GROTON – Declining to discuss a number of local issues that have been in the news lately, Board of Selectmen candidate Robert Hargraves has chosen to keep away from recent controversies that have plagued town government to concentrate on the kind of experience he can offer as a member of Groton’s top decision making body.
“The only thing I know about such issues is what I read in the paper,” insisted Hargraves, who declared his intention to run for a seat on the Board of Selectmen being vacated by three term member Fran Dillon.
“I just want people to know that I’m very serious about this and I’ll run hard,” said Hargraves of his second attempt at winning a place on the board since retiring from the state legislature in 2010. “I love Groton and want to serve the town the best that I can.”
A state legislator since 1994, Hargraves began his career as a school teacher before moving into administration as a principal in the North Middlesex Regional School District. In the 1970s he served for one term on the Board of Selectmen before returning for a stint of four consecutive terms in the 1980s.
After a failed challenge to win election to the Board of Selectmen against incumbents Joshua Degen and Stuart Schulman in 2010, Hargraves was appointed to the town’s Finance Committee where experience gained working at the state level came in handy.
“I’ve been on the FinCom for the last year and a half and have enjoyed the work,” said Hargraves. “It has not been too steep a learning curve for me as I understand the budget process, I understand taxation very well. I just want to make sure that someone on the Board of Selectmen has that kind of experience because Mr. Dillon is leaving. He’s been an anchor there in regard to the budget because he understands it thoroughly and actually takes it on vacation with him. I’ve done the same thing myself in the past.”
Choosing not to discuss specifics of such issues as affordable housing, and especially controversial matters such as an illegal still being operated out of the Water Department, the lack of public disclosure surrounding recent resignations from the Police Department, and indiscreet communication between the town manager and a local woman, Hargraves preferred to accentuate the positive.
“I’m running because I do have the experience at both the state level and the local level,” said the former legislator. “I have a lot to offer and can hit the ground running.”
The candidate did comment on other issues however including the ongoing search for an appropriate site for a new fire station and building up the town’s commercial base.
“Concerning the location and building of the Center Fire Station,” said Hargraves. “I’ve been through the same process with the current public safety building having been on the Board of Selectmen from the beginning to completion of that project. So I have been down that road and have a lot of experience to offer.
“My record in legislation has always been to promote small business,” Hargraves continued. “Whatever I can do at my disposal I will do. There’s no magic to it, or panacea. The most important thing selectmen can do for commercial development is to establish and maintain a friendly business climate. However, there is evidence that the climate in Groton is not the best it can be for business and needs to be improved upon.”
As for the Board of Selectmen itself, Hargraves admitted it has changed much since he last served as a member.
“It’s been close to 18 years since the last time I served on the Board of Selectmen and since then membership has grown from a three member board to a five member board,” said Hargraves. “It’s a new ballgame.”
Hargraves said that the increased membership now forces selectmen to take more time in deliberation and allowing a more thorough exploration of the issues. Something he intends to do if he wins election following a whirlwind campaign.
“This time, I’m retired from the legislature,” said Hargraves of any impediments that might keep voters from supporting his candidacy this time. “Last time I ran, that bothered a lot of people but now I’ve got the time it takes to devote to the job.”
Town election is scheduled for May 22.