SKOWHEGAN — Four candidates are on the ballot Tuesday for two open seats on the five-member Skowhegan Board of Selectmen. The term of office for each seat is three years.

Also, two candidates are running for three open seats on the School Administrative District 54 board of directors. Incumbents Jennifer Poirier and Richard Irwin are unopposed for three-year terms. If elected, Irwin, 80, would be starting his 30th year on the board. Poirier is the founder of the Skowhegan Indian Pride Facebook page, advocating keeping the Indians high school sports nickname. Both Poirier and Irwin voted in May 2015 to keep the name.

There is a third open seat on the board, for which no one has applied.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Municipal Building on Water Street.

Running for a fifth consecutive three-year term on the Board of Selectmen is Selectwoman Betty Austin. Incumbent Selectman Paul York is seeking a return to the board for a second term.

The incumbents are challenged on the ballot by Donn Chamberlain and Paul Natale.

After 12 years in public service, Austin, 69, said she likes recent progress in town but still pushes for continued economic growth and more jobs in Skowhegan.

“I’m running again because I want to see us continue in the area that we’re going toward — more economic growth,” Austin said. “I really want to see Run of River (a white-water park) come to fruition. I’ve really enjoyed seeing our town grow downtown, and I want to see more of that.”

Austin said reshaping the municipal parking lot downtown, the growth of the Farmers Market and the Somerset Grist Mill are all good signs. She said she has a positive attitude and hopes to continue to promote Skowhegan for its recreational opportunities.

Austin is a member of the Skowhegan Economic Development Committee and an organizer of the Coburn Park Concert Series.

She also is running as a Democrat for the open seat in House District 107, which is being vacated by Rep. Jeff McCabe because of term limits. She is employed part time at the Clark Insurance Agency. She is single and has two grown daughters and five grandchildren.

Incumbent Selectman Paul York, 47, the vice chairman, is seeking a second term on the board to continue growing the local economy and keep taxes down as much as possible.

He said he studies the issues that come before the board and votes based on the facts, not on special interests.

“I make sure I know all the issues on things I’m not familiar with. I like to know all the facts before I make a decision,” he said. “It’s good to contact the professionals in a certain area if you need to so you know exactly what you’re voting on.”

Important issues in Skowhegan continue to be taxes and to “get Skowhegan to grow” by attracting more businesses to town, York said.

York said he is not a big fan of the Run of River project, a plan for a white-water park on the Kennebec River though downtown. He said investing an estimated $4.5 million in an idea that might not produce results is not a good idea.

“At this time, I’m not for spending all of this money on something that we’re really not guaranteed is going to grow or do anything,” he said. “And there’s always that continued cost of upkeep, and I’m not so sure at this time it’s good to spend that kind of money and have that burden.”

York said he does his homework and goes to each meeting armed with information to make the best decision. He said a lot of thought goes into each of his votes.

York served for 20 years in law enforcement. He worked eight years for the Skowhegan Police Department, beginning in 1990, before moving to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department. He moved up the ranks from deputy to sergeant to lieutenant before leaving the department in 2010.

York is single and has two grown children. He is the longtime owner of York’s Lawn Care.

Candidate Donn Chamberlain said he attends as many selectmen’s meetings as he can and talks to people in the community to get a sense of what’s going on in town.

Chamberlain said he is running for selectman to have a say on two issues he thinks are important. The first is a proposal to change the jobs of road commissioner, town clerk and town treasurer from elective positions to posts the town manager fills by appointment. He said voters should have their say in who serves the town, not the manager or the Board of Selectmen. The question will go to a referendum ballot in November.

Chamberlain also said the town-owned parking lot by the Bernard Langlais Indian sculpture next to Cumberland Farms also is an issue he would like to address. He said there should be assigned parking passes at night near the store for employees’ safety and that the store “is getting the runaround” by selectmen.

Chamberlain, 45, grew up in Hartland and is a delivery driver for Oakhurst Dairy. He is a single father of three children and has been a baseball coach in the Babe Ruth league.

He also said he would like to see Skowhegan be more business-friendly. Current growth downtown “could be done better,” he said. He said he is a fiscal conservative and pro-business.

“My kids love Skowhegan. I love Skowhegan. My kids plan on staying here after school, and I think we need to make it a place where kids want to stay,” he said.

Paul Natale, 59, was a selectman and school board member in Canaan before moving to Skowhegan three years ago. He is employed in the information technology department at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville.

“My interests are in education, jobs, the environment, and I’m also a numbers man, so budgets are very important to me,” Natale said. “I feel I have very good experience with budgets and with the way the community works.”

He said he is a good listener and a helpful person. He also worked as a professional clown and juggler in his younger years.

Natale was a member of the Lake George Regional Park board of directors. He also was on the school board for nine years, serving on its Budget Committee and as vice chairman of its Education and Policy Committee; and he oversaw the construction of the middle school in Skowhegan and Mill Stream Elementary School in Norridgewock. As a selectman in Canaan, Natale oversaw the building of the town library.

Natale said keeping a good relationship with the people at the Sappi paper mill in Skowhegan with regard to taxation is an important priority.

“The downtown industry is going forward, which is really nice to see, because it could have been a ghost town,” he said. “I am a good leader. I’m a people person and I’m a great listener. I’d be a good asset to the town of Skowhegan.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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