features four well-known faces in town - the three incumbents and a former first selectman who served on the board for 20 years.
Democratic First Selectman Ed Haberek is seeking his fourth term and is being challenged by Republican Selectwoman Glee McAnanly while incumbent Democratic Selectman George Crouse is being challenged by former Republican first selectman William Brown. The two highest vote-getters among the two selectman candidates and the losing first selectman candidate are elected as selectmen.
Haberek said he's running because he wants to continue the work he's started, such as the ongoing $6.2 million upgrade of athletic fields and roads and seeing potential economic development projects come to fruition.
He said he also wants to realize his goal of bringing a new affordable housing project for seniors to town, something he calls a critical need.
Haberek said he continues to provide judicious general government budgets that have shown virtually no increase over the past six years as he has streamlined government and restructured the planning and human services departments where positions were not filled.
Haberek has also won praise for his handling of the town's response during storms and keeping residents informed via social media.
During his tenure, Haberek said he's brought Zachry Nuclear and Tractor Supply to town and plans to continue to use his unconventional approach of promoting the town at business trade shows to lure companies to town.
"I look forward to continuing that because it's been successful," he said, adding that he hopes to make two major economic development announcements before the election.
"I think I provide tested leadership. I speak out and work for the residents. It would be a shame to go backwards at this point," he said.
Haberek said he tries to be accessible and approachable and looks forward to keeping residents connected with Town Hall.
McAnanly said her business background and four years on the Board of Selectmen give her the skills set to be the town's chief elected official.
"I want this job and I'm ready to serve. I'm prepared to take over this role," she said.
If elected, McAnanly said one of her first priorities would be to create a long-term strategic plan so residents know where the town is going in terms of projects such as elementary school renovations and a Town Hall expansion, two long-discussed projects.
"The job of the first selectman is to build a vision of where the town is going," she said.
Some of McAnanly's other priorities would be to find people to fill vacancies on town boards and commissions and fill the long-vacant director of planning position. As for economic development, she would work with businesses and residents to capitalize on their contacts to lure new businesses here.
She said the reason she moved her ServiceMaster business here was because she lived here.
She said she would also move to appoint an ethics commission, something that is required by the town charter but which town officials have ignored over the years.
She would, per the charter, present the school budget created by school officials to the Board of Finance and residents. She said this would show unity instead of the divide between town and school officials sometimes seen during budget season.
"I believe in collaboration, cooperation and communication," she said.
She said the one thing she has learned from Haberek is that people like the first selectman to be out about town and visible. But she said she would spend more time working in Town Hall than Haberek does.
Board of Selectmen race
Along with being selectman for the past four years, Crouse, a retired teacher, is known for coaching the Stonington High School girls' tennis team to a state championship this year after losing in the finals seven times.
"I love Stonington. I grew up in Stonington and I've been involved in the town my whole life. I love trying to make Stonington better," he said when asked why he was running again.
Crouse said Haberek has done "a fantastic job" managing the town and keeping taxes low and he feels like he's been a part of that.
"I'm not sure we could have done any better, and certainly the other side couldn't," he said.
Brown is no stranger to the board and was first selectmen from 2004 to 2007.
He said that when the Republican Town Committee asked him to be McAnanly's running mate, he did not hesitate.
"When I go door to door, people recognize me and say, 'It's good to see you running again,'" he said. "They want to see more respectability in town government. There's been a loss of respect for the town. We have all these things cropping up and people don't like reading about it in the paper. They want to know why it (is) happening," he said.
Brown's comments were in part a reference to Tracy Swain's lawsuit against the town and Haberek that alleges Haberek sent her sexually graphic photos of himself using his town-owned BlackBerry, a charge Haberek has repeatedly denied.
Brown said his 20 years of service as a selectman and on other boards in just one reason residents should vote for him.
"I know the functions of all the departments, I know the issues and the players dealing with those issues," he said. "I've always had good relationships with the boards and commissions and I've made appointments based on ability. I've appointed as many Democrats as Republicans to make sure we got the right person for the job."