MONTVILLE – Republican Tom McNally is throwing his hat in the ring again for mayor, emphasizing economic development to lower Montville’s taxes and more accountability within town government.
But for the first time in three election cycles, he won’t be running against Mayor Ron McDaniel, who will retire at the end of his term. Instead, he’s running against a fellow town councilman, Democrat Lenny Bunnell.
After his second failed attempt to beat McDaniel for mayor four years ago, McNally said he almost quit running for town office. But in 2021, he said he was urged to run again for Town Council.
“Once I got back on the council again, one of the big problems we noticed is a lot of the issues that we’re having in town either involved day-to-day operations or personnel issues,” McNally said. “That’s why I decided to take another run at the mayor race, to correct some of those issues.”
McNally is chair of the Republican-majority Town Council, a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and owns T&S Lawn Care and Property Management.
He said Town Hall is suffering from a lack of leadership and people aren’t being held accountable.
“Six years ago, we took out a $10 million bond to redo a bunch of roads we haven’t paved in about 40 years,” McNally said. “It was a four- to five-year program, but we were in year six and a lot still wasn’t done. So [the council] had to come in and really muscle them down to get it done.”
McNally described himself as “very proactive,” saying he drives around town in his spare time to make lists of projects that need to get done. He said his strong suit is getting everyone on the same page to get things done.
“One of my goals when I become mayor is to have a monthly meeting with all the department heads so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing, and coordinate the team and keep everybody on track,” McNally said.
Like his opponent Bunnell, McNally said the main issue — not just in Montville, but in nearly every town — is the tax rate.
He said Montville’s “huge problem” is its grand list, which has been stagnant while those of neighboring towns like Waterford have grown.
“Obviously one of the number one things is to get commercial business in town,” McNally said. “It’s not an easy task because having the casino works against us, because unfortunately people who are coming into town to go to the casino just go straight there and don’t leave.”
Adding more affordable housing is positive, he said, but comes at a cost to the town by bringing in more children to educate. Montville needs more retail and industrial development that brings in “the big tax dollars,” he added.
McNally pointed to several missed opportunities for the town, including the deepwater port on the Thames River that formerly housed a paper plant. He said that area could have been redeveloped into a marina with a restaurant and condos, resulting in year-round tax revenue. It was instead developed as road salt storage, which mostly isn’t taxable because salt is a commodity, he said.
New businesses, like the Botanist marijuana store, have mostly repurposed existing buildings rather than building new ones, he added.
Attracting big development like Montville Commons would be a boon, McNally said, adding that the mayor could be more proactive in letting people know what spaces are available in town.
“There’s things that the mayor can do to help streamline things in town and make it more business friendly, from putting the permitting online and streamlining processes in departments,” McNally said.
As far as lowering taxes, McNally said the town should focus on growth instead of spending cuts. The council already spent “hours and hours” this year trimming the mayor’s proposed budget from a 3 mill increase to about a 1 mill increase to the property tax rate, he noted.
“There’s not a lot of excess spending,” McNally said. “In fact, in Montville we don’t put a lot of money to our capital stuff, which is why everything is falling apart, which is another issue. I think it’s more about growing our grand list instead of just making cuts.”
McNally said he’s more proactive than his opponent and has a track record of completing projects in Montville, such as securing bond money for school and road repairs and working to build a new animal control facility.
“Now he comes out and wants to say he’s gonna change the world, but you haven’t done any of that for four years on the council,” he said of Bunnell.
McNally said Montville Republicans have an impressive track record on the Town Council and want to continue their work with McNally leading the administration.
“I think we’re working well together as a team and getting things done,” he said.