WATERVILLE — The dynamics of the City Council will change come January when two new councilors take office as two seasoned councilors step down.

What that change will mean remains to be seen.

Having served 12 years on the council, the last five as chairman, Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, was often one of the more conservative voices on the council — at least where budgets were concerned — as was Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, who has served for seven years.

Both incumbents were ousted in last week’s election, opening the way for retired educator and current South End Teen Center Director Stephen Soule to take Stubbert’s spot and Jackie Dupont, a licensed clinical social worker and Planning Board member, to replace Rancourt-Thomas.

Stubbert and Rancourt-Thomas will continue to serve until the new councilors are sworn in Jan. 5.

At that meeting, the council’s first of the year, councilors also will elect a new chairman, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois.

Stubbert, a chemical engineer, says he thinks that low voter turnout swayed the outcome of last Tuesday’s election. Of 11,400 registered voters in the city, 1,735 cast ballots, Dubois said. That’s about 15 percent turnout of registered voters

Soule beat Stubbert, 170 to 72.

“Obviously, I’m not happy, but it wasn’t unexpected,” Stubbert said. “In an off-year election, turnout is very low. In races like that, anything can happen.”

Stubbert, 78, said he campaigned pretty actively for re-election, but a lot of people he talked to said they would go to the polls but didn’t show up.

Meanwhile, Stubbert believes the election of Soule and Dupont will take the council in a more liberal direction, and he still thinks the council would be better with experienced people, considering the issues facing the city, such as economic development.

“The dynamics on the council will change. The political winds will change in a more liberal direction,” he said.

Stubbert doesn’t have any plans to run for council when the seat comes up again three years from now, but said he will remain involved in several committees he is on, including a panel focused on the future of Waterville’s trash and recycling program. Being a city councilor was a lot of work, but he will miss it, he added.

“I grew up in Waterville, I love this city, I want to see it back to where it was 25 years ago,” he said.

Soule, a Democrat who ran for Stubbert’s seat with no party affiliation, said he thinks it’s too early to make a judgment about whether the changes will result in a more left-leaning council.

“We’ll just have to wait and see, but I do hope the council will support people of all walks of life,” Soule, 58, said.

A retired school principal and teacher, he said he has wanted to be a city councilor for about the last three years. He went door-to-door to talk to residents during his campaign and sent out postcards to everyone in the ward, which he believes helped contribute to his win.

“I also think that people realize that change is good,” he said. “Any working group needs to have change. If you don’t change, tomorrow you’ll only have the results that you had today. Fresh ideas will be good for the city.”

Like Soule, who has been regularly attending council meetings, Mayor Nick Isgro, a Republican, also believes it is too early to make assumptions about how the council will change as a result of new members.

“I think what is interesting is that on the local level, when we speak about conservative or liberal, we’re talking about how we handle the city budget because outside of that we’re not dealing with liberal or conservative ideologies,” Isgro said.

He said he has a lot of respect for some of the difficult votes both Stubbert and Rancourt-Thomas took.

“I think they were in tune with the general sentiments of the taxpayers in their wards when it came to spending,” Isgro said. “That said, I think it’s too early to say how the council’s going to be. I would not really like to make any kind of premeditated assumption about how new members of the council are going to work. It’s going to be a change, but we should never make an assumption that change is bad. I think we really need to wait and give the new councilors a chance.”

Like Soule, Dupont, 33, also campaigned door-to-door, sent out postcards, called Ward 7 residents and had other supporters campaign as well. She got 110 votes to Rancourt-Thomas’ 92 and Anthony Tompkins’ 22.

Dupont said that, as she visited homes in the southern part of Ward 7, including on Trafton and West River roads, people told her they had never been visited by a candidate before.

“It was meaningful — I think it was meaningful for people,” she said.

Dupont said she wants to continue to know what residents in the ward think, and she wants them to know she is accessible. In that vein, she plans to have “office hours,” such as certain times she will be at Jorgensen’s Cafe or the Muskie Center, for instance, so people can come and speak with her.

Rancourt-Thomas, 51, lost to Dupont by only 18 votes, a fact that does not escape Dupont.

“What I tell people is that it’s kind of a nod to how important getting out the vote is and how important and meaningful every vote is,” Dupont said. “When we say that every vote counts, we really, really mean it.”

Dupont will have to resign from her position on the Planning Board as it would conflict with being a councilor, according to Dubois, the city clerk.

Dupont is not sure when she will do that, but hopes to continue on the Planning Board as long as possible before Jan. 5, she said.

Rancourt-Thomas did not immediately return phone calls Friday.

Staff writer Peter McGuire contributed to this report.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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