Simmons will not seek another term as Stonington first selectman

Stonington — Republican First Selectman Rob Simmons announced Thursday night that he would not be seeking a third term this November, setting up a race between Republican Selectman John Prue and unaffiliated Board of Finance member Danielle Chesebrough, who was nominated by the Democrats.

Both Prue and Chesebrough were nominated by their respective town committees at the party caucuses on Thursday night. In addition, the Democrats endorsed Board of Finance Chairwoman June Strunk to run for Board of Selectman and the Republicans endorsed Board of Education member Deborah Downie, whom town committee members selected over Shaun Mastroianni by a 19-14 vote.

The two seats on the Board of Selectmen will be determined by who are the top two vote-getters among the selectman candidates and the losing first selectman candidate.

Currently, the third member of the Board of Selectmen is Democrat Jocelyn Kepple, who filled the unexpired term of Kate Rotella, who stepped down after being elected state representative for the 43rd district last fall. Kepple said she would not run in November.

Simmons, 76, a former 2nd District congressman, told the Republican Town Committee that he decided not to run again because it’s time for a change, new faces and new leadership. “I think it’s time for me and others of my guard to look for younger folks to carry on,” he said after the caucus.

Simmons said he ran with Prue two years ago with the idea that Prue would then run for first selectman.

Prue, who owns a business that develops exhibits and displays for trade shows, said he feels the knowledge of the issues he’s developed over the past two years and the contributions he’s made on the board have prepared him for the job.

"I think I can continue with all the good things going on in Stonington over the past two years," he said.

Chesebrough, who works in sustainable finance for the United Nations and serves on the town's Economic Development Commission, rebuffed suggestions by Democrats that she align with the party.

“To be true to who I am, I am an independent,” she told committee members. “If I said I’d become a Democrat to get endorsed, it would be borderline unethical."

"I have had the privilege of serving with and learning from a diverse group of dedicated volunteers and town employees. Dedicating myself full time to public service, I would put immense energy toward ensuring we build on our collective strengths and work together as a united community," she said.

The Democrats nominated Bob Statchen and Deb Norman to run for the Board of Finance, while the Republicans put forth David Motherway and Blunt White.

The Republicans had no candidates for the Board of Education and will try again Monday to nominate candidates. The Democrats nominated current school board members Crag Esposito and Farouk Rajab.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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