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Bumgardner announces candidacy for Groton City mayor

Groton — Democratic Town Councilor Aundré Bumgardner, a former state representative, announced Monday his candidacy for City of Groton mayor and said he plans to challenge incumbent Mayor Keith Hedrick in a Democratic primary in March.

"The City of Groton expects a strong voice and transformative leadership at both the local and state level," Bumgardner said in a statement. "My experience as a State Representative and Town Councilor has prepared me to be that voice that is so needed to create a brighter future for our community. As Mayor, I will listen to our residents and work day and night on crucial issues like financial transparency and discipline, infrastructure investment, social justice, and climate action."

Bumgardner, 26, served from 2015 to 2017 as Republican state representative for the 41st District. Bumgardner, who became a Democrat in 2017, has served on the Groton Town Council since 2018, is a member of the City of Groton Planning & Zoning Commission, and recently worked as an outreach coordinator for State Treasurer Shawn Wooden.

Bumgardner said by phone that his experiences in local office have confirmed his passion for politics and for people.

"I enjoy fact-finding and problem-solving and building a stronger community, and I've enjoyed working with residents in town on issues ranging from coastal public access to connecting to the right person at Town Hall," he said, "and I've really enjoyed serving the people of our community and hope to continue that opportunity, just as I've done as state representative and town councilor, for the city mayor."

If elected, Bumgardner said his priorities would be financial discipline and transparency, climate action and quality of life issues. He said he has taken a campaign pledge to not solicit lobbyist or corporate-backed donations.

Hedrick, 61, plans to run for his third term. He chairs the City of Groton Democratic Committee and served as deputy mayor for two years before being elected to his first term as mayor in 2017 and re-elected in 2019. Hedrick served 23 years in the Navy and 16 1/2 years as operations manager at URS/AECOM.

He said by phone that he enjoys interacting with the community and getting to work with children at the Riverfront Children's Center and St. John's Christian Church. He said he got involved in local government to give back to his community.

"The City of Groton is a wonderful place to live, work, and play, and I wanted to give back to the community," he said.

He said he has experience and a vision for the city's future, as well as the energy and enthusiasm to move the city forward to its next stage. He wants to continue initiatives, including economic development projects in the works for Thames Street and Five Corners, along with work on resiliency and other environmental issues.

"We have lowered or maintained taxes for the last four years," he added. "We will continue to be fiscally conservative and maintain services."

He said the city also plans to continue to support police initiatives and was one of the first communities in the area to create the Police and Community Together program for residents to work with police on initiatives. The city police also are joining the state radio system and established the Citizens at Risk Database, which is a confidential and voluntary system "to meet the needs of dementia, handicapped, or other at risk groups," according to a Facebook announcement.

Hedrick said the Democratic Committee's nominating committee has put forth a slate of candidates, which includes Hedrick as mayor, for endorsement by the Democratic Committee. The Democratic Committee is expected to vote to endorse the candidates Jan. 14, he said.

Bumgardner said he plans to seek the nomination from the committee, but said that since he's the challenger, it's more likely that he will end up circulating a petition to get a requisite number of signatures to be get on the ballot for a Democratic primary in March. The city's election is in May.

In a news release, Bumgardner said "a coalition of elected officials of the City and Town of Groton" is supporting his candidacy, and he included comments from Representative Town Meeting Moderator Syma Ebbin and RTM Finance Chair and former Board of Education Chair Beverly Washington.

Ebbin said in the release that Bumgardner has "worked to create efficient, just and cost-effective policies. He is an environmentalist who has worked to expand open space opportunities in Groton and reduce our environmental impacts. He is a thoughtful leader, not afraid to change his mind, embrace new ideas and admit past mistakes. And that attitude is sorely lacking among many officials at all levels. Through his leadership, he has brought new ideas and positive energy to the Town's government and that is exactly what is needed now in the City."

Washington said in the release: "I fondly remember the day Aundré knocked on my door when he ran for State Representative. He exuded confidence and articulated a clear vision for Groton. After working with him now for more than 6 years in local government, I know he's ready to lead our city. His commitment to fiscal transparency, budgetary discipline, and passion for people is why I am so proud to support Aundré for Groton City Mayor."

k.drelich@theday.com

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