Democrats seize control of the Groton Town Council
Groton — Democrats swept the Groton Town Council on Tuesday, wining all nine seats and ousting seven incumbents.
Voters elected Democratic incumbent Richard Moravsik, retired from project management at Arabian American Oil Co.; Rita Schmidt, a former town councilor and retired president of Mystic Schooner Cruises Inc.; Patrice Granatosky, a former town councilor and teacher at Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School; Lian Obrey, a real estate broker who served on the Representative Town Meeting; Conrad Heede, a current Groton City councilor; Rachael Franco, a business manager in Norwich; Juliette Parker, the administrative assistant to the Groton City police chief; David Atwater, who served as a selectman in Maine for six years; and Joe Zeppieri, a retired orthopedic surgeon who now practices law.
Republican incumbents Bruce Flax, Harry Watson, Dean Antipas, Deborah Peruzzotti, Karen Morton, Diane Barber and Bonnie Nault lost their seats.
Democratic incumbents Lee White and Rosemary Robertson, Democrat Jane Giulini and Republican incumbent Andrea Ackerman won the four seats on the Board of Education. Incumbent Republican Jay Weitlauf lost his seat.
Republicans gasped and stood in stunned silence at the Republican headquarters as results were announced.
"It's been a good ride, you know?" said Watson, who served 26 years on the council. "Congratulations to them. I don't know what the voters are trying to tell us."
Mayor Bruce Flax said he stood by his convictions and would "wish everyone else the best of luck."
Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher, a Democrat, ran unopposed and was re-elected.
"I had a feeling we did well but I wasn't expecting to do quite so well. It was a nice surprise," said Granatosky. "I had a feeling talking to people that there was some discontent, but I don't think anyone thought there'd be a full sweep either way."
"We heard a lot of concern about education," said Heede, regarding what he heard from voters. "They would like to see education that benefits all the kids and the way the Town Council initialy approached the state budget crisis hurt them badly. No one wants to be in the position they were in, but they may not have handled it properly."
The council initially voted to cut $5.2 million or 6.7 percent from the Board of Education's budget request for the fiscal year that began July 1. Councilors later restored $2.2 million of that funding.
Obrey said residents were also upset about the council's threat not to renew the lease of the Par 4 Restaurant at Shennecossett Golf Course this year.
The race among the 18 candidates for Town Council focused on economic development, budgeting and education as central issues. Groton started an aggressive economic development program two years ago but has struggled with losses in state funding. Earlier this year, the town closed an elementary school because of cuts.
Groton has also been reviewing its government structure, and some Republican candidates said they wanted to see changes proposed by the Charter Revision Commission brought to voters at referendum. The commission recommended the town abolish the Representative Town Meeting, create a board of finance and hold an annual budget referendum.
Franco, a newly elected Democrat, said she disagrees with that. "I think this is going to be a big change in Groton. We're going in a little bit of a different direction," she said. "I think we're going to listen to the people more so than the last council did. Like the charter revision is not something we're for. We think if it's not broke, don't fix it."