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While New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio can take credit for landing the National Coast Guard Museum "fish" on his watch, he cannot take the credit for being the one who started the fishing trip. It took the work of many people, big and small, over the last decade and a half.
Let's take a brief trip back in time.
In the late 1990s Gov. John G. Rowland and his administration learned Pfizer was looking to build a new Global Research and Development Center and were thinking of going to serene pastures elsewhere and away from Groton/New London. Luckily, the plan to locate Oceanquest on the former New London Mills site had tanked (it was pretty stupid and unfunded), making that vacant land available.
Not wanting to be involved with local politicians (can you really blame him?), Rowland called upon then Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner James Abromitis and Deputy Commissioner Rita Zangari to resurrect the New London Development Corporation to funnel state money and support, without having to go through local, often non-cooperative political channels. They recruited then-Connecticut College President Claire Guadiani to head the group.
As the Pfizer plan developed so did the NLDC with a list of influential, mostly non-political types - such as Pfizer executive George Milne, former Coast Guard Academy Superintendent Douglas H. Teeson, lawyers, realtors, and bankers - along with representatives from our state and Washington delegations.
Realizing the area needed more than Pfizer, this think tank came up with the idea of locating a Coast Guard Museum in the Fort Trumbull area. Guadiani delivered influence to this city like never before, attracting planners and developers with national reputations. The vision and support of these unique visitors was amazing.
Millions of dollars of infrastructure money was invested in the area to make roads and underground utilities ready for development. The state pumped $8 million into retrofitting and modernizing the city sewer plant to curtail the disagreeable effluvia arising from the facility.
Then came the long eminent domain battle, stalling development beyond the Pfizer complex, including the museum.
Following the retirement of Guadiani the NLDC was taken over by retired Rear Adm. Dave Goebel, USN, who brought with him a pretty significant Washington rolodex , and the flame was kept burning.
And yes, Mayor Finizio has worked to grow that flame.
But without the original pioneers who dreamed of major redevelopment in New London, there would be no plans for a Coast Guard Museum.
Reid B. Burdick is a former New London councilor and has served on several boards and commissions.