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East Lyme's deputy first selectman aims for top spot

East Lyme — Republican Selectman Kevin Seery on Monday announced his bid for first selectman.

Seery, 65, is the deputy first selectman and has been on the Board of Selectmen since 2011. He was a member of the Board of Education from 1997 to 2011, serving as the chairman for six of those years.

Seery retired from the Connecticut State Police in 2015 after 28 years of service, most of them spent as the Salem resident state trooper. He served six years in the Navy.

He made the announcement from the Niantic Bay Boardwalk at Hole-in-the-Wall Beach Monday morning.

"As East Lyme's next first selectman, I will continue to look at both sides of the issues and work to achieve positive outcomes in a bipartisan, positive manner," Seery said. "Anyone who knows me, can attest to the fact that I always have time to listen to and address their concerns."

Those vouching for him at the announcement included former first selectman and state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, state Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, and current Republican First Selectman Mark Nickerson.

Last year, Nickerson announced he would not seek reelection. He said he plans to spend more time on his insurance business and with his family.

Nickerson described the role of first selectman as requiring management skills and experience, and said Seery has both.

"Kevin has already gained the respect of our department heads in our town. Kevin has had experience being a leader in town, being a leader in the Navy, the state police," Nickerson said.

Seery and his wife, lifelong East Lyme resident Dawn Seery, have two children and one grandchild.

Formica and Nickerson represent almost 14 years of Republican leadership in the town's top seat. Nickerson was appointed in January 2015 to the seat vacated by Formica after the state senator was elected to his first term in the legislature.

Formica said he's watched Seery develop as a leader on both the school board and as a selectman.

"I can't think of anybody who's more qualified," Formica said.

Seery said the focus needs to be on both immediate and long term needs as the town emerges from the pandemic.

"My background in public safety and experience as an elected official have prepared me to be able to meet the challenges on day one."

The candidate cited charter revision as a key issue he would like to see addressed.

The town charter, which he described as the local version of the country's Constitution, was last revised in 2009. State statute provides a comprehensive set of rules for carrying out the charter revision process.

He said it would be his recommendation after taking office to reopen the charter and to appoint "a bipartisan, fully inclusive charter revision committee" to seek community input, conduct public hearings and provide recommendations for changes.

After the announcement, Seery emphasized it's up to the Charter Review Commission to decide what should be addressed. He said examples of some of the issues that have been brought up to him so far include the possibility of moving to a town manager form of government and establishing guidelines for open space savings.

"But you don't want to say, 'OK, this is what you're going to do in the charter revision,'" he cautioned. "You say, 'Let's open it up.' Then empower the commission to come up with what they think are changes that would benefit the town. And then the town would vote."

Asked about his thoughts on the hiring of an additional police officer in the recently approved 2021-22 budget, Seery said he would have preferred the addition of two positions as requested by the Police Commission and recommended in the selectmen's budget proposal. The Board of Finance compromised by including one position in the budget that was ultimately sent to voters.

Seery cited recent drug arrests in town that have included the dangerous drug fentanyl. He also pointed to requests from residents for more traffic enforcement. He said the extra position could have allowed for extra shifts to dedicate to traffic control.

But he said the town will continue to do the best with the budget it's got.

"We'll always provide the best possible services we can for the town with the resources we're given," Seery said.

Democratic Town Chairman Jason Deeble said an announcement about the Democratic candidate for first selectman is expected shortly.

Deeble said he's had nothing but good interactions with Seery in his time as Democratic town chairman.

"I look forward to having some productive, civil discourse about how to go forward in East Lyme," Deeble said.


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