For first time in 16 years, Lyme first selectman race is contested

Lyme — For the first time in 16 years, the town has a contested first selectman race, as First Selectman Steven Mattson, a Democrat, and Selectman Mark Wayland, a Republican, vie for the town's top spot. 

Mattson has been first selectmen since July, when he stepped in to serve the remainder of former First Selectman Ralph F. Eno Jr.'s term, as Eno resigned. Wayland then filled Mattson's spot as selectman.

Mattson, 62, who is retired with a background in logistics planning and was a selectman for 12 years, is married and has a 25-year-old daughter. In the 23 years that he has lived in town, he said he has served on virtually every board and commission, and he helped run Camp Claire with his wife, Maddy, for the last few years.

Wayland, 49, has two children — a son in high school and a daughter in college — and is married to Kathryn Wayland, who is running for re-election to the Board of Finance. He runs a small carpentry business, has served as a member of the Lyme Fire Co. for 33 years and is scoutmaster for Lyme/Old Lyme Troop 26.

In interviews, the candidates named the top issues and priorities over the next term.

Mattson said he wants to give back to the town, and in a small community like Lyme, a priority is providing continuity in town management. Mattson said he ran the town's financial reporting for the last five years and wants to maintain continuity for the town, while also slightly updating and modernizing aspects of how the town is run to be more efficient.

For the town's budget, for example, he said it's important to not make financial decisions based only on one year, but to look forward over several years at a time.

"That allows you to do things in a smarter way and save money in the long run that you normally wouldn't notice," he said.

In addition to making sure the town is running properly, including maintaining and plowing roads, ensuring the populace is safe and keeping taxes low, Mattson said he would review human resources for the small town of about 12 employees. While there are no major problems, Mattson said it would be beneficial to build a more cohesive human resources system to ensure everybody has the resources they need to do their jobs and start planning for how to develop the talent in-house to replace employees as they retire, without any major gaps.

With approximately 147 volunteer positions open in town, Mattson said finding volunteers is a critical long-term issue.

"We need to get people excited," he said. "We need to get them involved. We need to find out what their expertises are, and we need to bring them onboard."

Wayland, who is the third generation in his family to live in town, said he feels he can make a difference and is running for first selectman out of the love he feels for the town.

He named encouraging volunteerism as a top priority. Wayland said Lyme is a volunteer-based community and a priority will be to maintain and grow the number of volunteers in town, particularly for the fire department and ambulance association.

"There is no easy solution for these problems, because every town is going through them, but I think it's an important part of the town government to do whatever we can to assist in that volunteerism and anything we can to keep that going in our town," he said. "Without it, our town wouldn't be the town that it is."

"The volunteers are really truly the ones that steer our town in the direction that we like it to be in," he added. He said he's open to looking at all options to address the issue.

Wayland said the town has no major issues and has been governed well for the past 25 years.

"My mission is to continue that same philosophy of government in a bipartisan way between Democrats and Republicans," he said.

In addition to keeping taxes low and supporting the school system, Wayland said he feels very strongly about preserving the town's rural heritage and continuing the relationship with the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, which has curbed the amount of development in town.

In Lyme, the first selectman candidate who loses that race automatically becomes a candidate for a selectman. The two highest vote-getters among the selectman candidates and the losing first selectman candidate will become selectmen.  

k.drelich@theday.com

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