Published October 29. 2013 4:00AM
It would be an interesting debate whether Vincent Eleazer's membership in the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe would present a conflict of interest if voters elected him Preston first selectman. There is no need to get to that argument, however, because Mr. Eleazer's lack of qualifications rules him out.
Mr. Eleazer, who petitioned to get a spot on the ballot, points to his work within the tribe, including in human resources and communications, but he has never sought a position on any boards or commissions in Preston. He should do so. Taking a shot, when he had to know many in town would oppose a tribal member, took a degree of courage. He has forthrightly confronted reports of past brushes with the law. But he's not ready.
Given the experience of incumbent Republican First Selectman Robert Congdon, seeking a 10th two-year term, this is no contest. Mr. Congdon is by far the stronger and better-qualified candidate.
Mr. Congdon has taken an almost miserly approach to running town government, doubling as the Public Works director and putting off replacement of the town's woefully outdated and too-small Town Hall, for example. Driving his approach is the town's limited tax base, largely dependent on homeowners.
Commercial development along Route 2 would help, but the Mashantucket tribe controls much of that property and has shown little interest in developing it. That leaves potential redevelopment of the former Norwich Hospital property.
While understanding Mr. Congdon's frustration with the state's failure to do anything with the 390-acre campus, this newspaper disagreed with his advocacy for the town taking possession from the state, a move voters narrowly approved in 2009. Cleaning up and marketing the property is a big job for a small town.
Yet there is no question the first selectman, working with the Preston Redevelopment Agency, has made a good go of it, securing state and federal grants and matching them with local assets to raze many old buildings on campus and conduct an environmental cleanup. Pursuit of finding developers for the property has become Mr. Congdon's White Whale; he keeps trying to land it, but it swims away.
Voters should give him another two years to try to sink the harpoon. The Day endorses Robert Congdon for first selectman of Preston.