Eno retires as Lyme first selectman; Mattson replaces him

From left, Steven Mattson, Parker Lord, Ralph Eno, and Rosie, Eno's dog, Monday at Lyme Town Hall.  (Kimberly Drelich/The Day)
From left, Steven Mattson, Parker Lord, Ralph Eno, and Rosie, Eno's dog, Monday at Lyme Town Hall. (Kimberly Drelich/The Day)

Lyme — Steven Mattson, a selectman for the past 13 years, was sworn in Monday as the town's new first selectman, as Ralph F. Eno Jr. retired after more than two decades of leading the town.

Eno read his resignation letter during Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting, saying that it has been a privilege to serve and thanking everyone at Town Hall for their support during his tenure.

"I hope Lyme and its residents will continue to thrive and that our town will always be the very special place we know it to be," Eno said, as his dog, Rosie, an English setter, sat on his lap.

Mattson and Parker Lord, the remaining two selectmen on the board, appointed Mattson, a Democrat, to serve the remainder of the term vacated by Eno, a Republican. The term ends in November.

"Ralph has run this town in a stellar fashion for a long time, so there are no major changes that are needed," Mattson, 62, a retired business executive, said in an interview. "I'm hoping that by bringing my business background to the town, it'll be a fresh perspective and that maybe we can do things just slightly differently to make sure that we are taking advantage of all the things that are possible in a town of our size."

Mattson said this is the first time in recent memory that Lyme has had a Democratic first selectman. He said he thinks this is a reflection that both parties are very comfortable with his leadership, and he doesn't anticipate any substantial changes for townspeople.

Mark Wayland, a Republican who runs a small custom carpentry business in town, was appointed as third selectman for the remainder of Mattson's term. Wayland, 48, has been involved with the Lyme Fire Company since 1982, and is currently the Lyme/Old Lyme Troop 26 Scoutmaster. Lyme Democratic Committee Chairman John Kiker was also nominated by Mattson for the third selectman position, but his nomination was not seconded by Lord.

The Democratic Town Committee and Republican Town Committee will hold caucuses in July to endorse Board of Selectmen candidates for the November municipal elections.

Eno, 72, who served as first selectman since 2006 as well as from 1991 to 2001, said in an interview that he felt it was time to retire and that he believes the town is well served with the transition plan. He is moving to Maine with his wife, Penny.

Eno, who also has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Finance and has worked in broadcasting and as a carpenter, said he didn't look for the first selectman post, but it found him. He said like every job, it has its up and downs, but that this was the best of his jobs.

"Overall, it suited me," he said. "I never would have imagined it could have. It was just blind luck, to be in the right place at the right time."

Mattson said Eno has been "an amazingly talented steward of the town, and he will be sorely missed."

George Moore, executive director of the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, said the land trust has partnered with the town, state, and the Nature Conservancy to place more than half of the town's land under protection, and the achievement would not have been possible without Eno and the selectmen. 

"The Lyme Land Trust has had effective leadership by talented volunteer directors but we also had a special asset - Ralph Eno, our First Selectman," he said in an email. "There is no question he wanted to protect the charming rural atmosphere and agricultural heritage of the Town. Accordingly, he worked closely with us and the other conservation organizations to make it happen by supporting major land acquisitions. We always had a strong ally at Town Hall. The level of cooperation from Ralph and the other selectmen was something we are all proud of. They grasped the fact that we were not taking property off the tax rolls, rather we were helping the Town grow in an orderly and manageable way while protecting what the town’s residents hold dear."

Elizabeth Gara, the executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, said by email that Eno, a longtime member of COST's Board of Directors, is passionate about how vital small towns are to the state's economic well-being and quality of life and he has always been willing to "come up to Hartford on a moment's notice to meet with legislators to advocate on behalf of the small towns."

"Ralph's efforts have been successful in making sure that Connecticut's small towns have a big voice at the state Capitol," she said.

Republican Town Committee Chairman Rowland Ballek said in a phone interview that Eno was a champion of open space, a leader in projects to renovate the Town Hall and build a new library and to convert the town's landfill into a transfer station. He said he was also an advocate for small towns who kept the town's tax rate steady over the years.

"We're very lucky we had Ralph Eno," he said. "He was all for Lyme."

k.drelich@theday.com

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