LYME — With the upcoming Lyme town elections, residents are tuned in for an unusual reason: lack of contest.
This year’s town elections for the Board of Selectpeople will be unopposed, with First Selectperson David Lahm running uncontested for the position. This is not the first time in Lyme’s recent history that this has been the case. According to Steve Mattson, former First Selectperson for Lyme, the reason is simple.
“Nobody wants the job,” said Mattson. “This isn’t an issue about politics, it’s not having candidates for an election.”
Mattson explained that the job is not appealing for many in the town, considering its long hours, lack of support and underpaid nature.
Mattson took over as First Selectperson after Ralph Eno retired, planning on serving just one term until they could find a long-term replacement for the position, but ended up serving three.
“No one would fill in for me,” explained Mattson. “Luckily, David [Lahm] wanted to try his hand at it, but that’s why David’s in office and there is no election, because there is just nobody else interested in the job.”
David Lahm, Lyme’s First Selectman has a more optimistic reason for the lack of contest this fall. Lahm, who was appointed after Mattson’s retirement in July 2022, now runs unopposed for his first election as Selectman.
“We try not to be a partisan town,” said Lahm. “The reason I’m running unopposed is because the people are satisfied with the job I’m doing.”
Lahm expressed that he would be happy with competition for the position if any resident was interested in running, but that there just didn’t seem to be interest in changing town leadership.
According to Lahm, all that would be necessary for a real, contested election would be civic engagement from citizens.
“All you got to do is show up for the caucus,” said Lahm. “That’s the really nice thing about a small town, is that as an individual, you can make a difference.”
However, there remain barriers for even the most civically engaged citizen in Lyme.
“It’s a 50-plus hour-a-week job and you don’t make much money,” said Mattson. “So why would people want this job?”
Mattson had sought to remedy this issue when he took office, supporting the idea of a town manager, as other towns have implemented in the recent past.
“There was universal opposition to that,” said Mattson. “That’s not the way Lyme has always done things…and [officials in town] are not willing to look at another way.”
Mattson also explained that he and others who supported this idea ran into Legal issues when it came to changing the way that Lyme is run. He said that if Lyme were to adopt the position of a town manager, it would require creating a town charter.
“We are one of the few towns in Connecticut that does not have a charter,” explained Mattson. “The job associated with creating a town charter is immense.”
He also said that there were, however, workarounds that the town could have used to effectively come to the same solution.
“You could hire someone to run the town day-to-day,” said Mattson, “ and call him something else.”
Mattson elaborated that the town does not have the desire or money to change the system.
According to Lahm, when it comes down to it, Lyme is doing its best to serve its citizens democratically, and to ensure that the focus of town officials is to act in the best interest of the people, rather than with any political agenda.
“It’s a hard job, and it’s our job,” said Lahm. “We’ve got dedicated people who have nothing but the best interest of the town and working with it.”
About the Author: Sadie Frankel is a junior political science and journalism student at Northwestern University.
Her journalistic interests are focused on political reporting and broadcast news.
As a resident of Lyme for 17 years, she welcomes the opportunity to contribute to her local paper on an occasional basis and report on ongoing political issues in her hometown.