Return Simmons as Stonington first selectman

Stonington voters have two able and experienced candidates to choose from in the race for first selectman. Yet one of the two candidates stands out and it’s the incumbent, Republican Rob Simmons.

The race between Simmons and Democratic nominee George Crouse is a rematch. Both 74, these men show little sign of slowing down. Crouse, a teacher and longtime coach for Stonington High School’s successful tennis program, still coaches the girls’ squad.

Two years ago, Simmons defeated Crouse, who sought to hold onto the first selectman’s seat he had inherited after the resignation of Ed Haberek. Crouse well served the town by returning calm and credibility to the office after the tumultuous Haberek years.

But then, as now, Simmons was the stronger candidate.

Serving as the town leader is an act of service for a man with a history of service. Simmons, a retired Army colonel, served 20 months in Vietnam and two years for the CIA there between 1967 and 1972. He would later serve as a state representative, three times won election to Congress, and from 2007-2008 worked as the state’s business advocate.

His time as first selectman has seen budgets passed with little rancor, federal insurance discounts for homeowners in a shoreline area restored after their suspension in 2015, and the $2.2 million Mystic River Boathouse Park project move forward.

Simmons also deserves credit for his part in blocking the Amtrak high-speed rail bypass plan through Mystic and securing grants for breakwater and Town Dock improvements.

There have been problems, including a costly and ongoing labor fight with a former employer. Efforts to turn an informal dog park down at the Town Dock into an official, fenced-in dog play area turned into a fiasco when disgruntled neighbors sued. It ended with a settlement and no dog park.

To be fair, these were inherited issues from the prior administration. Fully Simmons’ fault, however, was his stalling the release of a consultant’s report for fear it could aggravate the labor dispute. Simmons made things worse by huddling privately and illegally with his fellow selectmen to discuss it. But the report was eventually released and Simmons conceded his violation.

On balance, the term was a good one for Simmons and his experience remains a vital asset. The Day endorses Rob Simmons for re-election in Stonington.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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