Less than a month after two people were elected to the Winthrop Town Council, another election is being held to fill a third open seat.

The candidates are Faith Benedetti, an artist and public health worker who in recent years has been running her own medical marijuana practice; David Hughes, a trained computer programmer who now looks after his children, several of whom have special needs; and Anthony “Andy” Wess, who ran Lakeside Motel & Cabins in East Winthrop for 30 years before selling the business and retiring this year.

They’re competing for the seat that June Bubier vacated in the beginning of October with about one year of her term remaining.

The special election will be held Tuesday. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Office.

In the coming months, the council will have to decide what mix of cost-cutting, taxation and borrowing is needed to bring the town out of a $1.5 million shortfall, while also funding programs, infrastructure projects and a school district that has about 900 students.

It also will have to work with local school officials who have disagreed with councilors about the origin of the shortfall and how to fund the schools.

Two of the candidates, Benedetti and Hughes, are running for a council seat for the first time. Wess has run unsuccessfully in the previous two elections.

FAITH BENEDETTI

Benedetti, 53, has a bachelor’s degree in humanities and a master’s degree in English and creative writing.

She taught college writing, then ran prevention and support programs for people with HIV/AIDS, and was a founder of the Next Step Needle Exchange in Augusta. More recently, Benedetti has worked as a medical marijuana caregiver, meaning she helps people with qualifying health problems to obtain the substance.

Faith Benedetti

Having moved to Winthrop in 2002, Benedetti said she’s running for council because she thinks her experience will be valuable as the town tries to redevelop its downtown and economy. She has taught classes through the Winthrop Plays Outside initiative, she said; and over the summer, she held a community art project in which more than 100 people helped position pieces of stained glass in a mosaic that will hang in the Town Office.

Benedetti said she would like Winthrop to take better advantage of its natural resources, possibly by offering canoes, kayaks and bicycles for rent. She also would like the town “to jump into the creative economy” by encouraging local artisans to create small businesses, which could draw people from other towns.

“It’s not enough to say we’re a bedroom community,” Benedetti said. “It would be wonderful to have a vital, vibrant downtown community. It’s been a difficult year. Our post office burned down; that’s been demoralizing for (the) town. We’ve been in the papers for some budget woes; that’s worn on people a little. We’re needing a rejuvenation of our spirit. That’s the kind of realm that I focus best in. As long as I’ve been here, I’ve gotten involved. I’ve initiated a few little projects to create community.”

Benedetti also thinks the town will have to start considering whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses in town, given the citizen initiative that legalized it across Maine a year ago. Such businesses could bring revenue, she said.

She declined to provide her thoughts on the town’s current financial challenges, saying that she hasn’t followed recent discussions on the matter, but that she would approach the crafting of next year’s budget “with an open mind and not a lot of preconceived notions.”

DAVID HUGHES

After graduating from Winthrop High School, Hughes, 46, took classes in computer science at the University of Southern Maine but ended up leaving school to work and take care of his family, he said. He has done computer programming work for several companies, and more recently has been a stay-at-home dad.

David Hughes

While Hughes understands the spending constraints facing the town, he said, he is running because he thinks the local schools need more support on the council.

Hughes followed the recent budget negotiations between town and school officials, and on a couple of occasions, he expressed concern about spending cuts that the council backed.

Three of his children are on the autism spectrum and have benefited from the special education offerings in the district, but he worries how those offerings could be affected by spending cuts, he said. He also worries about the effects of delaying maintenance on the local schools and the failure to hire an additional health worker for the district, as was originally proposed for this year’s school budget.

“I don’t think there’s a strong advocate (on the council) to just protect the school budget, let alone increase spending,” he said. “I understand the situation the town finds itself in. I understand there have to be compromises and sacrifices, but school budgets aren’t like a household budget. Their cost structures are different. They’re prone to increasing faster than the rate of inflation.”

Hughes also thinks council members need to be more involved with the town’s school board as it drafts the budget for the following year, rather than waiting for the board to put a budget together and then ask for more cuts.

At the same time, Hughes said, Winthrop should focus on safety net programs for elderly residents and economic development downtown. The town should try to expand a tax-relief program that would allow elderly residents who volunteer for the town to receive a credit on their property taxes, Hughes said.

“Fixing Memorial Drive is not going to be cheap,” Hughes said, referring to a local road that needs to be repaved. “If we can solve part of the property tax problems for fixed-income seniors, it will make fixing Memorial Drive less painful.”

ANTHONY ‘ANDY’ WESS

In interviews this week and previously, Wess, 65, has described himself as a business-minded candidate.

As the co-owner of Lakeside Motel & Cabins, Wess said he was able to grow the operation “from almost nothing to a really successful business that was giving back to the community, and that experience of growing a business is going to be very helpful to me. It will help me to look more carefully at budgets and spending.”

Andy Wess

Wess is the current chairman of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, sits on the Recreation Committee and helped create the town’s comprehensive plan. He has considered running for the council in past years, but he waited until this year because of the demands of his business.

“I’ve already ran twice,” he said. “I’m kind of persistent, and I really do think I can make a difference.”

While Wess praised the town’s firefighters, police officers and teachers and said they deserve appropriate resources, he also said that the town is overall “spending too much.”

“I remain convinced that we need a little bit more fiscal responsibly,” he said last week. “We need to be a little more careful with the taxpayers’ money. People are saying it’s only (raising taxes a little bit), this and that, but people are living paycheck to paycheck. We need to find a balance between taxes and paying our teachers. We need to be mindful of the morale of our volunteers, like firefighters. We need to support the police force with modern facilities. We need to reach a balance.”

Wess said he does not know who was responsible for the mistake that led to the town’s current, $1.5 million shortfall, but he called it “strange” that public officials still haven’t presented a clear explanation of the matter. If such a mistake had happened in his business, he said, he’d learn how it happened and make sure it wasn’t repeated.

At the same time, Wess said, he probably could have a good relationship with other councilors and members of the School Department.

“I think there is probably room for an open-mindedness on both sides,” he said. “I tend to be a person that looks for consensus in all public kind of meetings. When we did the comprehensive plan, I talked to everyone on the board, and on the zoning board I look for consensus. … It doesn’t serve anyone to be at odds.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker