WATERVILLE — Residents in wards 1 and 7 will have a choice when they go to the polls Tuesday to elect a city councilor.

City Council Chairman Charles Fred Stubbert Jr. is challenged by newcomer Stephen J. Soule for his seat in Ward 1, while City Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, faces challenges from Jacqueline Dupont and Anthony George Tompkins.

Meanwhile, Sara Sylvester, a Democrat and chairwoman of the Waterville Board of Education, is running unopposed for her seat in Ward 1; Democrat and board member Pamela J. Trinward, of Ward 7, also is running unopposed. All seats are for three-year terms.

Voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the American Legion Hall on College Avenue.

WARD 1 RACE

Stubbert, 78, has been a councilor for 12 years, the last five as chairman. He said he is seeking re-election because he wants to continue the work he has been doing in the city.

“There are many important things going on right now in the city and we need experienced leadership to have those things done right,” he said. “We are working with Colby College and trying to get businesses to locate here, working to get taxes under control and dealing with vacant buildings. Economic development is the most important issue. We need experienced people to make that happen.”

Stubbert grew up in Waterville and was a star athlete in high school, and when he went to college, he had no money, he said. Service clubs and other organizations in the city provided funding for him until he could get scholarships, he said.

“I owe a lot to Waterville,” he said. “I’ve always bragged about Waterville wherever I have gone. It’s only been the last 20 to 25 years that Waterville has gone downhill, and I want to get it back up to where it belongs.”

As a councilor, he has worked to develop the Quarry Road Recreation Area, was on the building committee that planned the Waterville Opera House renovation project, led the charge for a new police station and worked on planing the renovation of the public library, he said. He is working to help renovate the Pine Grove Cemetery chapel, and he served on the Alfond Youth Center Board of Directors 22 years.

If he had the power to change one thing in Waterville, it would be the economics, he said, adding that it is important to draw businesses to the city.

“We’ve got to broaden our tax base,” he said. “If we don’t, we’re faced with two things: Either we cut city services or raise taxes, and both of those are the kiss of death.”

The best thing about Waterville is its history and spirit, he said.

“Despite its size, Waterville has produced world leaders, it has produced great championship teams at its high school, significant inventors known worldwide — Martin Keyes, who invented paper plates and the machinery to make them; and A.O. Lombard, who designed the caterpillar tractor — and a lot of leaders in the state and country. Waterville has always had a strong spirit of community and getting things done.”

Soule, 58, is challenging Stubbert for his council position. Soule says he has lived in Ward 1 for 35 years, has spent his career as a teacher and school principal and now is coordinator of the South End Teen Center on Water Street.

He has taught more than 1,000 students, raised a daughter and tried to be a role model. He said he has followed the dynamics of Waterville closely and decided to run for council.

Soule said he is a positive person and could always rally his teaching staff in Clinton to work together. Soule described himself as smart, level-headed and realistic, and said he maintains a sensible budget at home as well as at the teen center and was responsible for a school budget. From the time he was 21 and started his first teaching job, his career has always been dependent on tax dollars, he said.

While Soule acknowledges he does not have the power to make sweeping changes to the city, he does have the power to change the makeup of the City Council.

“I have proven leadership qualities, have managed a large staff and budget and would focus on the best ideas presented,” he said. “I am a positive person, willing to create new action plans that make a difference in Waterville. I make no false promises. I will work to earn your respect to improve the city.”

The best thing about Waterville is that it is a great place to raise a family, according to Soule.

“It has well-performing schools, a downtown that promises more positive changes ahead and excellent essential services,” Soule said. “Like every other place in Maine, Waterville is currently working through tough economic times. Until the economy improves, the city must carefully manage taxpayers’ money.”

WARD 7 RACE

Incumbent Rancourt-Thomas, 51, says she wants to continue representing Ward 7, where she has advocated for many improvements in the South End, including repaving Water Street, the addition of sidewalks on Grove Street and demolition of city-owned properties that otherwise would have been sold to absentee landlords. Those properties, in turn, were sold to abutting property owners, according to Rancourt-Thomas.

