New state representative prepares to roll up his sleeves

Newly elected Democratic state Rep. Timothy Bowles didn't have much time to rest after an exhausting campaign, what with the state party caucus Thursday night and preparations in the coming weeks for legislative committee assignments and priorities for the upcoming session.

Bowles defeated Ledyard Republican Town Councilor Mike France Tuesday by 302 votes to win the 42nd House seat vacated by Tom Reynolds. The district includes Ledyard, Preston and part of Montville.

Although a freshman legislator, Bowles, 62, is familiar with the state legislative process. Bowles served as a legislative liaison for the state Office of Policy and Management, was director of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and worked for the state departments of Social Services and Children and Families.

Bowles said Thursday's House Democratic caucus was "very interesting," and he was pleased with the selection of Hamden state Rep. J. Brendan Sharkey as the new Speaker of the House. Bowles will meet with Sharkey soon to discuss committee assignments.

"There are several I'm interested in with regards to this district in particular," Bowles said. "The Select Committee on Veterans Affairs, Environment and Human Services Committee, and Agriculture, too. I'd certainly consider that as well."

Bowles will finish at least his current term as a Preston selectman and will weigh whether to run for re-election to that post in fall. He is one of four state legislators representing southeastern Connecticut districts who also serve as selectmen - Sprague First Selectman and 19th District state Sen.-elect Cathy Osten; Canterbury First Selectman and 47th District state Rep.-elect Brian Sear; and Griswold selectman and 45th District state Rep. Steven Mikutel.

Bowles said he consulted with Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon before making his decision. Congdon served one term as both state representative and first selectman.

Congdon said he looks forward to having Bowles both on the board and in Hartford. That will give the town of Preston a direct link to the legislature, he said.

"From the perspective of keeping on top of what the issues are locally, I don't think there is a better forum," Congdon said. "There are a lot of state representatives and senators who were former first selectmen or selectmen, and they got to Hartford and had no recollection of what the issues are at the town level. By staying on the Board of Selectmen, he will remain connected and will keep up with the issues of the town."

Bowles said his priority for the district will be creating "a major economic driver here," especially in manufacturing.

"That's the key (to) balancing the losses we've had at Pfizer," Bowles said.

Bowles has long been a proponent of creating a green energy center at the former Norwich Hospital property, perhaps with a research and development component as well as energy generation. He hopes to work closely with the Preston Redevelopment Agency on the continuing efforts to clean up the property and find future developers.

"I appreciate what this administration has done with the grants and all their support," Bowles said of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, "and I feel very strongly we should take advantage of the most recent offer we have received from the state."

At a Nov. 15 town meeting and Nov. 27 referendum, residents will consider whether to accept a low-cost $4 million state loan and matching $4 million town bond to continue the hospital cleanup.

"Given the terms and conditions and the timing, we won't get a better deal," Bowles said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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