WINSLOW — Two-term incumbent Ben Twitchell faces newcomer Earl Watts in November’s race for the District 2 seat on Winslow’s Town Council.

Twitchell, who is also running for the seat in the Maine House of Representatives this year, and Watts are each military veterans with deep-seated ties to the town. The winner will sit on the council for three years.

Raymond Caron is running unopposed for an open District 4 council position. There are no municipal referenda in Winslow this year.

For Twitchell, who considers himself “very conservative,” a priority is keeping town taxes as low as possible.

“I don’t believe in taking money from people if we don’t need it,” he said. “My neighbor lady, she’s a widow, she’s on fixed income — and there’s so many people in Winslow on fixed incomes — they can’t afford all this additional tax.”

Twitchell said of his tenure on the council that he is proud of helping negotiate down the cost of the bond for renovating and upgrading Winslow school facilities in order to avoid tax hikes for residents. He strongly opposed the initial $10.3 million project, largely because he felt that a 600-seat performing arts center constituted excessive spending. He was one of three councilors who voted against putting the first bond question before voters in August.

“I have no problem with education,” Twitchell said. “I had two children go through the Winslow school system, three grandchildren go through the school system. I did telephone work for them, I drove a school bus for them and I’ve done a lot for the school system. It’s just the fact that (the proposal was) putting a lot of money unnecessarily to the school when we really can’t afford it.”

“I believe in needs,” he said.

Though he has been retired for several years, Twitchell spent his career largely as a telephone manager for NYNEX, where he worked for 28 years. Outside of the Town Council, he has been involved with Winslow as a former scoutmaster and president of the music boosters, and spent 22 years as a school bus driver for Vassalboro.

Twitchell noted that he feels he has unfinished business to complete in addressing infrastructure deficiencies in the town.

“This year we’re getting some of our roads back together,” he said. “Our roads hurt for a long time because we used so much money for other things like the school stuff.”

If Twitchell wins another term on the council, he hopes to see Benton Avenue repaired and a drainage problem on Joe Avenue addressed.

He says that he hopes “what I’ve done in the past” will make voters support him on Nov. 6.

“If people call me, I take care of it then,” he said. “And they seem to be very happy with that. From the smallest thing to having a light bulb changed out in front of the house to getting a sign up for no through trucks — it runs the gamut.”

He outlined his priorities for state representative as lowering taxes, reforming Maine’s welfare system, championing bipartisanship and addressing the state’s opioid crisis. Twitchell ran for the seat in 2016 but was defeated 2,250-2,400 by incumbent Catherine Nadeau, a Democrat seeking re-election to the position this year.

Watts said he has been itching to get into politics for years. As an active member of the military until May 2017, a federal law — the Hatch Act — prevented him from participating in partisan political activity, even at the town level.

“This is the first opportunity I’ve had to run for office in my district in my town,” Watts said. “I think that I’ll bring a unique perspective to something like Town Council. I think that there may be a little bit of stagnation there, and sometimes it’s good to get some people with outside perspective.”

Watts advocated for open communication between Winslow’s governing boards and its populace.

As a social studies teacher at Waterville Alternative High School and an adjunct professor at Thomas College, Watts said education is important to him. As a voter, he supported the bond question for Winslow school renovations.

“I think that there might be a perception that because I was definitely in favor of the bond issue that I’ll be a rubber check for the school board, and I don’t necessarily agree with that,” he said. “I think that education for our young people is our best way to help them become productive citizens in our society, to help them recognize that there are a number of different paths that you can choose, and you don’t get that if you cut programs. You don’t get that if you cut options.”

He said that his training — including a master’s degree in U.S. history — has made him “very aware of the interplay of politics at the federal, state and local level.”

Watts was the president of the Winslow Performing Arts Boosters for two years and has been a nonvoting member of the Winslow Planning Board since May 2017. He said that the latter in particular has given him crucial experience for the council role he is seeking as well as exposure to issues that townspeople care about.

“People show up, and it’s a good opportunity to hear different viewpoints and whether a property should be allowed to develop a certain kind of business,” Watts said. “You hear their neighbors. You hear their concerns. You get a feel for what’s important to people.”

The Winslow Town Council consists of seven members, including one from each of the town’s five districts and two at-large representatives. The newly elected District 2 and 4 representatives will be sworn into office in January 2019. The terms for the at-large positions are up in 2019, while council seats for districts 1, 3 and 5 will open in 2020.

Also on November’s ballot in Winslow: two uncontested candidates, Judith Ellis and Betty Perry, are running for the position of library trustee. Library trustees are appointed to three-year terms.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]


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