Although Robert Lawrence has been a member of the Green Party in Connecticut, he is running for mayor as an unaffiliated petitioning candidate. Lawrence is married and has three children.
Name: Robert Lawrence
Hometown: Newington, CT
Employment: Steamfitter Local 777 Plumbers and Pipefitters of CT
Education: Newington High School; Associate Degree in Food Service Management, Three Rivers CC, 2000
Civic/Political Experience: City Council, Port Aransas, TX; Ledyard representative, Long Island Sound Committee; Planning Commission Alternate; Ledyard Center Committee; Ledyard youth wrestling coach; Ledyard Congregational Church
1. What do you consider to be the single biggest issue facing the town?
The single biggest issue in my opinion is the town councilors and the mayor should try their best to communicate with one another and have civil discourse in the decision making process. Without this little gets accomplished. One of the first things I will do is give everyone on the council a sheet of paper from 1 to 10 and ask them their list of priorities and then combine the results so that we all can then start working together as a team to solve our town’s most pressing problems.
2. What do you think Ledyard can do to attract and encourage greater economic development?
We need to talk about sewers in so far as Ledyard Center, unfortunately no one in this mayoral race wants to talk about sewers. Without them the center will never be developed to match the land available. We also need to work hard at convincing landlords of empty business spaces to lower their square footage prices so that small businesses can afford to stick their necks out. I will work hard at finding prospective businesses that are interested in locating to our town. Business expo’s are great opportunities to sell our town’s appeal.
3. How important would you say it is to maintain strong, professional working relationships with the town council and other branches of town government?
It is extremely important that all branches of our town government work together with civility and respectfulness. Let’s all agree to disagree, we all have walked different paths, and as the saying goes there is always another side to the story. We all have to remember that it’s the townspeople we’re working for.
4. For several years Ledyard has considered transitioning to an independent police department. Do you support or oppose the idea, and why?
The cost of a resident state trooper is around $140,000 per year. One of the many problems is when there is a 911 call at the station the dispatcher has to notify the state police before the town can respond. This is something that could have life or death consequences. The police department needs to become independent if we are really serious about regionalization. I support an independent police department.
5. Assuming there are still savings to be found in the annual town budget, what are some of the likely places to look?
It was wonderful to read that the three schools that are close to Route 12 are getting upgrades on their boilers from expensive oil to natural gas. Kudos to Superintendent Graner for making this happen. Efficiency in our buildings from air conditioners, compressors for refrigeration units, automatic lighting, weatherization and boilers is a top priority. We are right in the middle of two public utilities, Norwich and Groton. This is the reason I had commented in The Day about becoming a public utility. Generating electricity could be a real cost-effective way to acquire needed revenues. I had spoken to the chairman of the Norwich Public Utilities, James Sullivan, and he mentioned that last year the utilities put back into the general fund $7-8 million. Who knows the potential for town-owned wind farms, solar panels, and yes, water turbines in the Thames River? These aren’t far-fetched ideas, they are already in operation in this country.
6. A state economic development consultant recently called the riverfront in Gales Ferry the town’s most under-utilized asset. In your opinion, how could the town take better advantage of this asset?
Leave it for the fishermen. We have plenty of projects we need to pay attention to. Down the road, who knows?
7. What is your “vision” for Ledyard and what makes you think you are the best person to lead the town toward that vision?
People have commented that because I was honest about there being a learning curve to the mayor’s position that somehow that makes me less qualified. All the other candidates except for Fred Allyn have not been a mayor. Being a town councilor that has been at odds with Fred and being part of the dysfunction won’t necessarily make him the knowledgeable one to bring our town forward. My vision is to have a team attitude in all things Ledyard, working together to realize the goals our townsfolk want, not what I want or anyone else in our town government wants. Remember the 10 priority list that is what the citizens want us to work on, not mine or anyone else’s agendas.