UPDATED: Shoemaker elected first selectwoman in Old Lyme
Old Lyme ― Democratic Selectwoman Martha Shoemaker secured the first selectwoman’s seat here Tuesday, defeating Republican John Mesham, a retired state trooper making his first bid for elective office, by 130 votes.
Shoemaker won the town’s top post in her second try, having lost the 2021 race for first selectman to Republican Timothy Griswold, who did not seek reelection this year. Shoemaker won a seat on the Board of Selectmen in 2021 despite losing the race for first selectman.
She also is serving a second term on the Lyme-Old Lyme school board.
Also elected to the Board of Selectmen were both candidates running for selectman, Democrat Jim Lampos and Republican Judith “Jude” Read.
The last incumbent-free race for Old Lyme first selectman was in 1997, when Griswold defeated Democrat Ray Turrell Jr.
Griswold proceeded to win reelection six times before Democrat Bonnie Reemsnyder upended him in the 2011 election. Reemsnyder then won re-election three times before losing to Griswold, who reclaimed the office in 2019. Griswold won another term ― his ninth overall ― in 2021.
Turnout was about 59% of the town’s nearly 6,000 registered voters, with 3,141 voters casting ballots throughout the day and another 379 having cast absentee ballots. Fifteen people voted after registering Tuesday.
Shoemaker, 64, retired from teaching elementary school in 2017, ending a 35-year career in which she served for 13 years as president of the Waterford Federation of Classroom Teachers. After retiring, she went to work for FiberQA, a small manufacturing firm in Old Lyme, serving as purchasing agent and assisting with project management.
She resigned from her job in August.
In 2021, while running for first selectman, Shoemaker won a second four-year term on the school board. During the campaign, Griswold, her opponent for first selectman, questioned whether she could effectively serve as a selectman and as a school board member at the same time.
Mesham made a similar observation this time around.
Mesham was serving as executive officer of the state police’s Troop E barracks in Montville when he retired in 2020. He previously served in a similar role with Troop G in Bridgeport, in each case managing about a hundred people, and worked in resident state trooper programs serving Deep River, Essex, Old Lyme and Westbrook. He was a patrolman with the Guilford Police Department.
Shoemaker has identified two key issues facing the town: the Halls Road Improvements Committee's recommendations regarding potential changes in the town’s commercial district and plans to install sewers in the town’s shoreline communities.
Shoemaker has ties to New London, where she grew up and where her father, Joe Heap Sr., was assistant principal of Waterford High School, and her brother, Joe Heap II, chaired the Planning and Zoning Commission. He died of complications of COVID-19 in April 2019.
Shoemaker and her husband, Scott Shoemaker, an IT project director, have three grown sons.
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