NORTH STONINGTON — Republican incumbent Nicholas Mullane II will continue to serve as first selectman after winning his 15th term Tuesday night.
Mullane’s experience leading the town once again helped him beat back unendorsed Republican challenger Robert Testa, this time by a vote of 838 to 702. The two have faced off for the first selectman seat in two previous elections.
In the selectman’s race, Republican Brett Mastroianni emerged as the top vote-earner, with 701 votes, just one vote less than Testa.
A recount is planned in accordance with state law for close elections. The candidate with the highest number of votes will join the Board of Selectmen.
The three-member Board of Selectmen for the next two years will include Mullane and Democratic incumbent Mark Donahue, who received only 348 votes but was guaranteed a spot on the board based on state requirements that all three board members cannot be from the same political party. Either Testa or Mastroianni will take the third spot, depending on the outcome of the recount.
A total of 1,601 residents, more than 40 percent of registered voters, voted in the town election.
Mullane and Testa have butted heads in past election campaigns, but both said they were willing to work with anybody.
“It’s not about me,” Mullane said. “It’s about a team, the best team of people that can do the best work. My records show I can work with anybody and everybody.”
Though Testa’s position on the board may be changed by the recount, he also said his priority was to serve the town. “I may disagree with him,” said Testa of Mullane. “But I’m looking forward to the next two years.”
Testa also said that he anticipated partnering with Donahue on occasion, leaving Mullane in the minority. “Mark Donahue has inherited a partner in me,” he said. “Mark shares the same values as me: honor, integrity, transparency and accountability.”
Testa added that he and Mullane “have different ideas on honor and integrity, and those will become obvious to those we serve.”
Mullane expressed disappointment that his own running mate in the election, Mastroianni, appeared to have lost a seat on the board by one vote.
Mastroianni said he might have preferred to lose by 100 votes instead of one, but that he thought Testa and Mullane would be able to work together successfully.
“I think they can put the best interests of the town ahead of their own,” he said.
With the election over, Mullane said his first priority would be returning to “no-nonsense general government,” including finishing ongoing projects like the repairs to Boom Bridge Road, which was damaged in the 2010 floods.
Mullane was criticized by Testa and other residents during the campaign for slow progress on that project. Mullane said he has not been happy with its pace either. “My biggest disappointment is the damn Boom Bridge project,” he said. “It’s been so damn slow.”
Other top priorities for Mullane’s next term include a school building project and stabilizing tax rates for residents as much as possible.
Testa also said that affordability issues were of chief concern to him, and that while reducing taxes may be unrealistic, stability is the goal.
Testa said he wanted to restore some previous town services, such as Sunday hours at the transfer station, but that this would not translate to increased tax rates.
“It’s all about operational effectiveness,” he said.
For Donahue, who will return for his second term as a selectman, the highlight of the election was the turnout, which was significantly higher than in past elections.
“I think this election really generated a lot of interest,” he said.
Selectman candidate Tim Pelland, who received 499 votes, agreed.
“It’s a victory for me if people get out and vote,” he said, adding that as a first-time candidate for the Board of Selectman, his loss was not completely unexpected. “Just being in the process, going door to door and meeting people, was very rewarding,” he said.
In the Board of Education race for four open seats, voters gave 820 votes to Robert Carlson and 758 votes to Christine Wagner, the two Republican candidates.
Democratic candidates David Maxwell McCord and Julia Buzzee trailed with 547 and 392 votes, respectively. Crystal Dame ran as an unendorsed Democrat, winning 260 votes.
Republican Alexander Karpinski ran unopposed for a vacancy on the school board.
In the treasurer’s race, incumbent Republican Robin Roohr was re-elected with 902 votes to Democratic challenger Mustapha Ratib’s 557.