May 6, 2021

Dick Smith, on his way to a 12th term as Deep River’s First Selectman

Dick Smith by 1905 water fountain in front of Town Hall

Deep River’s Democratic Town Committee made it unanimous the other evening (July 20), when it nominated Dick Smith to serve a 12th term as the town’s First Selectman. Also, rumor has it, that the Deep River Republican Town Committee, when it meets next Tuesday evening, will not even nominate a candidate to run against him.

In simplest terms Richard H. Smith, who has served for 22 years as Deep River’s First Selectman, will add two more years in office, if he is elected again in November.

At the Democrat’s town committee meeting the other evening, as if to demonstrate that there was still a modicum of competition for public office, two candidates vied for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the job of Selectman. After a painfully polite debate by the two candidates, the party nominated Angus McDonald over Russell Marth by a vote of 19 to 15.

After this mini contest, the Democrats got down to a roll call of unanimous nominations for the offices of Tax Collector, members of the Boards of Education of the Deep River Elementary School and of the Region 4 High School and a member of the Board of Directors of the Deep River Library. Leading this list of unanimities was of course the First Selectman nominee, Dick Smith.

New expanded Adams supermarket in Deep River

What makes Deep River so different from other river towns, where the changing of First Selectman is done with regularity? Why does Deep River want the same First Selectman that it has had for the past two decades to serve another two more years?

One hint might be that Smith knows what the first priority of every voter is. It is “keeping taxes stable.” With this singular precept firmly in place, Smith has then gone about encouraging a commercial building spree that has structurally changed the town of Deep River. It has also increased tax revenues.

Although Smith is still tinkering with the town’s appearance by installing new sidewalks and street lamps on Main Street, most of the major developments in this effort have been completed. They include an enormous expansion and modernization of the Adams supermarket across Main Street from Town Hall, as well as a new Walgreens pharmacy superstore that shares its parking lot with neighboring Town Hall.

New Walgreens pharmacy superstore in Deep River

Attempting a visual similarity of Walgreens and Town Hall, the exterior bricks of the new Walgreens “sort of” match the old bricks of Town Hall. Also, both structures, symbolically, share a single bright red sign, which features “Town Hall” and “Walgreens” in equal sized lettering.

A third major downtown commercial development is a rearward facing complex (to permit parking in front of tenant businesses), which has as tenants Dunkin’ Donuts, Deep River Cleaners and a consignment business. From the street the building has been given a New England look.

Next on the roster of Dick Smith’s commercial improvements is Deep River’s Plattwood Industrial Park, which Smith proudly states is “100% occupied.”  In fact, Smith claims that “people are calling all the time,” wanting to move into the town’s industrial park.” “I wish we had more space,” he says, and he is working on ways to expand the facility.

The businesses in the Industrial Park are the kind of small business that fit into small towns, Smith says. Also, tenants at the facility contribute helpfully to the Deep River town revenues. Present tenants in the park include: Interpro, Withrop Tool and a German based company called Colanar, which offers “innovative solutions to the Pharma and Biotech industries, “to quote its mission statement.

New complex with Dunkin' Donuts and other tenants

Then, there is a privately owned group of properties which also bring revenue to the town. These are the impressive string of “McMansions” along the west bank of the Connecticut River within the boundaries of Deep River.

“There are sometimes only two people living in some of these homes,” Smith says. Also, he points out that the residents in these huge houses generally make very little use of the town’s public services, such as sending their children to the town’s elementary school, which saves money for the town.

In addition, Smith takes pride in the fact that his administration has upgraded virtually all of the Town’s public buildings, including the town library and the elementary school. More improvements are underway for Town Hall as well.

“We are doing good,” Smith says with satisfaction, and, “We have no outstanding bond issues that the town has to pay off.”  Also, he feels that the new businesses at the Town Hall core attract foot traffic for the rest of the shops along Main Street, even including the town’s iconic tattoo parlor.

“I am always concerned about the tax base,” says Smith, repeating his mantra. “We keep taxes stable … and try to save money.”

Looking ahead to his next term, Smith says, “There is still plenty to do, but I have built a network of people, and that helps me.”  Also, he has had a lot of on-the-job training as First Selectman over the years.