WATERVILLE — The City Council will look a lot different in 2019 as voters in wards 1, 3, 5 and 7 on Nov. 6 elect new councilors in contested elections who will take office in January.

In Board of Education races, the Ward 1 incumbent is running unopposed for her seat; and in Ward 7, the incumbent school board member faces opposition for her seat from a former city councilor.

Voting will be held 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Alfond Athletic Center at Thomas College on West River Road.

WARD 1

In Ward 1, Michael James Morris, a Democrat, is running against Catherine M. Weeks, a Republican, for the council seat being vacated by Steve Soule, who also is council chairman. The term of office is three years.

Morris said he is running because he wants to bring a new voice and fresh perspective to the council.

“We’ve had tough budget processes over the last few years, and I want to leverage my experience in banking as we enter what will arguably be another tough budget process this year,” Morris said.

He said if elected, he wants to focus on listening.

“I’ve said it on a number of occasions, that the city’s greatest assets are the people that live here,” Morris said. “I look forward to bringing their knowledge and ideas to the council while representing Ward 1.”

Asked what he sees as the most pressing issues facing the city, Morris said the common concern he hears from people has to do with reducing property taxes.

“While for some this is not an issue, for others recent increases to the taxes have added financial stress to many on a fixed income,” he said. “Working to increase city revenues reduces the burden on taxpayers to fund the increasing costs of the essential services needed by all citizens.”

Weeks says she is running for council in Ward 1 because she has been attending council meetings for more than two years and realizes Waterville residents have not had a voice for their concerns over property taxes and how the dollars are spent within the community.

“I am a lifelong resident of Ward 1 and want to represent all of the Waterville taxpayers, not just a select few,” Weeks said. “I have a strategic focus for having a thriving middle class and a city they can afford to live in.”

If elected, Weeks would focus on the concerns she has been hearing about from Ward 1 residents about the “ever-increasing property taxes,” she said.

“I would also focus on giving all of the residents a voice when they have concerns, and come up with solutions,” she said.

Weeks said she considers increasing property taxes for lifelong residents the most pressing issue facing the city, and they are speaking out about that.

“Even the households that have two incomes are telling me they cannot afford to pay any more increases,” she said. “Waterville is higher in tax rates than Portland or Bangor. A change must happen, and soon.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Sara J. Sylvester, chairwoman of the Waterville Board of Education, is running unopposed for her board position for a three-year term. She said she is running for re-election because exciting things are happening at the school board level and in the schools, and she wants to continue to help move plans forward.

“Budget years are tough and we need to really be thoughtful about our budgets and how we can best support our teachers and our students,” Sylvester said.

She said if re-elected, she will work hard on budgets and help ensure the process is less contentious than it has been in the past.

“I’d like to make that smoother and support teachers and what they’re trying to do in the schools,” she said, adding that she thinks her experience on the board is beneficial to the process. She cited budgets as the biggest issue facing schools.

“And making sure that teachers and students have what they need to have the best education,” Sylvester said.

WARD 3

Robert Neal Patterson is running as an unenrolled candidate against Margaret K. Smith, a Democrat, for the Ward 3 council seat vacated by Lauren Lessing when she moved out of the city last summer. The term of office is one year.

Patterson said he is running for the seat because his philosophy is one of limited government and restraint, and the only other councilor who appears to hold that same thought on the council is Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4.

“I feel I have a lot in common with him. He’s the lone voice,” Patterson said. “Overall, I think a more conservative voice is kind of missing from the council.”

Patterson said that if elected, he would look at different ways to meet the financial needs of the city, including volunteer fundraising. He said he always has seen weaknesses with the property tax, which doesn’t really measure ability to pay or the actual amount of city services that a family consumes. He said his philosophy of fairness is that if one uses something, he or she pays for it; and if some use more, they pay more. That doesn’t apply when talking about the delivery of city services, he said.

“It seems that nothing changes. We’re always relying on property taxes, and now we have a higher property tax than surrounding towns. I don’t think that’s helpful.”

Patterson said he regards the tax situation and the upcoming discussions about developing two-way traffic downtown as significant issues facing the city. If two-way traffic is approved, issues including safety of streets must be considered, according to Patterson.

“It’s a big issue and we want to get it right,” he said.

Smith said she is running for the seat because she believes in civic responsibility.

“When this seat was vacated, I felt obligated not only to serve, but also to teach my three young daughters through example,” Smith said.

Asked what she would focus on if elected, Smith said the city has tremendous resources in Thomas and Colby colleges, and while she is grateful for those relationships, she wants to explore ways to “keep these bright young minds here in our community after graduation.”

