OAKLAND — In a four-way battle for two open seats on the Town Council, two incumbents are running on their record, a recently retired mill worker is running on his ideas for change and an oil company manager is running on his background in business management.
Incumbents Mike Perkins, a police officer and driving school instructor, and Byron Wrigley, a retired Central Maine Power worker, both say the town is working well, and that they have strong records of accomplishment to point to.
Challenger Max Marston, an oil company manager, said the current council is doing a good job, but would benefit from his business management skills, while the other challenger Edward Roderick, a retired mill worker, said he would be a needed voice of dissent on the council.
Perkins, 52, a graduate of Messalonskee High School, said the town has the right elements, including himself, to meet the challenges of the future.
“If the wheel’s turning, don’t break it,” he said.
Perkins works full-time as the trip coordinator for Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18’s transportation department, and is also a 32-year veteran police officer, currently serving as a reserve officer for Somerset County Sheriff’s Department. In addition, he owns KMD Driving School. He has been chairman for five of the six year’s he’s been on the council.
Under the current leadership, Perkins said, the town completed a multimillion dollar sewage project without a rate increase, and the town budget has been kept low over the past few years even as it maintains a high-quality municipal workforce.
“A lot of our employees are long in the tooth,” he said. “That’s a good sign. If you have a big turnover, it means you don’t have good management and we have some good people in place.”
The biggest challenge facing Oakland, he said, is to continue to keep the town’s finances in check.
Perkins said he leads by allowing all sides of an argument to be aired, and then allowing the majority opinion to rule.
Wrigley, 74, graduated from Williams High School in 1958 , worked for Central Maine Power Company for nearly 30 years, and for the Oakland-based School Administrative District 47 for 10 years. He has been on the council for 17 years.
The town, Wrigley said, has been well-managed.
“We have controlled our department budget to the point of bare bones,” he said. “We try not to have a fat budget as far as public works and the police department and fire department go.”
Wrigley said one of the biggest upcoming projects will be retrofitting the town’s buildings to make use of the natural gas pipeline that will soon run through the town.
“I feel we’ve got as good a town as anybody in our locality,” Wrigley said. “I don’t think we’re lacking for anything.”
Marston, 30, has been the branch manager at the Oakland office of Fabian Oil for about five years. He said he earned a bachelor’s from the University of Southern Maine and a master’s from Thomas College, both in business administration.
There were no other specific issues he said were important to him as a candidate, but he stressed that his background would allow him to give back in a way that would help the community.
He said the current council is doing a good job, but he believes he can leverage his business management skills to help the town move forward.
“My experience as a business manager will help ensure that educated decisions are made and the decisions are carried out seamlessly,” he said in a written statement.
Roderick, 63, graduated from Williams High School in 1968. He spent four years in the U.S. Air Force, 15 years working for Huhtamaki in Waterville, and retired recently after 23 years as a millwright at Sappi Fine Paper.
Roderick said he would be a dissenting voice on the council.
“Sometimes you have to be a devil’s advocate to get things done,” he said.
Roderick’s biggest concerns were attracting local jobs and lowering taxes “to the best of our ability without cutting our noses off to spite our face.”
“Some dollars are spent well and some aren’t,” he said. He said he felt the town could save money on certain things, such as, possibly, plowing and sanding.
Roderick said he has mixed feelings about the natural gas pipeline, and the council’s approach to it.
“I would have asked a few more questions about that pipeline going through,” he said. Specifically, he said he had safety concerns, such as the strength of the welding rods used.
The candidates mostly agreed that, should the economy rebound, it won’t be a reason to increase town services.
“I am not one to spend money frivolously,” Perkins said. “I believe we keep tight on tight reins.”
“I can’t see us trying to expand on anything,” Wrigley said. “I would say that we’re probably going to hold the line.”
Marston said he would do whatever was best for the town, and that decisions will be made in a transparent way with input from the community.
Roderick said he would only increase services when population growth created a need. Until then, he said, “I would hold the line.”
The candidates had different points of view about how to best stimulate economic growth, which all four agreed was important.
Perkins and Wrigley said the council plays a limited role in stimulating economic growth by attracting businesses in the area, and that they largely rely on economic development agencies, including the business park FirstPark.
Wrigley said the town benefits from its relationship with economic development agencies like the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, the Central Maine Growth Council, and the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.
“With our economics today, it’s hard to build and it’s hard to find investors,” Perkins said. “I think we work well with other agencies around the area.”
Marston said job growth is important to the town, but that he had no specific recommendations on how to bring it about.
“All decisions will be made with the objective of ensuring the town is moving forward in a positive direction,” Marston said,
Roderick said the town council can play a role in attracting manufacturing jobs, by brokering deals with specific businesses to attracting to the area.
Also on the ballot will be Angela Jurdak, Kelly Roderick, Michael Rossignol and Charles Sweigart, four candidates running for three seats on the Budget and Advisory Committee.
Incumbent Mary-Anne Lamarre and Emily Shaw are running unopposed for two seats on the RSU 18 School Board.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287