Across the region, elected officials and community leaders are setting budgets and business plans and getting ready for a productive 2016. And with that comes setting goals for their city, town or business.

The past 12 months have seen new businesses open, people assuming new leadership positions and the changing of the guard in several cities and towns.

Andrew Silsby took over as CEO at Kennebec Savings Bank on the first day of 2015, and in the last year, he’s helped the bank grow. Silsby said he has more in store for the financial institution in 2016 and hopes the bank can take advantage of the recovering economy.

The Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce opened its new headquarters in mid-December, and new president and CEO Ross Cunningham said he is excited to work with new staff members and to enjoy the changes made to long-running county events.

In Hallowell, new City Manager Stefan Pakulski and incoming Councilor Sophie Gabrion both see the Water Street reconstruction project and the city’s fire station as issues that need to be addressed in the coming year. Bill Zima took over as superintendent for Regional School Unit 2 in August, and this year, Zima wants to continue building on the growth the district made in proficiency-based learning.

Here are some details of their priorities.


Rollins said he plans to meet with the city’s leaders in mid-January to outline specific goals for the year, but he did discuss a number of general topics he hopes will be addressed in the next 12 months.

“A goal is to really work this year to minimize impact on the taxpayers with our upcoming budget,” Rollins said. “We’ve had a couple of years where we’ve had to have greater tax increases than we wanted, and we are going to have to do lots of weighing and decision making to limit the impact.”

Another big goal, Rollins said, is to continue to work on public safety and public awareness in connection with the heroin and opium epidemic and crime that is associated with the misuse of drugs.

Rollins added that the city hopes to continue its economic growth.

“We have seen new businesses coming in and existing businesses expanding,” he said, “and we are certainly going to have an involved conversation about recycling.”

Andrew Silsby, president and CEO of Kennebec Savings Bank

Silsby, the bank’s 13th leader since it first opened its doors in 1870, said he hopes to grow the bank with the improving economy, especially in its mortgage lending department.

“We are a very strong mortgage lender, and we are on the street (every day) working to get people into homes,” he said. “We have a strong belief that the housing market is a strong driver of the economy, and our goal is to help promote housing in our area.”

The increase in commercial lending also has Silsby feeling optimistic for the coming year. He said the bank is “seeing a lot more activity in commercial lending, and it seems as though people are starting to invest in their own businesses again.”

On a personal level, Silsby said his goal for his second year in the bank’s top leadership position is to make sure the bank continues to provide a good working environment and keeps giving back to the community.

“We target 10 percent of our income to go back to the community,” he said.


Hallowell’s main drag, Water Street, will undergo a major reconstruction, currently scheduled for 2018, and continuing to put plans in place is a priority for the city in the next 12 months.

Pakulski, who took over for retiring City Manager Michael Starn in September, also said finding a buyer for the Stevens School campus is another concern the city needs to address.

“The City Council has a number of things on its plate, including this, but they do want to have a resolution on which way to go,” he said.

Additionally, a lot has been discussed regarding the future of the city’s fire station, located in a 183-year-old building that the city has deemed unfit for a modern fire department.

“The fire station is smack in the middle of the priorities for the city to address,” Pakulski said. “The firefighters and the chief would really like a clear decision made and action taken on the fire station as soon as possible.”

Personally, Pakulski hopes to continue getting to know the people of Hallowell and continue growing his relationship with Mayor Mark Walker and the council, including its incoming members.


One of those councilors in Hallowell is Sophie Gabrion, who ran unopposed and will represent Ward 2 starting this month.

For Gabrion, the Water Street project is the top priority.

“My biggest priority is not only how we get the (Water Street reconstruction) done effectively and efficiently and to make sure we are communicating well with the Department of Transportation,” she said. “(We also need) to come up with solutions that at least accommodates everyone, even if (the solution) isn’t their top choice.”

Gabrion also wants to tackle is communication between residents and the city.

“I hear stuff in my professional life during the day about projects that are great but have not been communicated well,” Gabrion said. “The best ideas in the world can be shot down in a minute if poorly communicated.”


Zima, who started his career in education after working for several years in wildlife conservation for Walt Disney World, has been working on making sure the district is ready in advance of the state’s law requiring a proficiency-based diploma.

“Our vision statement has nine points on it,” Zima said. “We have done a great job realizing how to use learning targets to measure a student’s proficiency, so we are in a good place to make sure we’re meeting the requirements of that law.”

The next step for the district, which includes Hallowell, Farmingdale, Dresden, Monmouth and Richmond, includes sending students to local government meetings and having them do a service action.

“Now that we know how to use and demonstrate proficiency, what happens next?” Zima asked. “I think it’s building these engaging learning opportunities, where you ask students to do something with the knowledge instead of just being tested.”


One of the chamber’s biggest changes in its recent history occurred Dec. 14 when the organization officially opened its Western Avenue headquarters. So for Cunningham, taking advantage of the new location is a top priority for the coming year.

“This community often struggles because they don’t know where to get help,” Cunningham said. “We want to be a centrally located, easy-access location for that.”

Cunningham said the group has made improvements to the annual Kenney Awards, which “will now be a new dramatic event where black tie is preferred.” There will be a red carpet and paparazzi taking photos of guests as they arrive.

“We are adding some more relevant aspects to the Whatever Family Festival and the Business Expo, including food truck and live music; and next year, we hope to grow it even more,” he said. “Everyone is on board and is very excited.”

Cunningham said new staff members and the reorganized Small Business Resource Team, along with the chamber’s new, modern digs in Augusta have everyone excited for 2016.

“We are looking forward to another great year,” he said.


As in Hallowell, and other cities and towns around the state, public safety is a concern in Winthrop. Sarah Fuller, chairwoman of the Winthrop Town Council, said getting plans finalized for the town’s new fire station is the top priority for the coming year.

“The fire station is the only public safety building that hasn’t been recently refurbished,” Fuller said. “New equipment doesn’t work in the current building because the structure isn’t big enough and the floors aren’t strong enough.”

Fuller said there has been little opposition to the proposal, and she is confident that existing town taxes would not need to rise to fund the project.

“It’s a definite and defined need,” she said. “This new station will be one to last us the next 50 to 100 years.”

Personally, as if running her own public relations company and leading Winthrop’s council wasn’t enough, Fuller is training for Ironman half-triathlon in Old Orchard Beach at the end of August. The event includes a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 50-mile bicycle ride and 13.1-mile run.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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