Darien's first selectman on vacation during storm
While Darien recovers from what town officials are calling one of the worst storm in decades, Republican First Selectman Dave Campbell is in Utah celebrating his wife's 50th birthday on a previously planned vacation.
"I left on Sunday after checking things with the police and thought everything was somewhat calm," he said. "Then when I got out here ... I did try to turn around and come back, but unfortunately, because of the storm, all the flights have been full coming back east because they've been cancelled for the last couple days."
He said he has been in constant communication with town officials during his absence.
Acting First Selectman Democrat David Bayne said he has not received any phone calls from Campbell in the last two days.
"I have not spoken with Dave. I understand he's been communicating with [Republican Selectman] Jayme Stevenson," Bayne said.
"I don't believe I've gotten any e-mails from him, but I haven't been getting regular e-mail," said Bayne, who has not had power at his house since Saturday.
Bayne is assigned to the role of acting first selectman in the case of Campbell's absence for the first six months of Campbell's two-year term. When asked whether there were any policies requiring Campbell to remain in touch with Bayne, Bayne said he didn't know of any.
"I don't think there's any guidelines for the situation we now find ourselves in, because I don't think we've seen anything like this situation since the 1954 hurricane," Bayne said.
"If you're acting first selectman in the instance of an emergency, it's usually a quick thing. I've never seen a thing like this that's been drawn out so long," he said.
Campbell said he is planning on returning to Darien on Thursday, and will be back in the office that afternoon.
"My first priority upon my return will be to make sure we have the manpower to get the place cleaned up," Campbell said. Removing trees and making way for workers will help speed up the process of restoring power to Darienites, according to the first selectman.
"The biggest thing is the response of CL&P, and that's what I didn't realize -- that the response was going to be so terrible," he said.
In a conversation with the Darien News on Sunday afternoon, Campbell said he knew the recovery process was going to take some time.
"Everybody's working on getting things back to normal. It's going to take a few days. It's a real mess. Obviously, a lot of trees are down, and a lot of power lines are down," he said Sunday. "CL&P is bringing in a lot of extra crews, but it's going to take some time, because all the towns have been hit pretty badly."
Campbell said on Tuesday that he has been "able to deal with all of this through Jayme."
"Since he left town, I've been in contact with him at least seven times or eight times every day," Stevenson said. "He gets every e-mail that we get. I update him immediately on all my conversations with the Department of Public Works, so he's been completely in the loop in all respects."
Bayne, Nielsen, Stevenson and Sullivan are all volunteers. Campbell is a full-time employee of the town who, according to the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2011, will earn $80,000 for his job in 2010.
"I didn't intentionally leave because there was a problem, and I did try to get back when I realized how severe the problem was, and I've been dealing with it constantly on the phone," Campbell said.