November 18, 2019 Board of Selectmen meeting in Old Lyme (Credit: CT Examiner/Hewitt)

Emotional Farewell for Reemsnyder as First Selectman of Old Lyme

in Board of Selectmen

OLD LYME — Bonnie Reemsnyder, former chair of the Connecticut Port Authority and its Finance Committee, responded “no comment” on Monday when asked whether she would attend and testify at an informational forum to be held by the state legislature’s Transportation Committee on December 4.

“I don’t have any comment on that,” said Reemsnyder, a Democrat, after an emotional ending to four terms as first selectman of Old Lyme.

On Saturday, Scott Bates, Deputy Secretary of the State and former chair of the authority, confirmed by email that he looked forward to “attending and sharing [his] perspective” at the December 4 hearing.

Reemsnyder and Bates were asked to resign by Gov. Ned Lamont after questions arose in July about the authority’s financial practices and accounting . A later report of the Auditors of Public Accounts, released on October 31, showed a number of areas of concern, including a lack of basic financial and personnel policies and procedures.

There has been no word yet from Evan Matthews, the authority’s former executive director, or Gerri Lewis, the port authority’s Office Manager and Ethics Compliance Officer, whether they would attend or testify at the forum.

Bates, Reemsnyder, Matthews and Lewis were absent from the Transportation Committee’s first informational forum on August 20.

The December 4 meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in room 1E of the Legislative Office building.

A tearful farewell

On Monday, Reemsnyder congratulated Tim Griswold, her Republican challenger and newly-elected first selectman, at her final meeting as first selectman of Old Lyme. Griswold defeated Reemsnyder 55.8 percent to 44 percent, in what was the highest turnout in the state.

“It has certainly been my pleasure to serve,” said Reemsnyder, whose voice broke as the audience of about 10 people applauded her.

Reemsnyder was first elected as selectman in 2003, before being elected to her first of four terms as first selectman in 2011. Griswold previously served as first selectman from 1997-2011.

During public comment, a number of residents praised Reemsnyder’s service to the town.

B.J. Bernblum said he’s been an Old Lyme resident for 16 years, nearly the same as Reemsnyder’s tenure on the board. He said he wanted to thank Reemsnyder, particularly for her work during her eight years as first selectman.

“I wanted to comment on your extraordinary efforts and contributions to the town over that period,” he said. “And I speak for many if not all of in thanking you for that and telling you that you will be missed.”

George Finley, who joked he’s lived in Old Lyme, for over 100 years, thanked Reemysnyder for the positive traits she conveyed as a leader of the town.

“I started out part-time and then moved here full-time 15 years ago,” he said. “I want to thank Bonnie for her kindness to those people who come to her. I can say it’s a very important trait these days, but also for her inclusiveness of everyone in the town of all stripes and the way she she has carried herself with great dignity, it makes me very proud to be a resident of Old Lyme.”

Maureen Haseley-Jones said Reemsnyder’s “energy, caring and focus of direction,” were inspirational.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure being around you. Your leadership is beyond the pale,” said Haseley-Jones.

Anna Reiter, who said she grew up in the town, praised Reemsnyder for helping make Old Lyme a place where she wanted to raise her own children.

“It has meant so much to come back to Old Lyme and to raise my children here and to know that Town Hall was always a safe and happy place for my kids to be,” she said. “We came back while you were in charge and it’s just a really beautiful place to be, so thank you so much.”

Griswold reflected on the nature of the job in a friendly farewell to Reemsnyder, noting that they had “butted heads” many times in their service together in local government.

“Public service is a double-edged sword — you get a lot of gratification from the people as you try to solve problems. Sometimes people appreciate it, sometimes people don’t,” he said.

Griswold called the choice of public service “a real sacrifice” and praised Reemsnyder for her long tenure.

“I admire all of us at the table and all of the people who are on the boards and commissions, many of whom are volunteers, because it’s really for the good of the town. I think all of our hearts are in the right place,” he said. “We may not agree on every issue but I admire you for your stamina for 16 years and certainly wish you well in your next endeavor. It’s been a pleasure dealing with you and don’t be a stranger.”

Mary Jo Nosal, who retained her seat on the board, thanked Reemsnyder for being her running mate and mentor.

“You’re the reason I chose to run because I felt the Town of Old Lyme deserved your leadership and it did,” Nosal said. “Thank you for your years of service on the Board of Selectmen and as our CEO.”

Nosal also thanked Reemsnyder for her service to the region on the River Council of Governments, a position Reemsnyder may retain, and to the town on numerous committees, including the IT committee that ‘brought the town into the 21st century” and for work on Sound View.

“Your efforts were non-partisan,” Nosal said. “Your support to the Old Lyme staff, police department, public works, and your kindness … set the bar very high for all of us. You are all-around a good person and we’re going to miss you.”

Republican Selectman Chris Kerr, who was re-elected, also thanked Reemsnyder for working together for two years

Before adjournment, Reemsnyder tearfully expressed gratitude to the town.

“It really has been a pleasure for me. I’ve loved this job and I love this town and I thank everyone very much,” she said, as the audience applauded.