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Two-time Democratic first selectman candidate looks forward to longer campaign and to victory

East Lyme — Democrat Camille Alberti is making a second bid for first selectman.

Alberti, 59, made her announcement Thursday at Main Street Park. The race will pit the longtime Board of Finance member against longtime Board of Selectmen member Kevin Seery.

Alberti walked alone from Pennsylvania Avenue as the gathering crowd along the Niantic Bay overlook cheered her across the crosswalk. The visual evoked the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album cover, but the audio being piped in over the sound system delivered the low, booming strains of the kettle drums popularized in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Alberti ran in 2019 against current First Selectman Mark Nickerson, losing by 184 votes. She started late in that campaign season after the party's endorsed candidate dropped out of the race for health reasons.

"Having a mere six weeks to actively campaign, I lost that election to a fairly popular incumbent by just a slim margin," she said. This time, she said she plans to use all 16 weeks until Election Day to get to know the voters and their concerns.

"You may vote for me because I'm a woman. You may vote for me because I'm a Democrat, and I'll gladly take all those votes. I'll even take your vote if you like the color I dyed my hair last week," she said.

But she told supporters she'll feel truly validated if she earns her votes because something she says resonates with residents and makes them trust her.

"I am not in this race for me; I am in this race for our town and for you," she said.

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

Alberti has been a member of the finance board since 2013. She is the current chairman and was also at the helm from December 2016 to December 2017. She served as a Republican until she switched parties five years ago in a move that gave Democrats the majority on the finance board at the time.

Alberti touted her leadership of the finance board, citing the two lowest increases to the tax rate in the past decade. The rate increased 0.6% in 2020 and 0.53% this year — "all the while ensuring the Board of Education received funds to implement a technology plan to support remote learning during the COVID pandemic, and growing the general fund Balance by over $2.3 million, or 37%."

Her platform, outlined in a news release, stresses professionalism in local government through "greater transparency and accountability" and "fair and ethical business practices." Her focus on development includes the reactivation of the Economic Development Commission, which was absorbed by the Board of Selectmen in 2012, and the review and possible revision of zoning laws.

She also would engage experts to develop strategies to address environmental and sustainability concerns and support quality educational opportunities for all, the release said.

Prior to moving to East Lyme in 2005 from Kent, N.Y., with her husband and son, Alberti pursued a career in management consulting for Deloitte Consulting. There, she "led projects for many Fortune 500 companies" before moving on to her own independent management consultant firm, according to the release.

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.

Alberti was accompanied at the microphone during her announcement by her husband, Mark, and son, Chase. She said she's been married for 27 years to Mark, who recently retired from Pfizer. Chase is a 2015 graduate of East Lyme High School and a 2020 graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology.

"She's had a lot of accomplishments that a lot of people thought were impossible. And she worked in a very bipartisan way. She came to us first as a Republican and then transitioning and evolving into a Democrat. She knows how to take perspectives and she is aware she has a lot to learn," Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jason Deeble said.

Lisa Picarazzi, who served on the finance board with Alberti, said the candidate works tirelessly to make sure she understands every issue completely. "I never met anyone who works harder, who is more thorough. She researches things, she doesn't shoot from the hip like a lot of people do. If she doesn't know the answer, she says, 'I don't know.'"

Democratic Selectman Dan Cunningham said he hopes to run for selectman again this year, though the slate has not yet been decided. "She has a fresh ethical voice that we need. I think she's going to make a fine first selectperson. I have every confidence she's going to prevail this election," he said of Alberti.

Seery, a Republican selectman who announced his candidacy one month ago, said in a Thursday phone call that he has always had a "very cordial relationship" with Alberti.

"I welcome her to the race and look forward to a debate and discussion of the issues that face East Lyme in the next several months," he said.

e.regan@theday.com

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