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Alberti, Nickerson run for East Lyme first selectman

East Lyme — Republican First Selectman Mark Nickerson and Democratic finance board member Camille Alberti will square off for the town’s top seat this November, offering voters a choice between differing leadership and management styles to best move the town forward.

Both said they are dedicated to striking a balance between encouraging economic development and preserving the town’s character and environment, as well as maintaining and enhancing the reputation of the East Lyme school district.

Nickerson said his track record of inspiring and mobilizing town employees to complete a number of projects during his tenure will continue if he is re-elected. Alberti argued that her “honest and transparent,” as well as more methodical, approach to town planning would help the taxpayers' wallets while representing the interests of all the town's residents, if she is elected.

Nickerson, 56, who is married and has two sons, runs two local GEICO offices. He was appointed first selectman in January 2015 to serve the remainder of former First Selectman Paul Formica's term after Formica was elected to the state Senate. Nickerson then was elected to a full two-year term as first selectman in November that same year.

Nickerson previously served in other town-elected positions, first as an alternate Zoning Commission member beginning in 1999 and later as its chair. In 2009, he was elected onto the Board of Selectmen. Nickerson also currently chairs the town's Water and Sewer Commission.

Alberti, 57, pursued a career in management consulting before moving to East Lyme in 2005, working for Deloitte Consulting, “leading projects for many Fortune 500 companies all over the country.” She later formed an independent management consulting firm, where she said her two biggest clients were Mercedes Benz and Volvo.

After moving to East Lyme, Alberti began a small home staging and interior design business, known as The Suite Stage, and served as finance director for Groton City's River Front Children's Center, a nonprofit, for nearly two years. She resigned from the children's center position in January and currently sits on the board of trustees for the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center.

A former Republican, Alberti has served on the Board of Finance since 2013, and has participated in seven budget cycles. She served as board chair for one year, from December 2016 to December 2017.

Alberti said that she has both the business and financial wherewithal to lead the town responsibly and effectively and said that she would like to avoid inaccurate or misjudged project costs, eliminating the need for town officials to later come before the Board of Finance asking for additional appropriations to finance projects. She cited additional money had been allocated to complete renovations to the high school pool, as well as its tennis courts, among other examples.

Alberti said that because of her project management experience, as well as her eye for the small details, she helped taxpayers bypass a proposal to build a medical clinic for town and school employees, known as the “care, here, now” proposal, saving them more than $500,000 in upfront costs. Alberti said moving forward, she would be able to pick apart the projects, proposals and status reports that come before her, ensuring projects are completed most efficiently and within their proposed scope.

She said that as a member of the Board of Finance, she takes a scrutinizing eye to the proposals put before her, carefully considering what’s necessary and what’s not, and would apply the same work ethic as first selectman.

Besides wanting to “encourage sound, tasteful and reasonable economic development that contributes to the tax base and the quality of life in our town, while preserving its unique charm and character," Alberti said she is seeking to improve government operations and develop “sound policies and procedures for fair and ethical business practices,” which she does not believe is happening with the town’s current administration.

She added that she also would engage experts to develop strategies to address environmental and sustainability concerns, support quality educational opportunities for all and create a charter revision commission tasked with making recommendations to improve government operations.

Nickerson argued that his 20 years of experience in town government, as well as his “proven track record” to complete many varying projects in a timely manner and “on budget” will continue. Listing several accomplishments over his five years as town executive, he noted establishing an independent police force, finishing the construction of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk and working with officials to install the McCook's Point Park band shell, as well as bathroom facilities at Cini Park.

Nickerson stated that chief among those accomplishments is the recently completed elementary schools’ renovation project. He said he worked diligently with school officials over his tenure to reduce an initial $100 million estimate for rebuilding the schools to the $37.5 million figure passed at referendum in 2017. The 14-month project was completed last month, “on time and on budget,” he said.

Nickerson also noted the town’s recent purchase and planning for a renovated public safety building, which he maintains will also come in on budget. The town approved in February up to $5 million to both purchase the $2.8 million building and renovate it.

Other than touting the many projects and accomplishments he has overseen while the town's executive, Nickerson said that he has worked closely with his town departments and employees to plan for and implement both departmental and townwide projects, as well as finding more departmental efficiencies and savings.

Nickerson said that under his leadership, there has been "a continuity of finding fiscal savings and efficiencies throughout town government with the departments working together."

"And we've never worked better together than right now," he said. "Never have we been better, and we continue to make those improvements."

Among the long-term savings ideas he has implemented were instating a vehicle acquisitions program; installing LED streetlights, which he said saves taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year; and recently overseeing a $2.3 million water meter replacement program that he said will help save the town, as well as ratepayers, money moving forward.

Nickerson said that because of his involvement on the Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectmen over the last 20 years, he has been a direct influencer in shaping the “all-around great town” East Lyme has become, noting downtown Niantic’s transformation and “renaissance” from “ghost town” to a bustling area.

“I was a big part of the planning of the revitalization of downtown being on the Zoning Commission,” he said. “We have this sense of place that we didn’t have before.”

If elected, Nickerson said he hopes, among other goals, to potentially institute a tax-abatement program for seniors and see the redevelopment of the current Dominion-owned police station building on Main Street. He said the town is looking to acquire the building as soon as the town's police force moves out, which he said should be early next year.

Nickerson added that he hopes to find a resolution to the now decadeslong court case between the town and Glenn Russo of Landmark Development, who has planned a large housing development in the environmentally sensitive Oswegatchie Hills section of town.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

m.biekert@theday.com

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