July 2, 2022

Essex Republicans Nominate Bruce Macmillian for First Selectman After Caucus Challenge

ESSEX— Town Republicans nominated Bruce MacMillian, a retired business executive and former vice-chairman of the Essex Housing Authority, for first selectman Wednesday after a caucus challenge that is not expected to lead to a September primary for the party nomination.

MacMillian outpolled Leigh Rankin, a former U.S. Coast Guard officer, on a 36-24 paper ballot vote at the caucus. Both MacMillian and Rankin had declared before the result was announced that they would support the caucus winner without a primary contest, and Rankin joined in a standing ovation for MacMillian and other members of the Nov. 8 municipal election slate.

MacMillian, 64, is a former executive with the Traveler’s Insurance Company. A 25-year town resident, he served as a member and vice-chairman of the Essex Housing Authority from 2004-2007. MacMillian was recommended by the party nominating committee and endorsed for the first selectman nomination by the Essex Republican Town Committee last week.

Rankin, a mother and resident of the Centerbrook section, had joined the town committee earlier this year, and also serves as an appointed member of the park and recreation commission and the water pollution control authority/sanitary waste commission. Rankin had indicated at the July 13 town committee meeting that she would not contest MacMillian at the caucus, but told the crowd Wednesday she wanted to offer party members a choice for the top position on the slate. “I am here because I’ve been asked to be here,” said Rankin, who was nominated by resident Kenneth Bombaci.

MacMillian, in remarks to the caucus, said the town needs a change from the administration of Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller and Democratic Selectman Norman Needleman that was first elected in 2003. MacMillian contended the “Miller-Needleman team” has “mismanaged” town hall, and shown a “lack of focus” on controlling expenditures and improving the business climate in Essex. He said the Democratic administration has demonstrated a “lack of transparency” on various issues in recent years, adding “their complacent attitude to me is an insult.” MacMillian said he would serve as a full-time first selectman if elected in November.

Republicans nominated incumbent Selectman Joel Marzi for a second term on the board of selectmen. A former member of the zoning commission and board of finance, Marzi had lost the 2009 first selectman race to Miller by about 400 votes, but later decided not to run for the top job again this year.

Republicans nominated two incumbents, Keith Crehan, an accountant, and Jeff Woods, a retired businessman, for new six-year terms on the board of finance. Judy McCann, a children’s librarian, was nominated for a six-year term on the Essex Board of Education, with Adam Conrad nominated for a two-year term on the local school board. The caucus accepted the nominating committee’s recommendation to cross-endorse incumbent Democrat Chris Riley for a new six-year term on the Region 4 Board of Education.

Miller, who was elected state representative for the 36th House District in a February special election, is not seeking re-election as first selectman. Needleman is seeking the Democratic nomination for first selectman with Stacia Libby, a former Republican who serves on the park and recreation commission, as his preferred running-mate for board of selectmen.

Needleman and Libby are expected to face a challenge for the nominations at the Essex Democratic Town Committee endorsement session Monday from Anthony Chirico, running for first selectman, and Linda Savitsky, running for board of selectmen. The contest for the nominations could lead to a Sept. 13 Democratic primary.