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    Monday, January 30, 2023

    Reemsnyder, ensnared in port authority controversy, ousted in Old Lyme

    Old Lyme — Republican Timothy Griswold unseated First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder on Tuesday after making a last-minue run for the office he had previously held for years.

    Unofficial numbers were 1,774 for Griswold and 1,403 for Reemsnyder, a Democrat. Reemsnyder did not garner enough votes to remain on the Board of Selectmen, which will consist of Griswold, Republican Chris Kerr and Democrat Mary Jo Nosal, both incumbents.

    Republicans swept nearly all of the town's contested races, with 56 percent of the town's 5,728 registered voters casting ballots.

    Griswold, considered the more conservative candidate, had stressed in debates and interviews that he would work to maintain the small-town character of Old Lyme and slow down or rethink some of the projects initiated by Reemsnyder. He said the town would be talking more about "needs" than "wants," assessing the needs for the school district over the next decade and moving ahead with some necessary improvements, including sidewalks and crosswalks on Halls Road. Merging the town's police force with East Lyme's department is not likely to occur under the incoming administration.

    "The message we were putting out was resonating," Griswold said of what was nearly a full sweep for Republicans. "Old Lyme has historically been a rural town, and anything that would jeopardize that would be (rejected)."

    Griswold, 76, held the first selectman's seat from 1997 to 2011, when Reemsnyder, in her fourth attempt to unseat him, defeated him 1,412 votes to his 1,178. More recently, he has served as the town's treasurer.

    This election season, Reemsnyder, 65, was poised to sail into her fifth two-year term uncontested, but Griswold said he couldn't let that happen. He petitioned to be added to the ballot after reports of Reemsnyder's brief, troubled stint as chairwoman of the Connecticut Port Authority. In July, just a month after she was appointed chairwoman, Gov. Ned Lamont asked her to resign after The Day reported the port authority paid her daughter $3,000 for photographs hanging on the walls of its Old Saybrook offices.  Reemsnyder had recused herself from the transaction. Her daughter has since reimbursed the port authority.

    An audit of the port authority released last week showed that spending at the quasi-public agency skyrocketed during Reemsnyder's tenure as chairwoman of its finance committee.

    Reemsnyder congratulated Griswold and left the Cross Lane fire station quickly after the results were announced.

    "The people spoke," she said. "That's all I can say. I hope they (the newly elected officials) keep up with the initiatives. We had a lot of good things going."

    During her tenure, improvements were made to the Sound View Beach area, sewers were approved following decades of resistance, a boat house was constructed at Rogers Lake and an ambitious plan for Halls Road was in the works.

    Nosal, 62, has been a selectwoman since 2011 and was running for her fifth term on the board. She said that as a selectman, she will strive to increase the collaboration and the communication and support of the community.

    Kerr, 51, was elected to the board in 2017, having previously served on the Board of Finance and Planning Commission. 

    Old Lyme has 1,761 registered Democrats; 1,725 registered Republicans; 2,157 unaffiliated voters and 85 "other."

    k.florin@theday.com

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