August 15, 2022

Martha Shoemaker (D): Candidate for Old Lyme First Selectman

Martha Shoemaker

Biography:

Martha Shoemaker currently serves as co-chair on the Region 18 Board of Education, the LOL Prevention Coalition and as President of The Friends of the OLPGN Library.  Martha is a retired teacher (35 years) and served as her union president for twelve years.  She has been employed at FiberQA for four years as their purchasing and production lead.  She has been a resident of Old Lyme with her husband Scott for 25 years. They have three adult sons, David, Tim, and Peter.  In her spare time, Martha enjoys a walk on the beach or revitalizing antique furniture. 

Q1: Why are you running for the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen?

I am running for First Selectman in Old Lyme for three reasons: 

Keep taxes low and support small businesses. 

Protect our natural resources to preserve the beauty and character of our small town.

Restore transparency, responsiveness, and accountability to town hall.

I will take the time to listen to all residents regardless of their political affiliation. We may not always agree, but we should always listen to each other.  Our current first selectman seems to have forgotten this.  I will also use every tool at my disposal to communicate with the public.  We are decades behind similarly situated towns because our current administration does not value modern technology.  

Old Lyme has abundant open space and natural beauty. Historically we have enjoyed low taxes, low crime, and a first-class school system. Now we must find ways to attract young families to our town to avoid declining enrollment and we need to keep Old Lyme attractive, accessible, and affordable for our seniors. I will work with the Affordable Housing Commission to craft solutions.   Similarly, revitalization of Halls Road and the 156 Gateway will positively impact economic and housing options for young professionals and seniors. 

My background as a union leader proves that I can effectively use mediation and negotiation skills. These will be important as I bring groups from both sides of the table together to look at the issues, strategize for the future and find solutions that are mutually agreeable.  

As a town leader I will cultivate the qualities of collaboration, teamwork, and civility. When elected officials demonstrate how to differ with one another respectfully, find compromise, and focus on the common good, community members benefit. I am able to acknowledge differences with mutual respect to move an agenda forward and I will make collaborative progress possible.

Q2: What is your opinion of the Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis, which was originally proposed by Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal in August 2020 as a document that the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen should approve? It remains unsigned — please indicate whether you would be willing to sign it, if elected.

To me, there are two main issues with the way the Resolution has been handled.  This first is imbedded in your question: it was introduced in August 2020.  For fifteen months the Republicans on the Board of Selectmen (BoS) have routinely refused to allow discussion of the Resolution to be added to the BoS meeting agenda, and they are adamant that it will not be put up for a vote.  In my opinion, that is poor leadership.  In my various leadership positions, I have fully understood that it is difficult to make decisions that satisfy everyone.  But that’s precisely why it’s important to talk about the issues. Even if proponents and opponents of this Resolution don’t agree on all of it, there may be areas of commonality that create a way forward that is acceptable to all.  To date, we don’t know that because the Republican selectmen won’t hear debate on the matter.

The second issue relates to the Resolution’s merits.  There is empirical evidence that structural racism affects public health outcomes.  The AMA, the CDC, the APHA and virtually every other public health body has confirmed this.  So, the only real question is: how do we as the town of Old Lyme respond?  The path Republican leadership has chosen is to bury their heads in the sand arguing, “maybe that’s so elsewhere, but not here.”  I think that approach is shortsighted and bad for the town. Declaring that we stand with those who suffer from structural racism is not some sort of tacit admission that we are a racist town.  On the contrary, it is affirmation that we are not.  If elected, I would welcome discussion on this and would sign a Resolution that reflects the truth: that Old Lyme is a welcoming and open-minded community.

Q3: What do you consider are currently the three most important issues in Old Lyme that require the attention of the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen, (with the exception of the Resolution on Racism discussed in Question 2)? Describe how you would move forward on each issue, if elected.

The three most important issues are as follows:

Infrastructure/Development – The management of the sewer project for the shoreline area will be critical during the next two years and our focus should be on finding grants and other innovative ways to pay for the solution.   I will also be supporting the Affordable Housing Commission recommendations for compliance with state mandates.  During my time campaigning I have heard from many residents who would enjoy small investments such as a dog park, splash pad or skate park.  The enhancement of Hains Park is also to be considered. 

Economic Development – Promoting the Halls Road master plan, improve the 156 gateway into Soundview and supporting small businesses are of utmost importance at this time.  The Plan of Conservation and Development that was adopted in February 2021 will provide guidance as we move forward. We must work together to see that Old Lyme continues to develop in the manner which our residents see as its future.

Fiscal and Personnel Management – I will create transparency to the budget process, while making sure our residents are getting the value for their tax dollars.  We must put into place Public Health and Safety policies.   The recent discovery that our cyber insurance has lapsed will have to be addressed immediately.  Town hall personnel deserve to have a Human Resource director (part-time) to complete job descriptions, provide evaluations and goal setting for departments and to update our policies under state guidelines. Town employees have the right to be treated equitably with established guidelines.