Firmin, Nickerson run for East Lyme first selectman
East Lyme — Incumbent First Selectman Mark C. Nickerson and Robert Wesley "Wes" Firmin III are seeking the town's top office, with Nickerson running on his record and Firmin representing a change to the "status quo."
Nickerson, 54, a Republican and the town's first selectman since January 2015, has been involved in town government for 18 years, previously serving on the Board of Selectmen and the Zoning Commission. Nickerson, who is married and has two sons, runs two local GEICO offices.
Firmin, 37, is a Republican running as a petitioning candidate. Firmin, who has a daughter and is engaged, works at Northeast Financial Group and helps run his family's local business, Firmin's Garage. He is a member of the Crescent Beach BNI and grand president of the Connecticut Herweigh Lodges.
Nickerson, whose community involvement includes serving on the board of directors of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, said that with the ongoing fiscal crisis in Connecticut weighing heavily on small towns, his priority will be managing the town through that and balancing quality of life and education with taxes.
"Right now the focus is on keeping taxes as low as possible, keeping our schools as high quality as possible and maintaining the town services we have right now," he said.
Nickerson said the town also is looking into Parks and Recreation using money from beach passes to make the beaches self-sustaining, rather than using taxpayer money to operate them. He said the town also will have to look for efficiencies and opportunities for regional cooperation.
A major focus next year will be the renovation of the three elementary schools and ensuring the project is done "right and on time and on budget," he said.
Nickerson said other priorities include a project for a bathhouse building at Cini Park next summer and the completion of transforming the former Mobil gas station site on Main Street into a park with green space that overlooks the water. The town approved purchasing the property at a referendum in 2010, and he said he was happy the town was able to come to terms with the former property owner and receive a state brownfields grant to assess the property.
Nickerson said he loves serving the town and is proud of the progress he and the town's department heads and volunteers have made working together over the last three years, from the establishment of an independent police department to LED lights for energy savings.
"East Lyme should be proud of the town it has become and the town it will be," he said.
Firmin said that, if elected, he will give up his other jobs and focus 100 percent on the first selectman position. Nickerson has said in response that the first selectman position is a full-time job and he has three managers running his two GEICO offices.
Firmin said that he wants to be first selectman because it seems over the last few administrations, everything has been falling back on the taxpayers and eventually it won't be affordable to live in town.
"As a lifelong resident, I'm determined to make it great for many years to come so my kids can one day live here, as well," he said.
Firmin said his top priorities would be eliminating "the reckless spending of taxpayer dollars," fixing and repairing deteriorating infrastructure and bringing more small business to East Lyme.
He said he would like to do a forensic audit of the town's past spending, so that moving forward the town can "eliminate spending on people's wants and really get down to our community needs and try to eliminate our taxpayers having to suffer from this reckless spending."
He has pointed to the demolition of the Mobil station as an example of the town focusing on "wants" rather than "needs."
He said another priority will be maintaining the town's infrastructure and sewer pump stations, some of which he said have not been properly updated, mentioning in particular the pump station in downtown Niantic. He said his approach would be to see what is needed today and to be proactive in maintaining infrastructure to prevent issues and larger costs down the road.
Nickerson said the town continuously maintains its infrastructure and has an ongoing replacement plan for pump stations and wells. An engineering study on the Niantic pump station is underway.
Firmin said another priority will be to promote small businesses across town.
"I want to treat the north end of town as we treat Main Street and get businesses thriving in the north end of town," he said.
He recommended that the town work "hand in hand" with small businesses to get them to open up in town and ensure they prosper, which would both help the town's tax base and the businesses.
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