WATERVILLE — A women’s rights activist and leader of a nonprofit organization said if elected mayor she will promote the city as a great place to live and work.

Karen Heck, 59, joined the mayoral race as an unaffiliated contestant when she took out nomination papers on Friday. She faces Democratic Mayor Dana Sennett and Republican newcomer Andrew Roy.

“We’re at a real tipping point in terms of new energy, and I think with a lot of young people running things in town and being elected to the council and running organizations and contributing in many ways, I really want to try to facilitate some of the creative thinking and innovation and promote some community building,” Heck said in an interview Tuesday.

Heck, the co-founder of a local nonprofit group for girls called Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, said she was a long-time Democrat but used to work for Jack Kemp, a former Republican congressman from New York and a vice presidential candidate.

The Ward 6 resident dropped her political affiliation last year and said she believes voters want elected officials to work together regardless of their party.

The candidates have until 4:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 9, to submit the required 15 to 25 signatures needed from each of the city’s seven wards. The election is Nov. 8.

The incumbent candidate, Sennett, 59, is an advertising account executive for the Morning Sentinel. He has been a councilor for 15 years, with 10 as chairman, and has supported the proposal to build a new police station.

“We have to be prudent and look into every area that we can as far as building a new facility. We haven’t ruled out renovating a current facility somewhere in the city,” he said on Tuesday.

He also supports a regional approach to police protection, in terms of sharing equipment, training facilities and manpower between Waterville and surrounding police departments.

Sennett is a 25-year member of the Alfond Youth Center board, Waterville Robert LaFleur Airport board member, Central Maine Apartment Owners Association board treasurer, and Waterville-Winslow Solid Waste Corp. board member.

His biggest concern is creating jobs to draw more people to the city, he said.

When asked about another candidate entering the race, he said, “it always makes the race interesting, and it gives people a choice. Of course I hope they vote for me. I’m the most experienced person currently in the administration — 15 years on the city council, and now I’m the current sitting mayor. I would think that would hold some merit.”

People can drive around the city to see what the council has accomplished and is working on, he said, such as the Waterville Public Library addition, the Waterville Opera House renovation and Quarry Road recreation trail improvements. The city also plans to pave Grove and Water streets.

Roy, 37, is a self-employed disc jockey who Sunday announced he was dropping out of the race, but now says he was “faking” and is still in it. He said Tuesday he supports buying or building a larger police station but does not think the city should pay for it with a bond.

“It’s not that hard to see they could have saved that money” for a new station, he said.

He wants to cut city spending, he said, and also reform how police deal with people who have alcohol, drug and mental health problems.

He would support the Waterville and Winslow police departments merging if there were a feasible way to do it, he said. He also wants to see the city council politically balanced; he supports term limits for city councilors.

There should be more community events, he said, such as the Taste of Greater Waterville, which has music, streetside dining and children’s games.

He is no longer involved with Maine Vocals, a group that supports legalizing marijuana, he said, and he is no longer a medical marijuana patient.

He said he think’s the fact Heck is running is great. “I like to see more people get involved with what’s going on in the city.”

As mayor, Heck said her role would be to champion the city — to “really challenge people’s thinking” and “be an ambassador for Waterville.” To encourage development, the city has an opportunity “to really look at what our strengths are and to innovatively connect those to economic drivers,” she said.

She said aspects of the city that should be promoted include Waterville Main Street, the Maine International Film Festival at Railroad Square Cinema, renovation work at Head of Falls, the networking group KV Connect and the $100 million in art donated by Peter and Paula Lunder to the Colby College Museum of Art.

“I have some ideas and energy and background that can help in promoting Waterville as a great place to live and work,” she said.

Heck graduated from Colby College in 1974 with a major in government and earned a master’s degree in human development from the University of Maine in 1979.

For seven years, Heck has been a senior program officer for the Bingham Program in Augusta, which provides grant money for projects that support healthy living in Maine.

Inducted in 2008 into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame, she has worked for 30 years in non-profit administration. She helped start the local rape crisis assistance and prevention program, which later became Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center, in addition to a statewide abortion loan fund for low-income women.

She helped start the Maine Women’s Policy Center in Augusta, which organizes, trains and supports women to participate in policy making. She was chairman of the group’s sister organization, the Maine Women’s Lobby; was on the board of the Maine Women’s Fund; and was president and a board member of the Maine Choice Coalition.

Heck is a former president of the Waterville Rotary Club, has been involved with Mid-Maine United Way, and was on the executive committee of what is now the Alfond Youth Center.

She said anyone who walks into the Waterville Police Department knows a bigger building is needed.

In addition, it’s important to look at ways to combine services with surrounding towns, such as Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland, she said, but as mayor her job would be to facilitate discussions — not be a sole decision maker.

“As mayor, according to the charter, I’m there to develop the budget in consultation with the city administrator,” she said.

Of the other candidates, she said, “I think this is an opportunity for people to really think about what we all have to offer. It’s more important what people think of each of us than what I think about any of us.”

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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