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Groton Town Council unable to agree who should be mayor

Groton — The new Town Council, sworn into office Tuesday, failed to elect a leader despite eight attempts.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz swore in incumbent Democrats Portia Bordelon, Aundré Bumgardner, Rachael Franco, Juliette Parker and Juan Melendez, along with new Democrats Melinda Cassiere, Bruce Jones and David McBride and Republican Scott Westervelt. The meeting took place at the Groton Senior Center and also was broadcast on Groton Municipal Television.

When the council then moved to the agenda item of choosing the chair of the council, referred to as the mayor, Franco, Bumgardner, Bordelon and Melendez received nominations.

According to town charter, the newly elected Town Council chooses one councilor as the chair. "The Chairman shall be known as the Mayor, but will retain all of the rights of other members," the charter states.

"The Mayor shall preside over all meetings of the Council and shall perform such other duties consistent with the office or which may be designated by the Council," the charter adds. "The Mayor shall be recognized as the official head of the Town for all ceremonial purposes."

Cassiere noted Franco’s “institutional knowledge of the council,” “track record of getting stuff done” and clear and transparent statement of her desire to be mayor.

Bordelon highlighted Bumgardner's state and local track record in which he won the city's Democratic mayoral primary and then was the second highest vote-getter in town as a Democrat.

Bumgardner said Bordelon was the highest vote-getter in the town’s Democratic primary and election, and is committed to working families, transparency and environmental justice.

Parker said Melendez is neutral, calm during situations, presents well and speaks clearly and concisely on issues.

In the first round of voting, Bordelon received two votes (from Bordelon and Bumgardner), Bumgardner one (from Westervelt), Franco three (from Cassiere, Franco and Jones), and Melendez three (from McBride, Melendez and Parker).

In the second round of voting, Bordelon received one vote (from Bordelon), Bumgardner two (from Bumgardner and Westervelt), Franco three (from Cassiere, Franco and Jones), and Melendez three (from McBride, Melendez and Parker).

In the third through seventh votes, Bumgardner received three votes (from Bordelon, Bumgardner and Westervelt), Franco three (from Cassiere, Franco and Jones) and Melendez three (from McBride, Melendez and Parker).

Westervelt then nominated himself and cited his background in business and the military, that he runs the second-largest traffic signal system in New England and works in a bipartisan fashion as Mystic Oral School Advocates chair.

For the eighth round of voting, Bumgardner received two votes (from Bordelon and Bumgardner), Franco three (from Cassiere, Franco and Jones), Melendez three (from McBride, Melendez and Parker), and Westervelt one (from Westervelt).

As no one received enough votes to become mayor, the council ultimately voted to postpone the vote until Tuesday, Dec. 14, and recessed the meeting.

Officials and attendees honored the contributions of former Town Councilor Joe Zeppieri, who died unexpectedly on Saturday. Zeppieri was serving his second term and did not run for reelection.

"He honored our country with his service to the U.S. Navy and to our community as a physician and attorney and a Town Councilor," Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher said.

Bysiewicz thanked everyone who stepped up to run for election, veterans, the family members of the elected officials and the councilors. She said public service is a remarkable act, but elected officials are doing it amid a global pandemic. She said while it is not going to be easy, there is a "transformational opportunity" as $7 billion or more is coming to Connecticut to help communities.

"Each of you will get to decide how that money is invested in our communities and in uplifting our families, and so this is an awesome responsibility, and I want to thank you for taking this on because I know that each of you will give very serious thought and consideration to what will help our communities the most," Bysiewicz said, adding that she and Gov. Ned Lamont are grateful for local officials' collaboration and service.

k.drelich@theday.com

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