Urgo, Palmer face off for North Stonington first selectman

North Stonington first selectman candidates Asa Palmer, left, and Mike Urgo, right.
North Stonington first selectman candidates Asa Palmer, left, and Mike Urgo, right.

North Stonington — With new election rules in place, it's "go big or go home" for the two men running for first selectman.

Republican Asa Palmer was endorsed by the Republican Town Committee, and unaffiliated candidate Mike Urgo was endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee and the Independent Party.

Current Selectman Nicholas Mullane and First Selectman Shawn Murphy, both Republicans, are not running for office this year. Democratic Selectman Mark Donahue is running for town treasurer against incumbent Robin Roohr.

This will be the first election in which a new ordinance will be in play. Previously, votes received by the losing first selectman candidate would apply toward a seat as a selectman on the Board of Selectmen. But residents at a town meeting in February 2016 voted to limit the votes to the first selectman's race only.

Reducing spending and boosting development to offset state cuts and local tax increases was a shared goal of the two candidates, as well as the current administration.

Urgo, 40, comes into the election with a smattering of experience on various committees related to the school building project, the Board of Finance and community groups, including NoStoFest and the North Stonington Quarterly. He said he wants to continue the work the town has been doing, especially working within the Plan of Conservation and Development to bring in businesses that would fit the town's rural character.

As an agent with Farmers Insurance, Urgo said he can bring his experience with budgeting and negotiations to the position. He noted that the town has been a Republican stronghold for the last 40 years or so, and he said he is intentionally unaffiliated and ready to work with everyone to keep the town in good financial shape and improve communication and efficiency.

Palmer, a 22-year-old dairy farmer, currently sits on the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, though he regularly attends special Board of Finance meetings and has been following town government since he was 14. He said that others often question his age and lack of experience in his candidacy, but the town needs someone to lead it through tough financial times ahead.

His primary campaign concern was stopping tax increases in town. He cited future cuts from the state as well as paying off the emergency services and school building projects, saying the town "just bit off more than we can chew" with the $38.5 million school project.

If residents want to keep North Stonington's rural charm, they need to keep taxes low to support farmers and other families and businesses that add to that charm, Palmer said. He wants to see the boards of education, finance and selectmen work as one to save money wherever possible, and he wants the town to work with investors to encourage development.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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