WATERVILLE — Mayor-elect Karen Heck has many fond memories of the recent campaign, but one that stands out came at the polls on Election Day.
Heck was chatting with one of her opponents, Republican Andrew Roy, and she invited him to stop by her party later that night. Roy said he would, and he did.
“I had a good time talking with him. He’s a very passionate, interested person who wants to make things better for the people of Waterville,” said Heck, who ran as an unenrolled candidate.
For Heck, the friendly gesture was one of many examples of what the mayoral campaign was all about: relationships.
Heck on Wednesday afternoon — the day after she was elected the city’s 52nd mayor in the three-way race — said she felt exhilarated, exhausted, and yet energized about the future. Her campaign slogan was, after all, “the spark we need.”
According to unofficial results, Heck received 2,021 votes, or 54 percent of the total, compared with 1,344 for Democratic Mayor Dana Sennett and 360 for Roy. According to the results, 3,778 people voted in Waterville, which represents a turnout of about 34 percent of the city’s 10,950 registered voters.
Heck, 59, is a senior program officer for the Bingham Program and a founder of Hardy Girls Healthy Women.
Heck said that she and her campaign staff made hundreds of calls and knocked on lots of doors in the days before the election. Her sister, Janet, flew in from Colorado and she “went well above the call of duty” by dressing up in a Scooby Doo costume on Election Day and hoisting a Heck campaign sign at the intersection to downtown.
Most invigorating for Heck was having her campaign run by five women under the age of 40: Dana Hernandez, the campaign manager; Megan Williams, social media; Lisa Lessard, campaign treasurer; Nicole Brown, outreach coordinator; and Jackie Dupont, who Heck says did a little of everything.
“They had so much energy and enthusiasm and creative ideas and the ability to carry out a plan,” Heck said. “It shows there are young resources in this town we need to give the vision we all want to see. I would love to see more young women become more engaged.”
Heck said she found the campaign experience humbling, as she listened to residents and saw people volunteer and donate to her campaign.
“I talked to a lot of people and the ones who were at home overwhelmingly loved the city of Waterville, loved living here,” Heck said.
One resident called to ask whether Eustis Parkway — a key road connecting upper Main Street and North Street that is crumbling and littered with potholes — would soon be repaved. Heck called city officials and called the man back, telling him that the city has been working on a partnership with the state to have it fixed, though she couldn’t promise anything.
He thanked Heck for calling back and came to see her later, saying he appreciated her call back and now planned to vote for her.
Elsewhere, at mobile home parks on West River Road, for instance, people readily invited her into their homes to meet and talk.
“It really helps you connect with people,” Heck said of the campaign.
The last three days before the election, Heck’s campaign had shifts of six to eight people making phone calls and organizing throughout the day and night.
Then, election night, she walked into the 18 Below Raw Bar on Silver Street and felt humbled again by how happy supporters looked. Heck thought she would win, but was “pleasantly surprised at the margin and pretty much overwhelmed.”
Heck said she was still digesting her election on Wednesday, though she planned to meet with her campaign staff in the coming weeks — after they have time to catch up on sleep and get back to regular schedules — to talk about the coming months.
When she takes office Jan. 3, Heck expects to be working on issues such as homelessness and heating, and she’d like to begin examining the Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport, which is without a fixed-base operator and has come under increased scrutiny recently following the theft of aircraft fuel.
Heck said she’s also interested in energy issues, saying she’s concerned with the price of fuel and was very sorry to learn that the town of Madison voted down a bond proposal toward a natural gas pipeline for central Maine. Although a private Portland-based firm is proposing the same project, Heck was in favor of the project being handled locally.
She also wants to look at creating new incentives to attract small businesses to Waterville and supporting skilled workers to find jobs in the city.
It’s up to Heck whether she wants to hold an inauguration ceremony, and she’s thinking she will — but with a twist.
“I do want to have some celebration, but I’m thinking it will be like a fundraiser, a fundraiser for the homeless shelter or for girls’ leadership programs,” Heck said. “I’ve talked to some local musicians about playing. It could be a fun thing, a weekend of festivities.”
Scott Monroe — 861-9239