Unchallenged, Groton City Democratic candidates to go on 'listening tour'

Groton — With no challenge from Republicans in the May elections for mayor and City Council, the endorsed slate of Democratic candidates said they will go on a "listening tour" to hear what voters want for the future of the city.

The Groton City Democratic Committee last month endorsed a full slate of candidates for the May 6 election: incumbent Keith Hedrick for mayor, and incumbents Jill Rusk, Jamal Beckford, Rashaad Carter and Gweneviere Depot, as well as first-time candidates Lisa McCabe and Minerva Ortiz, for City Council.

Democratic Committee Chairman and former City Mayor Marian Galbraith said the slate of candidates represents a great mix of experience and new ideas.

"I think the slate of candidates reflects both the diversity we have in the city and the quality of life," Galbraith said. "I think they also bring to the table a really great cross section of knowledge about what's important in the city."

According to biographies provided by the Democratic committee, Hedrick, the mayor since 2017, worked as operations manager at engineering firm AECOM and is a retired U.S. Navy officer. Rusk, city councilor since 2015, works in social services for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and served as ombudsman for the USS Connecticut. Beckford, who was first elected in 2017, is a lifelong Groton resident and engineer at Electric Boat and treasurer of the Black Engineering Council of Electric Boat. Carter, also a lifelong Groton resident first elected to the Council in 2017, works as a state trooper and volunteers as football, baseball and basketball coach for youths. Depot, a city councilor since 2017, grew up in Groton and works as the office manager for a local industrial hygiene company and has a background in insurance. 

McCabe is an engineering supervisor at Electric Boat who served on the Groton Representative Town Meeting from 2016 to 2017. Ortiz, who was born in Puerto Rico and has lived at Branford Manor for the past four years, had worked as a paraeducator for New London Public Schools before leaving the position to raise her granddaughter, and she is active in the group Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

Deputy Mayor Lawrence Gerrish and City Councilor Stephen Sheffield are not running for re-election.

Gerrish, a retired Groton City police chief who has served on the council for eight years, said he has a lot of ties to the city and had decided to run for the council to give back.

"I always thought the city was a great place to live and work and play," he said.

Gerrish said he feels the city is in good hands, and with his personal schedule — he has some other interests he wants to pursue and wants to spend more time with his family — he decided not to seek re-election, though he might run again in the future.

Sheffield, who has served six years on the council, said he has chosen to devote more time to pursuing a master’s degree rather than run for another term on the City Council.

"I have been trying to do both along with working two jobs and it became pretty tiring," he said. "So, it was in my best interest not to serve a fourth term on the City Council and instead continue with my academics."

City of Groton Republican Committee Chairman Robert Zuliani said the committee is not endorsing a slate of candidates. He said a great deal of effort was put into searching for viable candidates but, unfortunately, it was met with negative results in the city where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a more than 2-to-1 ratio.

“Many of those who were approached to run on the Republican ticket, felt that City voters are presently not willing to [accept] change,” he said by email. “They also felt that the City voters are not open to healthy debate in its government process, through bi-partisan representation in its government, which we believe could have helped in avoiding the many improper decisions made over the past 12 years that, overall, were not in the best interest of the City’s taxpayers and residents.”

“The City Republican Party will continue to monitor and participate in the City’s governmental decisions when appropriate and necessary,” he added. “We look forward to the day when the City voters realize that a bi-partisanship government makes for a healthy government. In the interim, our party will continue to work for what is best for the City of Groton, its residents and taxpayers.”

With the uncontested election, Galbraith said the mayor and council candidates will return to the roots of campaigning and are planning a “campaign of listening,” in which they will go door to door to talk to voters about what's important to them and what they would like to see in the city for the next two years.

Hedrick said everyone is honored and excited to serve and wants to reach out to voters to talk to them about how they think the city is doing. The candidates also want to know what voters think, for example, about the growth at Electric Boat, parking in the city and the level of services the city provides.

“We see this as an opportunity to get in touch with the taxpayers and voters and see where they want to go forward,” Hedrick said.

Additionally, candidates will share what the city is doing to reduce taxes.

k.drelich@theday.com

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