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For four years, Republican Selectwoman Glee McAnanly has sat beside Democratic First Selectman Ed Haberek at countless Board of Selectmen meetings.
Now the two will square off in the race for first selectman in November.
McAnanly had been rumored as a potential challenger for Haberek, who has been popular with residents because of his handling of storms and presenting budgets with small if any tax hikes.
But it wasn't until earlier this year after a talk with Republican Town Committee Chairman Dudley Wheeler and her family that McAnanly decided the timing was right to get into the race after serving four years on the Board of Selectmen. She announced her run to become the town's first-ever female first selectman on July 11 on the steps of Town Hall.
"It took me awhile to get there but once I announced I was all in," she said, calling her decision to run a natural progression. "I think I can have more of an impact in the (first selectman's) seat than where I sit now."
Her announcement came a week after Haberek, who said earlier this spring he was considering other job opportunities and may not run again, announced on Facebook that he would seek a fourth term.
That announcement was greeted by supporters who posted their comments on his Facebook page.
"I've waited with baited breath for several months now for this news," posted Lorraine Grey.
"Thank goodness!!!!" added Mary Margaret Critcherson Schlais.
Haberek, 47, defeated Bill Brown in 2007, then easily won his next two re-election bids.
Haberek, who is married with two children and lives on Moss Street in Pawcatuck, said he was humbled by people who asked him to run again when he said this spring that he was considering other opportunities.
Haberek said he decided to run because he enjoys the job and still has initiatives he wants to see come to fruition, such as the new athletic fields at the high school and a large road improvement project, both of which are underway.
If elected, Haberek said he would continue working on economic development and crafting the annual budget in an effective manner. He said the town will also be proceeding with plans to renovate Town Hall and the elementary schools. He said he will continue to strive to bring an affordable senior housing project to town, something he has been working on over the past several years.
"It's a critical need right now," he said.
Haberek said he was little surprised by McAnanly's decision to run and said he is interested to hear "what she has to say" during the campaign.
"We've got along over the past four years and I look forward to talking about the issues with her," he said
Both candidates said they would welcome the opportunity to debate.
Haberek said he offers tested leadership, which he said has been shown by the fact the town had 20 incomplete projects when he took office and he then finished them all.
He said he's grown the tax base with the addition of companies such as Zachry, a nuclear engineering firm, and streamlined town government while still offering exemplary services.
"Now more than ever it's important we have someone in there who understands the difficulty of administering town government," he said.
McAnanly, 49, who is married with two sons, lives on High Ridge Drive. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, she worked for ServiceMaster from 1989 until 2002, selling franchises and then running the company's New England office. A resident since 1989, she now works with her husband who owns ServiceMaster locations in Worcester, Providence and Hartford.
McAnanly stresses that she wants to develop a strategic plan for the town, which is something businesses do.
She said the town's 27 boards and commissions currently don't talk to each other. If elected, one of her priorities would be to get the boards working in unison. She said that would help with economic development
McAnanly said the first selectman, as specified in the town charter, should present a unified town and school budget to the Board of Finance each spring instead of separate proposals. Currently, the first selectmen presents the town budget and the superintendent of schools presents the school budget.
"We are one town," she said. "We should be working to see how we can keep this a great community, a place where you raise your kids and they stay to raise your grandchildren."
McAnanly said the duty of the first selectman is to coordinate town employees and municipal boards and commissions.
"I do think we need a good management style, a team builder who can lead the town forward so we can be the best we can be," she said.
She said she would bring a collaborative approach to Town Hall because "other people have good ideas."
She said she is familiar with town employees and issues, having been on the Board of Selectmen the past four years.
As for other plans, McAnanly said, "honestly you have to get in there and get your feet wet."
Like Haberek, McAnanly has her own supporters.
"This person has integrity, courage and character and would be an asset to Stonington," wrote one reader commenting on The Day's website about McAnanly's announcement.
McAnanly's candidacy could also generate interest among female voters as Haberek and the town are being sued by Tracy Swain of Pawcatuck who said he allegedly sent her sexually graphic photos of himself using his town-issued Blackberry in 2010.
McAnanly, though, has said she will not make that lawsuit a part of her campaign, adding that doing so is not her style.
"I want to give people a reason to vote for me, not against someone else," she said. "There are too many other issues I want to talk about."
For selectman, the Democrats endorsed incumbent George Crouse and Republicans tapped former first selectman Bill Brown.
The two highest vote-getters among the two selectman candidates and the losing first selectman candidate will be elected to the two positions on the Board of Selectmen.