WATERVILLE — Mayor Karen Heck says she will not endorse a candidate for mayor and instead wants to see what each candidate’s vision is for the city.

“I’m not endorsing anyone,” Heck said Thursday. “I’m hopeful they will want to continue on the positive path we’ve been on the last three years.”

The candidates for mayor, so far, are Democrat Stephen Aucoin, Republican Nicholas Isgro and Karen Rancourt-Thomas, a Democrat whose name will appear on the ballot with no party affiliation. Each says he or she is uniquely poised to be mayor after Heck leaves office at the end of the year.

Aucoin, 67, director of maintenance at Alfond Youth Center, notes his experience working with people of differing opinions and finding common ground as one quality that would serve him well as mayor.

“It’s my proven ability to bring diverse groups of people together to identify problems and work on solutions,” he said.

Isgro, 33, controller for Skowhegan Savings Bank, says that while he has never held office in city government, he is able to view things from a fresh perspective, which allows him to offer new insight and direction for the city.

“My work in financial accounting brings to the table the experience that Waterville needs to ensure precision oversight in the crafting of budgets, which is absolutely critical when city taxpayers are on the line,” Isgro said.

Rancourt-Thomas, 50, said her middle-class background provides an important perspective for the mayor’s job.

“I understand the ups and downs of having to work to make ends meet,” she said, referring to the struggles of the middle class. “Through their hard work, their taxes pay for the roads, the parks and all else. Every year they are called on to give a little bit more. After a while, it all adds up.”

The outgoing mayor, Heck, says the city in the last three years has seen economic growth, the rebirth of the airport, new businesses opening and the sale of the former MaineGeneral Health’s Seton Unit, which put the Chase Avenue property on the tax rolls.

Philanthropic groups have invested in the Waterville Opera House, the Quarry Road Recreation Area, Waterville Main Street and Waterville Creates, a consortium of nonprofit organizations focusing on expanding the arts in central Maine, according to Heck. The city has built a collaborative relationship with the colleges and hospitals, which have put money into developing and implementing a marketing campaign for the city, helped pave Mayflower Hill Drive and supported nonprofit organizations, including Waterville Main Street and other developments, she said.

“I want to hear how each of the (mayoral) candidates see themselves moving that work ahead, especially with the arrival of Colby’s new president, who is very interested in making sure Waterville and Colby are partners in economic progress,” said Heck, a Colby College alumna. “What I hope we don’t hear about is the need for a change in direction. I think we need to keep moving forward, not backward.”

TOUTING THEIR QUALIFICATIONS

Aucoin, a former city councilor who represented Ward 7, the seat currently held by Rancourt-Thomas, said his background and experience help make him a good candidate for mayor.

“I’m an old-school Democrat, and that means standing up for working people and for poor people,” he said.

Isgro says that as a young parent with children who works full time and is continuing his education — he is pursuing a degree in accounting from Thomas College — he knows well the challenges facing people in Waterville and is sensitive to how decisions made at City Hall affect families and individuals.

“My experience in the private sector allows me to understand on a detailed level how local businesses and communities have to work together for a shared prosperity, and the struggles that small business owners face as well,” Isgro said. “Right now I think we really need that broad perspective as we move forward to the coming years in Waterville.”

Rancourt-Thomas says her background growing up with a working-class background will guide her positions and priorities as mayor.

She said she harbors “a stubbornness for the middle class that feel they have no representation from either party and in return feel alienated. They are the backbone of the city.”

Aucoin, who was nominated for mayor at a recent Democratic City Committee caucus, has said one of the first things he would do as mayor is call a meeting of city officials, state legislators and college representatives and other organizations to discuss how to garner more funding for the city. Aucoin has long been critical of the fact that there are many nonprofits in the city that pay no taxes. He thinks they should pitch in and help relieve the city’s burden.

Aucoin, now of Ticonic Street in the city’s North End, is divorced and has two children, Martin, 21, and Simone, 37. He represented Ward 7 as a councilor from 2004 to 2008 but did not seek re-election because his mother was ill at the time, he was her sole caretaker and he also was running his contracting business, he said. He is former director of the North End Boys and Girls Club, a satellite office of the Alfond Center.

Aucoin grew up in Portland, but his father was from Waterville. The younger Aucoin graduated from Cheverus High School in Portland and earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Bridgeport, where he double-majored in political science and economics.

After moving to Waterville in 1988, he worked in project development and oversaw building construction for Maine State Housing Authority. He also worked in housing programs at the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program and was housing director for the Kennebec Valley Mental Health Center, which now is Kennebec Behavioral Health.

Isgro, of Western Avenue, has a wife, Amanda, who is expecting a child in November; the couple have three children: Anthony, 9, Sofia, 5, and Salvatore, 1.

He was nominated for mayor at the recent Republican City Committee caucus. He is a Messalonskee High School graduate and attended University of Maine at Farmington, where he studied history. Now he attends Thomas.

A vocal opponent of the city’s new pay-as-you-throw program and Isgro has said the city should focus on what residents want. He also said he thinks the city needs more homeowners and businesses to help shore up the tax base, and the city should spend less money on projects that are not always necessary.

Rancourt-Thomas, of Carey Lane, announced at Tuesday’s council meeting that she is a candidate for mayor.

She is a widow and has three children, Cameron, 17, Nate, 19, and Ailie, 9.

A graduate of Waterville Senior High School, Rancourt-Thomas attended Chaminade University in Honolulu and studied anthropology, and she earned a bachelor’s degree in social services from the University of Maine. She also holds a master’s degree in education from Thomas College.

Rancourt-Thomas said the city needs to change from being a city of apartment dwellers to one that has more owner-occupied homes. As a founding member of the South End Neighborhood Association, she has worked to help revitalize that area of the city. She also is president of the Franco-American Heritage Society of Kennebec Valley and serves on the city’s facilities review committee, as well as on the parks and recreation committee.

Aucoin, Isgro and Rancourt-Thomas do not become official candidates until they return petition papers to the city clerk’s office and the signatures are verified. The petitions, to contain at least 15 but not more than 25 signatures from residents of each of the city’s seven wards, must be returned to the clerk’s office by 4:30 p.m. Sept. 4.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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