First order of business for Hinchey in Norwich: avoid layoffs

Norwich — Mayor-Elect Deberey Hinchey spent a busy post-election day retrieving campaign signs, meeting with reporters and the city manager, and announcing one budget priority.

"I don't want any layoffs," Hinchey said, referring to controversial cuts this past spring that eliminated a social worker and a grants accounts clerk from the Human Services office and a fire code clerk from the city fire department.

Hinchey wants budget meetings to start with discussions with city department heads and employees on how to cut spending without eliminating jobs. She will meet with City Manager Alan Bergren and Comptroller Joshua Pothier and city departments to find efficiencies, office consolidations and other potential savings in an effort to avoid layoffs.

Hinchey defeated incumbent Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom 2,203 to 1,931 Tuesday, with Libertarian candidate William Russell finishing a distant third with 386 votes.

She and the six victorious City Council candidates will be sworn in Dec. 3 and, although she is eager to get started, she does not want to interfere with Nystrom's duties during his final month in office.

"Peter Nystrom has always been very respectful of me," Hinchey said. "In these last few weeks, I don't want to interrupt what he is doing and the respect he has from the people of Norwich."

Nystrom visited Hinchey's campaign victory party late Tuesday and offered to help her in the transition, Hinchey said.

She said she looks forward to working with the incoming council, which includes three colleagues from the current council, Republican Alderwoman Sofee Noblick and Democrats Francois, "Pete" Desaulniers and Mark Bettencourt. Former Republican Alderman Bill Nash and newcomer Democrats Bill Eyberse and Terell Wilson also will be sworn in Dec. 3.

Hinchey said Bettencourt is knowledgeable about many issues, while Noblick is adamant that the city must address blight, and Desaulniers has tackled thankless tasks, including straightening out troubles at the city ice rink. Hinchey hopes Desaulniers will be named again by the council as council president pro tempore, effectively the deputy mayor.

Nash, a retired city police officer, provides good perspective on public safety, while Eyberse and Wilson will bring new ideas to the floor, she said.

"We've got a great council," Hinchey added.

The city charter authorizes the mayor to hire an economic development assistant, but like her three predecessors, she doesn't plan to fill the position immediately. She prefers to work with the Norwich Community Development Corp., the city community development office and Planning Director Peter Davis on economic development issues.

Over the next few weeks prior to taking office, Hinchey will concentrate on hiring an administrative assistant, a direct appointment by the mayor. The office secretary coordinates activities in the mayor's office and for the City Council.

While not active on social media herself, Hinchey wants to let residents know the mayor's schedule, planned activities and upcoming events in the most efficient ways, and a computer-savvy administrative assistant could help with that.

Hinchey also supports retaining Bergren as city manager, one of two direct council appointments, the other being city clerk.

"I look forward to working with Alan," Hinchey said.


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