WATERVILLE — City Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, will likely be elected Tuesday as the new council chairman, replacing Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, who was defeated in the November election by newcomer Stephen Soule.

Councilors are scheduled to elect a chairman at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at The Center in what promises to be a new era for the board.

Soule and Jackie Dupont, who defeated Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, will be sworn into office, replacing councilors with strong voices on the board.

Councilors cite O’Donnell’s experience, level-headedness and history of asking hard questions as some reasons they believe he is the best candidate to be council chairman. A Waterville lawyer, O’Donnell has been a city councilor for 10 years.

Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, said he plans to nominate O’Donnell for the position. O’Donnell said if he is elected, he will be happy to serve.

“I wasn’t actively politicking. I was approached by Nate about taking over because obviously Fred’s gone,” O’Donnell said Tuesday. “I said, yes, I wouldn’t mind stepping in.”

White and councilors Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, and Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, all said they will support O’Donnell for the chairmanship. Winslow said the key is having a chairman who communicates with other councilors through phone calls and emails, and O’Donnell is a communicator.

“I think he’d be good,” she said.

White said he spoke with Winslow before approaching O’Donnell to ask if he would like to be chairman.

“She felt that with his knowledge and education he would be a strong chairman,” White said. “Just looking at his experience on the council, I think hands-down he’s a good choice for the job. I think he’s looking out for the best interests of the people of Waterville.”

Bushee said she supported O’Donnell for the chairmanship when both he and Stubbert were nominated for chairman previously.

“I thought he was a good choice then, and I think he’s a good choice now,” Bushee said. “He’s level-headed and he looks at all the issues really well. He asks good questions. He brings things to light that I think should be brought to light. He asks the hard questions. I think he’s a good choice for council chairman.”

Mayhew said some day he will be interested in being chairman, but plans to support O’Donnell Tuesday for the seat.

Reflecting on upcoming issues in the city, O’Donnell said he and others are excited about Colby College’s initiative to help revitalize downtown. Colby has bought four buildings downtown and plans to renovate them and develop student and college staff housing, a boutique hotel and retail businesses.

“That’s probably one of the biggest things to hit Waterville in years,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said he is concerned about Gov. Paul LePage’s efforts to eliminate revenue sharing and the income tax.

“Obviously, revenue sharing is being chopped more than half, taking its toll on property owners, and if we eliminate income tax, that’s just a complete burden on property owners,” he said. “The Waterville population is not going to be interested in cutting services.”

O’Donnell said he is optimistic about changes to occur in Waterville, but concerned about LePage’s proposals.

“Despite the good news, there’s still a need for caution,” he said.

NEW FACES, NEW TOPICS

Councilors said they look forward to working with Soule and Dupont, whose presence will create a new dynamic on the board.

Soule and Dupont, both of whom are Democrats, said last week they are anxious to get to work.

“I hope that we continue in the positive direction we’re going in because we certainly seem to be going down the right road now,” Soule said, referring to the Colby plan and other initiatives. “We have a great school system, public works, parks and recreation.”

A retired school principal and current director of the South End Teen Center, Soule said one thing he would like the city to consider is introducing composting, where people could take their compostable materials to a drop-off site and that compost could be used later in the fall for gardens.

“Other communities around the state are starting to do it,” he said.

Soule also plans to focus on all people when doing his work and making decisions.

“I just hope that we’re all thinking about all walks of life in the city,” he said.

Dupont is a Planning Board member and licensed clinical social worker and child and family therapist employed by the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers. She said she hopes to demonstrate how the goals for Ward 7, which includes the South End, are in alignment with the city’s goals and capitalize on the momentum being generated across the city so everyone is achieving those goals.

Dupont’s resignation from the Planning Board becomes effective Tuesday. Like other councilors, Dupont pointed to Colby’s efforts and plans by a technical company to create up to 200 jobs in the city.

“It’s hard not to be excited for the future of Waterville and Ward 7, given the enhanced partnerships with Colby, the investment of Collaborative Consulting at Hathaway Creative Center and ongoing, forward-thinking projects such as Head of Falls and the expanded trails system in the South End,” Dupont said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, it will take time, and each year we’re making more progress. 2016 is going to be a great year.”

Winslow said she thinks Soule will be an asset to the council, particularly since he has been a school principal who has developed budgets.

“He really knows what’s going on and is really interacting with the next generation in the South End,” she said. “And Jackie (Dupont) understands the Planning Board better than most, so that’s another enriched piece that we’re getting. I look at both of them as they are going to listen, they are going to ask questions, they are interacting with the council members.”

‘AN INTERESTING TIME’

Applicants interviewed by Mayor Nick Isgro to serve on boards and committees also will be sworn in by City Clerk Patti Dubois once the council approves the appointments.

Winslow, the longest serving councilor with 14 years on the job, said she also looks forward to having discussions about the downtown and possibly implementing two-way traffic on Main and Front streets, which is the way it was when she was younger.

“It’s going to be an interesting time, and what we do makes a difference for Fairfield, Oakland, Winslow and Waterville,” she said.

Like several other councilors, White said the council will miss Stubbert’s institutional knowledge and experience and Rancourt-Thomas’ passion for her constituents, but having Soule and Dupont aboard will bring a new perspective to the council.

“Steve Soule has been around in the community for some time, and I think he has knowledge which benefits the city as well,” White said. He said he has not spoken at length with Dupont, who is co-director of the South End Neighborhood Association, but thinks she is really looking out for people in the city.

Bushee said she previously worked with Dupont at Hardy Girls Healthy Women and has become acquainted with Soule over the last year while working with the Neighborhood Association.

“I’m really excited for the new councilors to get started,” Bushee said. “Both are invested and have volunteered in the community. I think it’s kind of a natural progression for them.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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