She said she had supported the position of South End police officer, and when the school resource officer position was at risk of being eliminated from the city budget, she fought to retain it. As a mother of three children, she supports keeping children and older people safe, she said. She helped police organize a crime reporting meeting at Senior Spectrum’s Muskie Center to help alert residents to scams, as well as educate them about how to report crimes, she said.

An original member of the South End Neighborhood Association, Rancourt-Thomas said she has promoted causes including a bike swap, annual neighborhood cleanup day and National Night Out. She also has helped make sure parks in the South End are kept in good condition.

The president of the Franco-American Heritage Society of Kennebec Valley, Rancourt-Thomas organizes the annual Festival at the Head of Falls. She said if she could change one thing in the city, it would be to lower taxes.

“Families are moving out of our city, so we’re becoming a city of apartment dwellers and not homeowners,” she said. “Look at all the for-sale signs in the neighborhoods. One complaint I hear, day in and day out, is that the taxes are too high.”

Asked what she thinks is the best thing about Waterville, Rancourt-Thomas said she does not think there is only one.

“We have wonderful parks. We have wonderful schools,” she said. “We have very caring teachers involved with our children. I think as a community we’re very, very tight. We have the South End Neighborhood Association, and Colby and Thomas colleges, Waterville Main Street, Waterville Creates! There’s community commitment and people stepping up to help improve the city.”

Dupont said she is running for the council seat because she has always believed in volunteering and working with others to improve quality of life. After she graduated from college, she decided to make the South End her home, and she has called it home for the last 10 years.

“I am passionate about our community, youth, building people up and public safety,” she said.

A member of the city’s Planning Board, Dupont, 33, also is chairwoman of the South End Neighborhood Association and serves on the Board of Directors for the Waterville Community Land Trust. She also co-chairs the Waterville City Democratic Committee and is a steering committee member for the Waterville Comprehensive Plan.

If she had the power to change one thing about Waterville, she said, it would be how the city markets itself, so it becomes a premier destination spot and investors are drawn to its vision.

“Too often, it seems the focus has been stuck on what has not worked or an assumption of what will not work,” Dupont said. “Sometimes these assumptions are based on past events; however, Waterville and all of its variables are constantly evolving, and we need to be open and flexible to looking at all the strategies available to us. Let’s stop saying, ‘That can’t be done,’ and instead ask, ‘What would it take to make that work?'”

The best thing about the city, she says, is its community spirit. She said she grew up in Baltimore, where there were 650,000 people, and that didn’t allow neighbors to get to know each other and work on common issues the way Waterville residents do.

“The more people I talk to, the more I see and hear untapped experience and ideas,” she said. “Waterville’s size enables diverse stakeholders to be represented at the table and have a voice in the future of Waterville and I hope to be a bigger voice in that process.”

Tompkins, 41, is a newcomer to politics. He works for Insurance Auto Auctions in Clinton, reselling salvaged vehicles at auction. He says he and his family have lived in the community about six years and he senses a real feeling that there are two Watervilles — the South End and the “up on the hill” area — and he wants to work to help change that perception.

He hopes to see combined city celebrations as opposed to separate celebrations in the South and North ends of the city, for instance.

As Tompkins campaigned door-to-door when he first announced he was entering the race for Ward 7 City Council, he found people who did not know who the Ward 7 councilor was and had no idea where she lived or how to contact her, he said. If elected, he would work to ensure residents know who he is and how they may reach him so he can address issues and answer questions.

“I think openness is what I want to bring to the table,” he said. “People don’t feel connected.”

If he could change one thing about Waterville, it would be the community atmosphere, he said, adding that there needs to be more of a feeling of unity. Breaking down perceptions is part of making that change, he said.

If elected, he will spend time talking to people and getting to know them and their needs, he said.

“I’m pretty much an open book,” Tompkins said.

A writer of poetry and short stories, he added that he loves to talk and loves to listen. “Taking in details is what I like to do,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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