WATERVILLE — Two incumbent city councilors face opposition in Tuesday’s election for their three-year seats.

Councilor Nathaniel J. White, D-Ward 2, is being challenged by newcomer Robert K. Hussey, a Republican; and Councilor Sydney R. Mayhew, R-Ward 4, faces opposition from newcomer Christopher D. Rancourt, a Democrat.

Voting will take place 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in a new polling location, the Harold Alfond Athletic Center at Thomas College, at 180 West River Road.

For those who need rides to the polls Tuesday, the city is providing a free shuttle from the American Legion Hall at 21 College Ave. to Thomas College every hour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., according to City Clerk Patti Dubois.

Besides races for mayor and Waterville Board of Education, two newcomers are vying for two three-year terms as trustees for the Kennebec Water District — Denise Ann Bruesewitz and Alexander Gregory Wild, both of whom are Democrats and would replace Joan Sanzenbacher and Kevin Gorman.

WARD 2

Robert Hussey

Normally in election stories, candidates and the reporter have a verbal exchange on why the candidates are running and what they think are the important issues, without resorting to written statements.

When called Tuesday to comment for this story, Robert Hussey declined, saying he did not have time, but offered to be interviewed by phone Thursday night, two days later. In a compromise, he then agreed the phone interview would be at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, Hussey emailed the reporter to say he had left her phone number at his office and requested she email her number to him. Soon thereafter, he unexpectedly showed up at her home with a one-and-a-half-page written statement about why he is running and outlining what he sees as issues facing the city. He was told submitting information in writing gives him an unfair advantage over other candidates, who answered questions when they were called by phone, so he then offered some quotes for the story. Later Wednesday evening, he posted his one-and-a-half-page written statement on Facebook, before the Morning Sentinel could publish a story about the race.

His comments in this story are a combination of his spontaneous quotes from Wednesday evening, one direct quote from his statement and information paraphrased from that statement.

Nathaniel White

The incumbent candidate, White, 31, who works full time in patient registration at Inland Hospital and is a part-time Winslow firefighter, said in a phone interview he is seeking re-election because in the last three years, growth has increased in the city and he wants to continue to work with the city on revitalization efforts.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last three years as a city councilor and I’m very focused on the people of Waterville and what’s in their best interest,” White said. “I want to continue to be a city councilor to make sure citizens continue to get the services they need within the city, as well as see the tax rate go down as there is increased growth.”

Hussey, 59, a senior manufacturing engineer at Huhtamaki, said he is running because friends and neighbors from all political parties encouraged him to do so and he wants to help the city continue to grow in a fiscally responsible manner so future generations can thrive.

“This requires maintaining the tax rate as low as possible, encouraging cost sharing with our neighboring towns and making sure the city attracts investments,” Hussey said in a prepared statement.

White, meanwhile, says he sees school and education funding as a major issue facing the city.

“I pride myself on being very, very pro-education, and I’m supportive of Waterville’s schools and supportive of education,” he said. “I worked in education in the past, and I want to do my best to look out for the students, because they’re really our future.”

White said people want to see a lower tax rate, which now is $23.33 per $1,000 worth of valuation, and he thinks that in due time, that will happen with more businesses and people moving into the city.

“We did a great job this year with keeping the budget flat. It was the first time the whole City Council voted unanimously for the budget being proposed, which is important to me,” he said.

White said he is big on supporting public services such as police and fire and finding the funding for them because they are needed in the city.

“I would like to work with the Winslow councilors or area councilors and fire chiefs to create a proposal for a fire district,” he said. “We talked about that in the past, and it makes sense.”

He said Waterville and Winslow already share some teachers and a hockey team, and it would be smart to look at further options as well for the benefit of residents. The city will be looking at the possible closure of Albert S. Hall School, according to White.

“I think in time it may be an option, but it needs some planning, and we need to look at that,” he said.

Hussey said Ward 2 residents have told him they are concerned about quality of education for students, high taxes and marginal infrastructure maintenance, and that the council does not represent residents.

He sees school funding as a big issue and says it is not the school system’s fault that state government does not uphold its mandated fiscal responsibility to fund education properly. Teachers, he says, should not be laid off.

