Uncontested Groton City officials eye economic development, opportunities for youth

Groton — Spurring economic development, maintaining city services, and providing more opportunities for youths are among the priorities named by the uncontested slate of Democratic candidates for City Council and Mayor in the May 6 city election.

City Mayor Keith Hedrick, who was elected mayor in 2017 after serving the prior two years as deputy mayor and as city councilor since 2009, is running uncontested for his second term.

“I would like to continue the work that the staff, the City Council and I have been able to do in the City of Groton to move the city forward,” he said.

Priorities for next term include continuing to maintain services at the current level while keeping taxes low and continuing to focus on economic development, particularly on Thames Street and the Five Corners area, with a Tax Increment Financing District master plan slated for approval later this year, he said.

“We are continuing to support economic development in the city and encourage investors to come into the city to invest on Thames Street and Five Corners,” Hedrick said.

He said the city also will continue its support of Pfizer and Electric Boat projects and, with the projected increase of 5,000 employees at Electric Boat over the next 5 to 10 years, will look at traffic control, parking, and how to help meet the needs of the future employees.

The city is trying to encourage millennials to “live, work and play” in the city, including by encouraging developments with commercial uses on the first floor and residential on upper floors so EB employees have a place to live and can access restaurants and services within walking and biking distance, he said.

The City Council election features Lisa McCabe and Minerva Ortiz, who are running for their first term, and incumbents Jamal Beckford, Rashaad Carter, Gweneviere Depot and Jill Rusk. Deputy Mayor Lawrence Gerrish and City Councilor Stephen Sheffield are not seeking another term. With an uncontested race, the candidates went on a "listening tour" to hear feedback from city residents.

McCabe, an engineering supervisor in the Information Technology department at Electric Boat who served a term on the Groton Representative Town Meeting, said she has volunteered in various capacities for a good part of her adult life, and now that her children are grown, her volunteerism is turning towards the city.

"I'm looking forward to this new experience," she said. "I'm looking forward to serving the city."

Bringing more businesses to the city, which will increase revenue and keep taxes from rising, is an issue "near and dear to her heart," she said.

Minerva Ortiz, a former paraprofessional for New London Public Schools who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the northeast and southeast, said she is running because she’d like to see more representation of Hispanics in key places.

“I want to be the one to open the door for the next generation,” said Ortiz, who is raising her 10-year-old granddaughter and is active in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group.

Ortiz said her goals include bringing more awareness to children’s mental health and providing more activities and programs for youths, particularly pre-teens and teenagers, in the community.

Beckford, a lifelong city resident who works at Electric Boat and is running for his second term, said maintaining city services is important.

“When I’ve been campaigning, a lot of people talked about the services and how much they enjoy living in the City of Groton, so I’d just like to maintain that,” said Beckford.

Beckford, liaison to the Economic Development Committee, also said he wants to bring new businesses to the city. Enthusiasm is already building, with the city planner and economic development specialist and doing a lot of work to reach out to existing businesses and to attract new businesses.

Carter, a State Trooper and volunteer coach who works part-time as a licensed clinical social worker, said he sees himself as a voice for constituents.

"I stand to hold our government accountable for our community," said Carter, a councilor since 2017. "In Groton City, we are moving forward, but it's important to move forward with everyone's best interests in mind. Our recent council members have done that. I look forward to another term."

Carter, who is from Groton and has lived there his entire life, except when he was in college, supports efforts to make the city a cultural hub and a place "to not only work, but to live and play."

Depot, a councilor since 2017 and the office manager for an industrial hygiene company, said she hadn't previously been involved in politics and has enjoyed being part of even the little decisions and helping moving initiatives forward, including the mayor's agenda to stabilize taxes, provide more transparency in city government, and get people more engaged. Incremental improvements, including posting on Facebook a couple of times a week, can give people those chances to get involved.

"It gives people the ability to get engaged when they didn’t realize how easy it could be to have a say," said Depot, who grew up in Groton.

Rusk, a city councilor since 2015, was not available for comment.

Voting will be held from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, May 6 at the following locations:

District 2: West Side Middle School, 250 Brandegee Ave., Groton

District 3: Groton City Municipal Building, 295 Meridian St., Groton

Absentees ballots are available from the City Clerk. People with questions can call the City Clerk at 860-446-4102.

k.drelich@theday.com

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