SKOWHEGAN — Seven candidates are vying for two open seats on the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen in a municipal election Tuesday. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Municipal Building on Water Street.

Incumbent Selectmen Soren Siren and the current board Vice Chairwoman Darla Pickett declined to seek re-election, leaving the two seats open. The term of office is three years.

Incumbent Road Commissioner Greg Dore, first elected in March 1992, is seeking a return to office, unopposed for a three-year term. Gail Pelotte is seeking re-election as town clerk and town treasurer, also unopposed for a three-year term. On the ballot Tuesday for school board, four incumbent directors are all unopposed. They are Harold Bigelow, Lynda Quinn, Amy Rouse and Todd Smith.

The following candidates are running for selectman; two will be elected.

• Paul Natale, 61, a senior desktop analyst for computers and software at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville, was a selectman in Canaan for three years before moving to Skowhegan four years ago. He ran for selectman in Skowhegan two years ago and was defeated by only a few votes.

Natale said transparency in municipal spending and taxes are high on his list of priorities.

“I think the first thing is always the budget, where the money’s going and how it’s being spent,” he said. “Being transparent, because it always comes down to taxes at the end of the year.”

He said the recent revaluation in Skowhegan was a good thing and appeared to be fair. Natale said public service “has always been in my blood.” He said he served on the local school board for nine years, working on several committees, including the construction of the middle school and the Mill Stream School in Norridgewock. He has been a trustee of the Canaan library and a director of Lake George Regional Park.

“I listen,” he said.

Natale is soon to be remarried and has two daughters.

• Darryll White, 59, recently was appointed chief administrator of Lake George Regional Park. He said his business experience and community service qualify him for a seat on the Board of Selectmen. He is a third-party contractor for Maine Grains in Skowhegan, focusing on marketing and account management of the Maine craft brewing accounts, and is on the board of directors of Main Street Skowhegan and the Kennebec Valley Tourism Council, while volunteering on several committees and working for the Wesserunsett Arts Council, where he has a show on WXNZ community radio.

White, who moved to Skowhegan just last year, said he spent 20 years running bicycle tourism businesses.

“I’ve had a pretty strong understanding on what it’s like to run a small business and the challenges,” he said. “There’s an effort here to grow the region as a destination for visitors and those skills apply to understanding how to make that transition.”

He said he is “fully committed” to the Skowhegan strategic plan and the Somerset County cultural plan for continued economic growth.

“My ability to work with different types of people and bringing people together would be reasons to vote for me,” he said.

He lives in Skowhegan with his wife.

• Roger Staples, 65, is a retired chief technician who was with Beeline Cable TV and currently is a school bus driver in Skowhegan. He said he is an advocate for the environment, the downtown business district, Skowhegan neighborhoods and the school system.

“I felt the need to get involved,” he said of his candidacy. “I’ve lived here all my life and thought when two seats opened up, it would be a good time to get involved, learn the system and serve the taxpayers.”

Staples said one of the biggest concerns he sees is the heavy traffic through Skowhegan every day. He said it’s time to bring back the issue of a second bridge over the Kennebec River.

“In my lifetime I’d like to see the heavy traffic, heavy trucking, eliminated from downtown,” he said of the issue that was on the table a decade ago. “I don’t think it can be done without a second bridge — probably somewhere on (U.S.) Route 2 east.”

Staples added that he would work to keep jobs in town, such as at Sappi and New Balance, while attracting new jobs, possibly with tax incentives. He said he would keep track of municipal spending to make sure there’s no overspending or waste.

Staples is married and has three sons and three grandchildren.

• Steven Conley, 50, has been the pastor at Faith Baptist Church on Route 104 in Skowhegan for nine years, while running a construction company and an energy business. He also is the current chairman Skowhegan Planning Board chairman. He said he would bring a conservative voice to the Board of Selectmen if he is elected Tuesday.

“I’ve been around, and I saw the names of the people running, and I didn’t really hear any people that were conservative that I knew of,” he said. “I love this town. I love the people of this town. I’m very principled and conservative in my decision-making, and I think this town could have a great future.”

He said if elected he will work toward “responsible growth” with an eye on the personal property rights and against any kind of zoning. Conley said he also would work toward responsible changes to local ordinances — measured against the loss of liberty that can come with any new laws.

He said he would continue to keep an eye on the expansion of the ball fields at the recreation center as an important matter that affects many families. The purchase of land off East Madison Road for a future combined public safety building, which he supports, also is important, Conley said. He said the job of selectman in not one of ruling, but of service.

Conley has been married for 31 years, and he and his wife have six children and three grandchildren.

• Vanessa York, 47, is the manager of Quinn’s Hardware store on Waterville Road, owned by her parents, Lynda and Tom Quinn.

“My reason for running for selectman is because I have been in the community for a long time, and I like to support Main Street Skowhegan and I’m on the board of the chamber,” she said. “I have a lot to learn, but I want probably what everyone wants — to make sure that we can keep our infrastructure, but not go too crazy with taxes.”

York said she is a good listener and is able to see both sides of every issue. She said it is important to get municipal government to work based on the needs of the community, not on just a couple of people. She said that issue raised its head last year when the town tried to provide corrective measures to the area of Gem Street and Cowette Street.

York said she lives on Gem Street and a couple of people had a problem with traffic, but everyone else “didn’t have a problem” and the town tried to fix something that wasn’t broken with sign changes and speed mats.

York was married previously and has a daughter.

• John Grohs, 68, said he is qualified for the position of selectman because of his 10 years of serving on the town Budget Committee and six years on the Skowhegan Board of Assessors, where he is the vice chairman.

Grohs, who has lived in Skowhegan for 10 years, is employed part time at Cedar Ridge nursing home. He has been married for 47 years. He and his wife have a daughter and three grandchildren.

“I feel as though I want to do a little more for the town,” he said. “I just want to be, I want to say, the watchdog for the residents, the seniors especially — I’m a senior — and look out for the betterment of Skowhegan. I want to be in a place where it gets better, not worse.”

Grohs said he will have to step down from the Budget Committee if he is elected selectman, but he can stay on the assessors’ board.

“I give 100 percent,” he said. “I’m a veteran and I take pride in my country and my town. It’s up to the people to decide, but I just feel as though I have the experience on different boards to approach this job full speed ahead.”

• David Hayward Jr., 33, works for Poulin’s Antiques and Auctions on U.S. Route 201 in Fairfield and has been a resident of Skowhegan for eight years. He said spending is on his mind as he runs for one of the seats on the Board of Selectmen — especially spending that isn’t necessary.

“A lot of people that I talked to when they started changing Cowette and all those streets, it was not so much a hassle, but more of ‘Why are we spending the money to do this?”’ Hayward said. “And then the (speed calming) mats, which then they destroyed one in the first winter.”

Hayward said he thinks the town is not as nice as it was in recent years and has a feeling of “being kind of run down a lot more than it used to.”

He said capitalizing on the tourists coming through Skowhegan would be a big boost to the local economy, with Canadians passing through town, along with people from Massachusetts going to camps they own farther north.

Hayward said the Skowhegan State Fair “has seen its best days” and needs some attention. He said the Run of River project is a good thing but has taken a long time to develop.

Hayward is engaged to be married and has four children with his future wife.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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