Prue challenges incumbent Rotella in race for Stonington Board of Selectmen

Stonington — Former Republican Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman John Prue will challenge Democratic incumbent Kate Rotella in the race for selectman.

The contest actually becomes a three-way race, as the town charter specifies that the two highest vote-getters among Rotella, Prue and the losing first selectman candidate are elected to the two selectman positions on the Board of Selectmen.

Rotella, who had been the purchasing agent for the Town of Waterford over the past decade, stepped down from that job to accept a new position this month to become the purchasing manager for the Capital Region Education Council in Hartford.

In addition to her work as selectwoman over the past two years, Rotella serves on the K-12 School Building Committee, the Stonington Beautification Committee and the Mystic River Boathouse Park Committee.

As for why she is running again, Rotella said she enjoys what she is doing and serving the town.

“I love being involved in government and problem solving. I enjoy getting the town moving in the right direction,” she said. “What I don’t love is running for office. I’m still shy about asking someone to put up a campaign sign on their lawn.”

During her term, Rotella’s husband, Peter, an attorney and member of the town’s Board of Police Commissioners, died after a battle with cancer. They have a son together.

Rotella said her experience working on school projects in Waterford has been valuable to the K-12 School Building Committee as it planned and now has started the $67 million renovation and expansion and renovation of Deans Mill and West Vine Street elementary schools.

“I think my experience in finance has served the town well,” she added.

If re-elected, Rotella said she would like to see the school project to completion, attract more business to town and increase the tax base.

As for Prue, she said she feels her opponent would do a good job because of his background as a small business owner and his service on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“The town is lucky to have good candidates,” she said.

During her two years on the board, Rotella was not shy about telling First Selectman Rob Simmons and unaffiliated Selectman Mike Spellman that she wanted to delay a vote on certain issues until the next meeting so she could further research the topic.

“I’m not going to let things get pushed through. I’ll say ‘I’m not ready’ and they have both been respectful of that,” she said.

Prue served seven years on the Planning and Zoning Commission and three on the Zoning Board of Appeals. He owns Mystic Group LLC, which designs and fabricates displays and exhibits for trade shows. He lives in Pawcatuck with his wife, Teresa. They have a son and daughter who attend the University of Connecticut.

“I love this town. I believe local government works and the best example of that is Stonington. I want to keep it that way,” he said about his decision to run.

Prue said he feels his interaction with residents and applicants in what can be a “challenging and polarizing environment” while discussing contentious issues on the Planning and Zoning Commission will help him as a selectman.

“I think we brought more professionalism to the application process,” he said.

He said the commission worked professionally and collaboratively to seek solutions and he said the Board of Selectmen needs to work the same way, with proper decorum and professionalism.

With both positions, he said members “need to listen, understand then vote in the best interests of the town.”

Prue said that if elected, he would work to give the K-12 School Building Committee whatever assets, tools and support its members need to complete the $67 million elementary school renovation project.

As for dealing with the town budget and decreasing state budget, Prue said Stonington can take care of itself as long as it knows what the rules are.

“But the rules keep changing,” he said.

He said he is “on the fence” concerning a proposal by his running mate, Simmons, about whether the town should change its charter to hire a town manager.

“I’ve seen towns where it works and towns where it doesn’t,” he said, adding that he supports another proposal to expand the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.

He said Rotella has done an admirable job on the Board of Selectmen, which he said is able to debate issues and then reach a consensus.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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