Quiet races for Lyme's top spots

·4 min read

Oct. 17—LYME — One cross-endorsed first selectman candidate, one Democrat and one Republican make for a quiet race for the three-member Board of Selectmen.

First Selectman Steven Mattson, a 66-year-old two-term Democrat, said he is running again in the hope of preparing somebody to take over the job. He was first appointed to his position in July 2017 to serve the remainder of former First Selectman Ralph Eno's term after Eno resigned. That year, Mattson went on to win the town's first contested race for the top spot in 16 years. He ran unopposed in 2019.

Mattson in that time has touted the "professional financial approach" he brought to town governance and the mill rate he helped keep flat for four out of the last five years. He attributed his success to "a combination of falling student population percentages within our school district coupled with clearing up a backlog of property taxes in arrears and prudent planning."

Incumbent Democratic Selectman John Kiker is running for reelection. He was first elected in 2017. A marketing communications consultant, he works with public health nonprofit organizations in Connecticut, New York and California.

Kiker, 56, is married to Dan Hulseberg. The couple has two dogs, Sawyer and Finn.

He said his top priorities are promoting public health amid the coronavirus pandemic, paying attention to environmental issues like open space and recycling, and keeping the mill rate low.

Citing an increasing awareness in town about the need for affordable housing, he said there remain "some residual misunderstandings about what affordable housing is, as well as concerns about how to develop such housing successfully."

He said he intends to support the town's affordable housing plan, due by spring of next year, which will be linked to the housing plan being developed by the regional council of governments. "Right now, the Affordable Housing Commission is working on a public education initiative designed to foster public support of affordable housing, as well as a statement of community values as they relate to housing," he said.

Kiker also is running for the Board of Assessment Appeals.

Republican David M. Lahm, 62, is an 18-year member of the Zoning Board of Appeals who is running this year for selectman and the ZBA. A former volunteer firefighter, he said he began serving the town at age 16, when he joined the Lyme Fire Company.

Lahm is an attorney, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a reservist who retired as a full colonel with the Connecticut National Guard in 2012. He is married with three adult children.

Lahm, who described land use and fiscal stability as the most important issues in Lyme today, said the town is at the crossroads of sustainable growth and chaotic growth.

"Expansion of commercial development is not what this town needs," he said. "Lyme's zoning regulations adequately provide for appropriate commercial activities. Lyme needs residential development in order for it to continue to be the welcoming town it is. But residential development must fit the town's plan of conservation and development and our zoning regulations."

Both Kiker and Lahm serve as the chairman of their respective party's town committee.

Mattson, Kiker and Lahm all said they support the $1 million open space reserve funding target set by voters at this year's annual budget meeting.

Kiker said he believes $1 million is a realistic goal that will better enable the town to undertake a timely acquisition of open space should a desirable plot become available.

Mattson cited the move as part of an overall strategy to keep taxes low while maintaining the town's demonstrated commitment to open space.

"When we do go out on the market to buy another piece of property, we don't have to raise property taxes to make the purchase if we have it in reserve and we can replace the reserve over a longer period of time," he said.

Lahm said open space acquisitions have been successfully pursued by several town administrations.

"Open space is very important and the $1 million funding threshold is an important tool that I support, but I know everyone involved enthusiastically supports open spaces even if they approach it differently," he said.

e.regan@theday.com

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