One incumbent and two challengers are running for a three-year term on the Litchfield Select Board and will appear on the ballot going to voters.

Mark Russell, the current chairman of the Select Board, says that his experience will be valuable to the town over the next three years. His challengers are Renee Lachapelle, an experienced tax assessor who has argued for a change in leadership, and Richard “Ric” Swett, a local goat farmer.

The polls will be open Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Litchfield Sportsmen’s Club. Several days later, residents will return to the Sportsmen’s Club for the annual Town Meeting, at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 16.

Besides the Select Board race on Tuesday, voters will also consider a controversial, $19.17 million budget proposal from Regional School Unit 4, the district made up of Litchfield, Wales and Sabattus.

There will be two additional contested races on Tuesday, for the RSU 4 school board and the Litchfield Academy board of trustees, according to the town website. Swett is also running for those positions against Joan Thomas, an incumbent member of both groups.

Neither Thomas nor Swett responded to requests for comment. Only one candidate, Lachapelle, provided a photo to accompany this article.

On June 12, there will also be an uncontested race for two open seats on the budget committee, with Rodney Allen and Elton Wade both running.


Mark Russell, 65, currently runs his own bookkeeping business after working as a dairy farmer for much of his adult life. He’s served on the Litchfield Select Board for a total of 21 years and says he’d be a steadying presence if re-elected.

“I just think right now, having an experienced person in there who knows the ropes is important for this particular time, with turmoil in the budgets, especially at the state level,” he said. “I think it’s a stabilizing force in the town.”

The selectmen are proposing to start a revaluation of the town’s property next year, a project that would require an estimated $125,000 from taxpayers in the 2019 budget and that Russell said will help distribute the tax burden more fairly.

The town hasn’t done a revaluation in more than 20 years, during which time there has been much property development that had led to “iniquities” in the allocation of local taxes, according to Russell.

While the Select Board does not control RSU 4’s spending, Russell also has been a critic of the state and district school funding formulas that have left Litchfield to pay a large share of the district’s costs.

“Addressing that in an open, honest and fair way is going to be important, so everyone has a feeling they have been heard,” he said. “I have no idea how that’s going to work out.”

Russell also said that the town has built up its reserve funds and consistently put together “pretty tight budgets for the municipality” while he has been in office.

Renee Lachapelle, 63, has worked in municipal tax assessing for more than 15 years, including in her current job as the director of an office that oversees the assessing in Cumberland County.

She believes that her work experience would be an asset to the town as it holds its own revaluation — a project that she says is overdue given the state’s recommendation that it be done every 10 years.

She also thinks residents have lost confidence in the town’s government and that a change in leadership and other operations could help restore that trust.

“I think Mark (Russell) does a good job but he’s been there a long time, and he has a way of doing things,” she said. “I think the board, it appears as though it’s being run by one person. It’s just a perception.”

Lachapelle said that the customer service in the town office needs improvement. For example, the town office closes on Fridays, but she thinks that could be inconvenient for seasonal residents who pay taxes and can’t be around during the middle of the week.

Lachapelle also expressed some of the same views as her husband, Tim Lachapelle, who spent less than a year on the Select Board in 2016. After he was elected, he accused multiple town employees of abusing their power — accusations they denied — and he was recalled from office after six months.

Renee Lachapelle criticized the way in which her husband was voted out of office and praised his efforts to make the town more transparent. After his election, the town did begin posting more documents and videos of Select Board meetings to its website. But she emphasized that she’s a different person from her husband and said that she doesn’t engage with any views that aren’t backed by documents.

Lachapelle also said the Select Board needs to ensure that there aren’t any perceptions of a conflict of interest in town government. The town’s transfer station manager, Bryan Lamoreau, is married to the town manager, Trudy Lamoreau.

Town officials, including Russell, have defended that arrangement. Russell said that Bryan Lamoreau reports to the Select Board, not the town manager, to ensure there is no conflict. Russell also said that it’s common in small towns for relatives to work in government and that Maine Municipal Association has reviewed the arrangement with the Lamoreaus.

“All efforts are made to make sure that conflicts don’t exist,” he said.

But even if an arrangement is not violating any rules, Lachapelle said that no appearance of a conflict should exist.

“I just don’t think it’s right that we have a manager and her husband works for the town,” she said.

Asked about Lachapelle’s remarks, Russell said that anyone is welcome to speak their opinions at Select Board meetings. He also reiterated the value of his background.

“Renee is a smart woman,” he said. “But I don’t think that change is what Litchfield needs at this point. There are times when change is needed, but now is not the time. … I think my record has been strong enough to convince people that right now, experience is important.”

Richard Swett did not respond to emails or a phone call seeking comment about his candidacy.

Swett ran for the Select Board twice last year. Before one election, he told the Kennebec Journal that he hopes to “rein in our town’s spending.” He also proposed expanding the Select Board from three to five members and said that the town’s conflict-of-interest policies need to be clearly defined and enforced.

He runs Hummingbird Hill Farms and makes goat milk soap, after serving in the U.S. Army and running a construction surveying company. He also has a master’s degree in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University and until recently coached wrestling at Oak Hill High School.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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