A small-business owner who also spent time working in a Jay paper mill and a retired state employee who also managed supermarkets are squaring off for a legislative district seat that represents New Sharon, Mercer and Starks.

Business owner and Republican Clinton W. Brooks, 59, faces incumbent Democrat Paul Gilbert, 68, also of Jay, in the race for House District 87, which also includes Chesterville and Jay.

Both candidates are concerned with representing the state’s workers but have different ideas of how to improve working conditions and bring business to the state.

Brooks owned a meat and seafood store, The Beef Barn, at Bean’s Corner, before working for 16 years as a production worker at the Otis Paper Mill in Jay. He said his combined experience in both the blue-collar and professional sectors make him an atypical representative of the Republican Party.

“I worked a union job for 15 years and I have run my own business,” he said. “A lot of people stereotype the Republican Party as money people or big business. I’m not either one of those.”

He said he is interested working with both parties and that he has decided to run for office because it is something he has always wanted to do but he couldn’t get a work release while at the paper mill.

Gilbert, who worked for 20 years as the job service manager at the state Department of Labor in Augusta, said that during his four years in office he has been committed to working with both parties and that the issues that have been most important to him have had to do with labor and workers.

During his first term he served on the Labor Committee and during his second term on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

While in office he opposed a bill that would have instituted a training wage for those under 21 during their first 180 days working and another bill that would have made tips the property of business owners rather than service employees.

He said he is a strong supporter of people with disabilities and sponsored a bill that made it so that people with permanent disabilities do not have to renew their automobile disability license plates.

Gilbert said he would like to focus on continuing to help people with disabilities, as well as the elderly.

He said that his experience volunteering with the organization Seniors Plus has helped make him aware of the challenges many older people face, including helping them retain driver’s licenses and remain in their homes as long as possible.

He said he is working on a bill to help provide services for the visually impaired so they can stay independent in their own homes.

Brooks, who volunteered for almost 10 years as a softball coach at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay and Livermore Falls, said that in order to bring jobs to Maine there needs to be more focus on education, especially in the realm of technology.

“We need to make sure kids have the skills that will attract business to the area,” he said. “Business demands skills that we’re not necessarily giving to kids who graduate high school and community college.”

He also said that education efforts need to be paralleled by advances in transportation infrastructure in the area.

“Transportation is always a problem in Maine because of our geographic location,” he said. “I am very interested in the potential of an east-west highway even though the idea is in its embryonic stages. I think it is something we need to seriously look at.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]