STONINGTON — Election Day proved to be a historic day for the community as voters elected three women to serve on the Board of Selectmen.
Unaffiliated candidate Danielle Chesebrough, who was endorsed by town Democrats, defeated Republican John Prue by a 2 to 1 margin to win election as the town's first selectman. Chesebrough is the first woman to be elected to that position in Stonington and will replace retiring First Selectman Rob Simmons, a Republican is stepping away after four years at the helm.
Chesebrough will be joined on the board by selectwomen June Strunk, a Democrat, and Republican Deborah Downie. Strunk won the contest for selectwoman with 2,978 votes while Downie finished with 1,856 votes to outpoll Prue.
The board will now be comprised of all women for the first time in the town's history.
"I am shocked. It's been a very humbling experience and I am looking forward to doing the best I can for our town," said Chesebrough, who credited the margin of victory to the community's unaffiliated voters.
Chesebrough, 36, received 3,252 votes to defeat Prue, who earned just 1,632. She served as a senior analyst of investor relations at UN Global Compact & Principal for Responsible Investment until the election and said Tuesday that she has already notified her employer that she will need to step down to take on her new role full-time.
Chesebrough said she plans to work with Strunk and Downie, as well as the public, to develop a long-term community plan that would give top priority to coastal resiliency, fiscal preparedness and sustainable economic development.
Prue, 57, complimented Chesebrough for running a good campaign and said he was disappointed that the race was not closer. He was the only imcumbent selectman on the ballot this year and admitted that he expected a tighter race.
He said with the results, however, the voters have spoken and it was time for both parties to come together to do what's best for Stonington. He said he has no immediate plans to serve the town in another capacity, but has not ruled serving in a volunteer position or making a future run for office.
Simmons said that while he was disappointed that Prue, whom he supported through the campaign, did not find a place back on the board, the voters' decision to select an all-female board showed progress for the community. He noted that things were very different when he was elected as first selectman in 2015 during a time that the town was addressing issues related to the behavior of former Democratic First Selectmen Ed Haberek.
"Back then, we were directly dealing with problems on how women were being treated, but now we have our first all-women board. It's nice to see things come full circle and to see our community supporting women like this," Simmons said.
Strunk, 64, and Downie, 60, said they were excited to be part of history and were looking forward to working with Chesebrough to help serve the town. They both said the board "would not be a political one," noting that the board now represents Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters all at the same time.
Strunk and Downie have considerable experience serving the community. They both said Tuesday that they hope to draw from those past experiences in order to do what's best for everyone in town, regardless of who they may have voted for. It was a sentiment that was also echoed in Chesebrough's comments.
"The election is over and now we are all in this together, whether you voted for John or for me," Chesebrough said. "It's time as a community to put our differences aside in order to do what's best for this town."
Other boards and commissions
Democratic incumbent Sandy Grimes received 2,922 votes to win reelection as town treasurer over Republican Dan Booker, who received 1,858 votes.
In the race for Board of Finance, Democrat Bob Statchen was the top vote-getter with 3,099 votes, followed by his running mate Deborah Norman, who received 3,073. They will be joined on the board by Republican David L. Motherway Jr., who outpolled fellow Republican Blunt White by a 2,469 to 2,330 margin.
Democrat Craig L. Esposito led the way among candidates for the Board of Education with 3,332 votes, while fellow Democrat Farouk Rajab received 3,204 and Republican Heidi Simmons, wife of the retiring first selectman, received 2,060 votes. All three will serve on the board, since the election was not contested.
Republican Gisela M. Harma, who ran uncontested for the Board of Assessment Appeals, received 3,159 votes to earn reelection.
In the contest for Constable, Democrats Raul N. Ferreira, Henry G. Suchy, Eugene E. Pfeifer and Joseph Trelli were the four highest vote-getters to earn election over Republican challengers Jim Kelley, I. Susette Tibus, Anthony D. Lombardo and Dan Booker.