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Norwich Democratic Council President Mark Bettencourt announces mayoral bid

Norwich — Veteran Democratic alderman and current Council President Pro Tempore Mark Bettencourt announced Thursday he will challenge incumbent Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom in November for the four-year mayor’s seat.

Bettencourt, 60, has served 10 years on the City Council in two different stints and was the top vote-getter in the 2019 mid-term election that saw Democrats retake majority control of the City Council. Bettencourt was elected by the council as president pro tempore. He also currently chairs the School Building Committee working on plans for a major overhaul and consolidation of city schools.

Bettencourt lost to Nystrom in the four-candidate 2009 mayoral election.

Nystrom announced March 4 that he intends to seek his third term as city mayor. The city charter has a limit of two consecutive terms for the mayor. Nystrom’s two terms were split, 2009-13 and 2017-21. He said Bettencourt told him a few weeks ago he was considering another run for mayor.

“I hope it’s a good, friendly race,” Nystrom said. “He and I get along, and that’s important. It’s all about the city, what’s best for the city of Norwich.”

Bettencourt, a retired state corrections official and current security manager for Securitas Security Services, told more than a dozen supporters at the announcement Thursday that the need for major school overhaul is what led him to seek another seat on the City Council in 2017 and will remain a top issue for the city in the upcoming election. He chaired a school facilities review committee that sought to rework a failed 2016 school consolidation plan rejected by the City Council.

“That experience showed me that there was a lack of responsible leadership in our city,” he said of the school study, “and instilled in me the desire to run again for City Council. Responsible leadership for Norwich became our refrain and led to us taking back a leadership role on the City Council.”

Bettencourt said he has helped “set a different tone” for the council, including improved communications, while continuing to work on important issues.

He cited several key issues the city will face in the next four years, including finalizing a school renovation project to be put to voters, working on the already controversial fire services study released in February and the city’s need to support small businesses in continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also cited the “serious need” to upgrade the city’s aging sewage treatment plant and the “annual issues with budgeting that we continue to have as a distressed municipality,” while being mindful of the need to keep the tax burden under control.

“I intend to spearhead an effort to improve our housing stock and the quality of our neighborhoods, increasing the grand list,” Bettencourt said. “With our partners, we’ll assist small businesses, because they are the lifeblood of economic development in our community.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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