Two Democrats, an independent and a Republican are competing for two seats on the Waterville City Council in November.

In Ward 3, Lauren Lessing, a Democrat and director of academic and public programs at the Colby College Museum of Art, is running against Christopher Smith, an independent, to fill the seat of longtime Councilor Rosemary Winslow.

In Ward 5, Republican Nick Champagne, a civil engineer at A.E. Hodsdon Engineers and the chairman of the city’s Planning Board, is running against Democrat Zachary Whittemore, lead rental agent at Keystone Management, to replace current council Chairman John O’Donnell.

Republicans did not select a candidate for Ward 3 at their caucus Tuesday night, said Neal Patterson, chairman of the Republican City Committee.

Both Winslow, a Democrat who has represented Ward 3 for 16 years, and O’Donnell, also a Democrat, have said that they do not plan to run for re-election this fall. O’Donnell, a Waterville lawyer, has served on the council for 10 years and told the Morning Sentinel last week that, “I’ve put in my time and enjoyed my time, but thought someone else might want to take over.”

On Wednesday, O’Donnell said his decision to not seek re-election was not spurred by recent difficulty in passing the city budget — something that actually made him question a decision he has been contemplating for months.


“When the budget didn’t pass, it made me think that maybe I shouldn’t back away,” O’Donnell said. “But I understand they have someone now who has been nominated.”

Meanwhile, Winslow said Wednesday that her decision not to seek re-election was good timing, given her retirement last year as an intergovernmental liaison for the U.S. House of Representatives, a position that she said helped her be more proactive in getting the city outside funding.

“Times are changing, and it’s time to have someone different, another person who is interested in making a difference,” Winslow said. At the same time, she said, it has been a difficult budget year and she has been dismayed by “a little too much disrespect” both from the public and between officials during the budget process.

“This was way too much for being so late with the budget, and I’ve heard enough complaints and so forth over time,” she said. “I’m at a point where I need to start enjoying my retired life.”

In Ward 5, Whittemore, the Democratic nominee, was selected by the Waterville Democratic City Committee’s executive committee after residents in the ward opted for them to do so at the party’s July 25 caucus, according to Hannah Heidt, chairwoman of the Waterville Democratic City Committee.

Whittemore, 22, said his job as a rental agent motivated him to run for office in an effort to make the city more welcoming to potential tenants and to keep it working for residents.


“Waterville is a great city, and I want to make sure it stays that way.” he said. “I’ve been here for three years, and a lot of people have been here longer. They’re in a routine where they know what worked last year and they’re transferring that over, but I want to make sure we’re getting a new perspective on things and trying out new ideas.”

Whittemore is running against Champagne, chairman of the city Planning Board and a member of the municipal solid waste committee and Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District Board of Trustees.

In an email Wednesday, Champagne said he is running for the council because “taxpayers throughout Ward 5 and the city are desperately seeking fresh leadership with fiscal responsibility and someone who will carry the plights of taxpayers in each decision they make.”

As someone who signed the recent citizens’ petition aimed at getting the council to reopen the city budget, Champagne, 29, said he has heard from many taxpayers facing a sharp increase in their tax bills.

If elected, he said, he hopes to work with partners such as Colby College to attract investment and job opportunities and to work with other councilors and the community to “redefine what services are essential to the city” and compare the cost of municipal services with proposals from private entities.

Ward 3 candidate Lessing, 47, said that if elected, she hopes to build consensus, first by getting to know and listen to her neighbors about the city budget and taxes, as well as schools, city services and developments downtown.


“The city (like the country) is very divided at this moment,” Lessing said in an email Wednesday. “I’m hoping to play a part in healing some of the rifts that exist locally by listening to my constituents and representing them well. I understand concerns about the rise of some residents’ property taxes, but I also hope to protect essential services, such as teachers and police, that make our community safe and strong.”

Smith could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Republicans also nominated Joel Dyer to represent Ward 5 on the Waterville School Board. No nominations were made for Ward 3 or for two seats on the Kennebec Water District board.

Democrats on July 25 nominated incumbent school board members Joan Phillips-Sandy, D-Ward 3, and Tiffany LaLiberty, D-Ward 5, to run for re-election. Incumbent Kennebec Water District trustees Jeff Earickson, D-Ward 3, and J. Michael Talbot, D-Ward 2, also were nominated.

Residents not nominated at the city caucuses but wanting to run for office have until Sept. 9 to file papers at the city clerk’s office, but they would not have a party affiliation placed next to their names on the ballot.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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