STONINGTON — The Board of Selectmen unanimously appointed Lisa Tepper Bates to the Board of Police Commissioners Wednesday.

After holding hearings last week for applicants, Bates was recommended by all three selectwomen, each of whom cited her experience with helping the homeless and advocating for mental health as the reasons for their recommendations.

“Over the past year that I’ve been on the Board of Selectmen, we’ve received a number of reports ... and participated in discussions about the need to expand our mental health services in town,” said Selectwoman Deborah Downie. “The need for these services associated with these areas is of immediate importance.”

Downie also noted Bates’ “proven ability to forge local and regional partnerships and alliances” as another important skill set she will bring to the board.

Bates talked about the importance of using outside resources to further enhance the police department's ability to serve the community.

“We can always do better,” she said. “With regard to a lot of the issues that are intertwined with justice and policing — domestic violence, mental health, social needs — I think in Connecticut, especially, we have to do better to weave together, to find partnerships outside of any one column of work.”

First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough pointed to Bates’ successes during her more than 25 years holding leadership positions in the diplomatic and nonprofit worlds.

“She is not only familiar with important issues, but she has a proven track record for effecting change,” Chesebrough said.

Bates spent six years as executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. Over that span, homelessness was reduced by 40% in Connecticut, even as nearby states’ numbers increased.

Locally, Bates spent four years as executive director of the nonprofit Mystic Area Shelter and Hospitality, which is now known as Always Home.

She also served as a U.S. diplomat for nearly 13 years. In that time, Bates received rewards for her work on a peace contract in Bosnia, war-crime justice and helping to rebuild war-torn countries, according to Chesebrough, who noted this experience will be a useful tool for the Board of Police Commissioners.

“This gives her a unique perspective on what it takes to work in partnership, and to make positive change a reality,” she said. 

In her interview, Bates talked about the knowledge she gained through her experiences as a diplomat. 

“What that did for me was really underscore the central importance of civilian control of the military and police. I say that because that’s a big concept we’re living in right here,” she said. 

Bates is currently president and CEO at United Way of Connecticut, an organization that helps needy Connecticut residents through its mission of communication, education and connecting people to services.

“I believe we’re truly fortunate that Lisa is willing to serve at this local capacity level,” Chesebrough said.

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