Incumbent McDaniel faces challenge from Republican councilor McNally

Montville — Over his first four-year term as mayor, Ronald McDaniel says he has tried to bring Montville together.

“One of the things we’ve ... worked on is trying to get a true sense of community,” the mayor said. “We're Montville, and we've got to think as Montville.”

McDaniel, a Democrat, said he inherited a Town Council that often butted heads, making progress difficult.

Things have improved since then, he said.

“This past two years, despite philosophical differences, they worked together for the better of the town,” he said of the seven-member council. “I think we've been able to accomplish quite a bit.”

McDaniel said he is proud that the town has been able to increase its designated fund balance, start a solar energy initiative and complete needed infrastructure projects.

He said he lead these efforts despite statewide cuts to municipal aid and the closure of the former AES Thames power plant — once the town’s largest taxpayer.

A recent townwide property revaluation also lowered the grand list of taxable property by nearly 15 percent, and the town faces continued acquisitions of town-owned property by the Mohegan Pequot tribe.

His Republican challenger, Town Councilor Thomas McNally, says McDaniel lacks commitment to the job.

"I do get along with almost all the Democrats," added McNally, one of two minority party members of the council. "And I do like Ron, don't get me wrong, he's a great guy. I just don't think he's doing the job that Montville needs to have done."

McNally said he would take a hands-on approach.

“I'm out there all the time, going to businesses, talking to people," he said.

McDaniel, a former probate judge, said he has settled into the job after a tough first year of his four-year term.

He remembers his first few months on the job included a hazardous waste spill in the town, the discovery of the remains of a missing Norwich woman near Oxoboxo Dam Road and a fire that displaced a Montville family.

Since then, he has negotiated union contracts and handled severe weather events like a major blizzard and Superstorm Sandy.

After Sandy, he said, he returned more than 350 phone calls about power outages and downed trees.

"I still do that," he said. "I return every phone call, I return every email, and I think that's important."

He said he has pushed for the extension of gas, water and sewer lines through the town and advocated for more job opportunities.

“You can’t have jobs without infrastructure, you can’t have infrastructure without investment and you can’t have investment without the jobs,” he said.

McNally, who is a small business owner, said he entered into town politics almost by accident: He had driven another man to a meeting one night eight years ago, and was nominated and chosen to fill a vacancy on the school board as he sat at the back of the room. Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version of this paragraph.

"Nobody else wanted it," he said.

Since then, he has served on the RTM, the Zoning Board of Appeals, Public Safety Commission and as chairman of the Republican Town Committee.

A former assistant superintendent of the Water Pollution Control Authority, McNally was fired from the position in June 2012 after an investigation into two workplace incidents in December 2011.

He denied wrongdoing and sued the town, McDaniel and several WPCA employees. The town settled that suit in 2013, agreeing to pay McNally $135,000. 

In 2009, McNally also launched a lawsuit over his firing from his job as assistant chief of the Chesterfield Fire Company.

McNally says his bid for McDaniel’s position has nothing to do with his history with the mayor.

“It’s not personal,” he said.

McNally also won’t vote along party lines, he said. If the council had a Republican majority and councilors voted a way that he disagreed with, he would use his veto power.

McNally said he would like to negotiate a better deal between the town and the Mohegan Pequot tribe.

"I just think we need to sit down and discuss with them the compact that we have, and what's taken place," he said. "They do get along well with Montville, but it's just not enough, so I think we need to sit down and talk to them."

Both candidates said they support the idea of Montville developing an independent police department, but would first like to see the forthcoming report of an ad-hoc committee charged with evaluating the cost and feasibility.

The town currently has a resident state trooper, and police calls are routed through state police Troop E barracks in Montville.

m.shanahan@theday.com

Twitter: @martha_shan

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