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Groton Town Council Splits on Choice of Mayor, Delays Decision Until Dec. 14

GROTON — The newly sworn in Groton Town Council was unable to reach a majority decision after eight rounds of voting for the position of mayor on Tuesday night, splitting instead into three factions that would not budge or compromise.

Without a reaching a decision, the council could not proceed with other business on the agenda. To be elected, the position requires an affirmative vote from five of the nine council members. The role is tasked with running the meetings, serving as the ceremonial head of the town and other duties. 

As the process began, council members nominated Portia Bordelon, Aundré Bumgardner, Rachael Franco and Juan Melendez for mayor. 

In round one, council members gave three votes each to Bordelon, Franco and Melendez. 

In round two, the tally was one vote for Bordelon, two votes for Bumgardner, three for Franco and three for Melendez. 

In round three, members split votes equally into three each for Bumgardner, Franco and Melendez — and that pattern continued through rounds four, five, six, and seven. 

More than two hours later, after several long recesses, Scott Westervelt, the sole Republican elected to the council after four years of Democratic rule, nominated himself for mayor — followed by the eighth vote with two for Bumgardener, three for Franco, three for Melendez and one for Westervelt. 

After impasse upon impasse, the council voted 7-2 to postpone the vote, with Bordelon and Bumgardner voting against. 

After the meeting, Bordelon, who was the highest vote-getter in the Nov. election, said she felt voters deserved to hear her name nominated for mayor. 

“I felt it was important for my name to be put on that floor based on the numbers of my supporters who came out overwhelmingly to support me and let the councilors kind of vote where they felt they wanted to,” she said. 

She said when she realized she had no clear path to win as mayor, she threw her support behind Bumgardner in part because he  was the only councilor who supported her earlier this year when she failed to win a nomination to the Democratic primary slate.

“I think the big thing is he stands for things about community representation, environment, and making sure people’s voices are fairly representative. That’s something I can wrap around,” she said. 

Bumgardner, who initially voted for Bordelon and then changed his vote to himself in later rounds, said he was humbled to receive bipartisan support from Bordelon and Scott Westervelt for the position of mayor. 

“No matter the final outcome, I am confident our town council will come out more united and with a renewed commitment to tackling the challenges facing our community,” Bumgardner said to CT Examiner in a statement. 

Franco, who voted for herself in every round and received consistent votes from councilors Melinda Cassiere and Bruce Jones, said she saw the number of candidates for mayor as good news even if the council hadn’t yet agreed on its choice. 

“I think it’s mainly because we have many qualified and interested people who basically want to do the work of the mayor. And I think now that we have all the names on the floor, I think we need to take a little bit of time here and decide exactly which route we should go now,” she said. 

She said council members may need to compromise so that a winner can be chosen. 

“I think we just need a little time to figure out and maybe some people might have to [go with] their second choices or something. Or maybe some people might have to think of what’s best and maybe step down or make other decisions,” she said. 

Westervelt, who nominated himself in the final round, told CT Examiner that the series of impasses showed the council needed to come together as a group.

“It’s clear that we need to build a team and a team takes compromise. Everybody has to work together, so we need to get beyond our own personal agenda to move towards creating that team,” he said. 

The vote for was postponed until a special meeting scheduled for Dec. 14.

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