Published October 31. 2013 4:00AM
Groton - The two candidates facing off in the town clerk's race Nov. 5 are running against each other for the second time, but this year as an incumbent and a challenger.
Democratic incumbent Betsy Moukawsher and Republican challenger Nicki L. Bresnyan also competed for the seat in 2009, after former Town Clerk Barbara Tarbox opted not to seek re-election after 24 years.
The town clerk maintains the town's vital records, including birth, death and marriage certificates, keeps track of land transactions and holds records, including military discharge papers.
"All of these records are very personal," Moukawsher said. "This is a personal position."
Bresnyan said the job includes key duties beyond what most people see.
"It is critical that these duties be performed in an unbiased manner," she said.
Moukawsher and Bresnyan have similar views on the importance of the job but bring different backgrounds.
Moukawsher, 51, was self-employed before becoming town clerk. She co-owned two stores called Green Marble Coffee House, one of which remains open in Mystic, and a mail order business.
Before the coffeehouses, she served as assistant human resources director for MAN Roland Inc., an industrial printing manufacturer, and as a manufacture technician and contract analyst for Electric Boat.
Moukawsher was born in California, grew up in Michigan, and attended college in California, but did not graduate. Her first husband was in the Navy, and the family moved to Connecticut in 1985. She has four children and spent some time at home with them. She served six years as a member of the Representative Town Meeting.
Bresnyan, 51, has served as executive assistant to the town manager for the last 10 years and has worked for the town 32 years total, mostly in planning and development.
She was born on the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, attended Groton Public Schools, graduated from Robert E. Fitch High School and has an associate's degree in business management from the University of Phoenix. She is working toward a bachelor's degree.
Bresnyan has two grown children and has participated in various seminars. She attended the Connecticut Association of Zoning Enforcement Officers certificate program and has a Connecticut Municipal Assessor certificate.
Bresnyan said she's running for the office because she believes she would "improve efficiency in the office" by correctly interpreting state law and other rules and minimizing the need for costly legal advice.
Moukawsher replied that she has never been told her office caused legal fees to be charged.
Town Manager Mark Oefinger said Tuesday that legal fees are not tracked by department but by function such as "tax appeals." He said obtaining a summary by department would require someone to go through about 100 invoices per month.
Bresnyan cited two examples of "missteps" by the current clerk: First, she said the clerk "misinterpreted" laws and the charter with regard to voting district changes; and second, that the office sent out the wrong explanatory text on a referendum to some absentee ballot voters.
Moukawsher said the voting district boundary changes required a legal opinion because a town councilor questioned her and wanted one. She said the lawyer later confirmed her figures.
On the explanatory text, Moukawsher said a staff member printing explanatory text for an upcoming referendum printed about 200 copies of the wrong text by mistake. She said the error was caught before all but a couple envelopes were mailed.
"The real problem here is not that I'm not doing a good job. She's insinuating that my department's not doing a good job," she said, adding that she found this unfair.