“The teachers are the front line, and there are more government mandates on what teachers have to do, so to think we can be effective by laying off teachers — there are other ways to save money. To lay teachers off and increase class size is not effective.”

Class sizes should be maintained so teachers can manage troubled students and the educational needs of the entire class effectively, according to Hussey. He said he wants to see Waterville and Winslow schools consolidate and wonders why schools are being maintained at an average occupancy level of 65 percent. A school building can be closed and/or mothballed until student population can support the additional space needed, he said.

Hussey also says there is a constant threat of rising property taxes in the city, and with 30 percent of the valuation being tax-exempt, the city must seek financial investment from tax-exempt institutions. He cited Colby College as an institution that has made such an investment.

Hussey also says that his neighbors have told him they want to see honesty, civility, respect and teamwork from councilors. There is a distrust of city leadership and people feel the city is divided artificially by political parties blaming each other for the city’s financial state, he said. If elected, he would listen to different viewpoints and work with councilors, he said, and his work ethic and ability to listen would diminish the bickering and infighting.

WARD 4

Sydney Mayhew

Mayhew, 51, general manager for McDonald’s Romad & Co., on Bangor Street in Augusta, said he is running for re-election because he was asked by his constituents to do so and because he shares the same vision Mayor Nick Isgro has for the city regarding economic development and revitalization.

Mayhew said he walks the streets two or three times a year and has a deep commitment to taxpayers on fixed incomes, such as the elderly. He also believes strongly in the education system.

“I definitely have heard the plight of the education system in Waterville. I know it’s been a very hot topic,” he said.

Mayhew said that after talking with teachers, he does not think adequate school funding is making it down to teachers and their classrooms.

“I still believe we are administration-heavy in the school budget,” he said.

Mayhew said teachers have told him they are struggling in the classroom with an array of challenges, among them class size; a mix of students, including those with special needs; and the interruptions that occur in classes.

“Teachers are in dire need of assistance,” he said.

Christopher Rancourt

Rancourt, 38, a conductor and supervisor for Pan Am Railways, said he is running because he has attended council meetings for the last three years and was seeing taxes increase significantly, so he got involved in a budget repeal effort. He collected more than 100 petition signatures and heard stories about people’s homes being devalued and residents being overtaxed, he said.

“I was compelled to run,” he said. “I’ve witnessed special-interest groups, and department heads seemed to dominate council meetings while residents’ wishes were ignored. My motto is, I’ll be the voice of reason, civility and fiscal discipline. We cannot continue to spend beyond our means. Our low- and fixed-income residents should never fear being overtaxed on their homes.”

For Mayhew, economic development is a priority, and he remains determined to see the city get a Business Friendly Community certification, he said, adding that he also is concerned about the city’s tax rate.

“The mill rate is a contentious type of challenge for the city because 33 percent of its 13-square-mile land mass is tax-exempt,” he said. “I believe we need to encourage every square inch of Waterville to be open for economic development so that long-term, we can shift taxes from residential to commercial. My goal is in conjunction with some councilors and the mayor, and the only way is through revitalization partnership with Colby and private investment.”

Mayhew said he is old-school in that he develops his own newsletter four times a year and walks his ward to deliver it at doorsteps.

“That’s the reason I’ve had such a good rapport with my constituency,” he said. “I love helping people — that’s what I’m all about.”

Rancourt said if there is a way he can help to lower the tax rate, he will do so.

“We can’t keep spending money we don’t have,” he said. “We need to run the city the way we do our homes. We need to budget.”

He said the city is $25 million in debt, and with special interests advocating for more spending, leaders need to protect residents’ interests.

He does not believe councilors should be allowed to serve and vote on issues relating to schools if, for instance, their spouses work for the school system. Such conflicts are costly and detrimental and serve to water down the city charter, he said.

“I would sponsor a charter amendment that eliminates these conflicts to protect our city from prejudicial biases influencing budgetary decisions,” he said. “I don’t believe, with all the citizens in the city, that we can’t find seven councilors who have no conflict. It’s about appearance, and if it appears people could be soliciting money, it’s not a good image for the city.”

Rancourt said he has attended budget meetings and agrees budgets should reveal line-item expenditures, so people will know exactly where the money is used.

“We don’t know where it’s being spent and why it’s being spent,” he said. “We want to make sure we know that.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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