“They arrive for an education and leave not only Waterville but the state,” Smith said. “We need to work collaboratively with the state and other stakeholders to keep them right here in Waterville to raise their families and enrich our city.”

Smith called public safety in the city a top concern, given the growing opioid crisis gripping the state, she said.

“As a service center, we must ensure that our law enforcement professionals have the resources they need to protect Waterville and its citizens,” she said. “We must also ensure that our schools are adequately supported and funded. We must do a better job at successfully providing these services in a more fiscally responsible way.”

WARD 5

Eric David Chamberlain, a Republican, is running against J.S. “Jay” Coelho, a Democrat, for the council seat in Ward 5 being vacated by John O’Donnell, a Democrat. The term of office is one year.

Chamberlain said he is running for the seat to bring a voice back to residents, and his biggest goal is to implement the feedback and express the concerns of constituents in not just his ward but the whole city.

“On top of that, there are common-sense decisions that need to be made when it comes to the city budget and other issues,” Chamberlain said. “We need to look ahead more instead of trying to fight over the budget year after year. The citizens depend on and put their trust in council to make decisions that set the city up for success, and it seems the citizens may have lost that trust. I’m running to try and bring it back.”

He said that if he is elected, his main focus would be the city budget.

“It is the biggest pain point when it comes to running this great city,” he said. “I have been researching ways and coming up with ideas to propose to make the budget less of a fight when it comes time to pass it.”

One of the most pressing issues facing the city, according to Chamberlain, is lack of staffing for the fire department and the budget.

“Over the last couple months there has been a few fires where staffing was low and Waterville had to contact other departments right off after their initial response,” he said. “We need to come up with a way to recruit and a way to keep call firefighters so we can have the appropriate response when these emergencies happen.”

Coelho said he is running for the seat because he hopes to “bring an end to partisanship that plagues the city.”

“I think it’s the role of local government to listen to its people, and together finding solutions that work,” Coelho said.

If elected, Coelho said, he would work to find creative ways to add revenue to the city while supporting the needs of residents.

The most pressing issue facing the city are budgets and ensuring departments get what they need to operate, according to Coelho.

“It’s paramount that we find a way to forecast our essential services,” Coelho said. “We also have to be able to support our schools so that teachers get a lion’s share of that budget. It’s also important that we support the needs of the men and women who protect us. The Police and Fire departments need personnel, equipment and vehicles. We shouldn’t be relying on the generosity of others to give Chief (Joseph) Massey a cruiser if he needs one.”

WARD 7

Three candidates are running for the council seat in Ward 7 being vacated by Jackie Dupont, a Democrat who chose not to seek re-election. The term of office is three years.

Those candidates are Zachary Aaron Dickey, who is running unenrolled; Heath A. Dunn, a Republican; and Erik Thomas, a Democrat. Anthony George Tompkins has withdrawn his bid for the seat, though his name appears on the ballot.

Dickey said he is running for the council seat because he loves the city, believes in it and believes it is “in the middle of awesome things.”

“I specifically have a heart for the South End and the people that live there,” he said. “I have been involved in events and outreach in the South End for a few years now, and I want to do whatever I can to be a voice for the people in our ward. I believe that Ward 7 has unique challenges, and they need someone on the council who is going to be a voice for them and put their concerns first.”

If elected, Dickey said, he would focus on listening to Ward 7 residents and advocating for them whenever he can.

“I know that taxes are a big issue to a lot of people right now, and I want to make sure we are being wise with how we spend money, as well as realistic in the cost of services,” Dickey said. “I would mainly want to focus on unity among people on the council and other city officials. I believe that we can compromise and move forward while we work together to find solutions to pressing issues. Safety is another big thing I believe we need to focus on. We need to make sure Waterville is a safe place to work and live. I would want to focus on making that a priority in our city.”

Dickey sees “taxes and disunity” as two of the most pressing issues facing the city.

“We need to find ways to work together to make Waterville an affordable place to live, but we also need to make sure that we are not neglecting important services that keep our city safe and attractive to people,” he said. “I believe that we can work together to find solutions to problems.”

Dunn said he is running because he believes “we as a city are at a huge point in our city’s future.”

“There are a number of issues and decisions that are going to be made that will affect us for a very long time to come: sales of land at the RiverWalk, traffic patterns on Main Street, etc.,” he said. “I would be honored to represent Ward 7 in these decisions, as they will certainly have an impact on all of us, going forward.”

Dunn said if he is elected, he wants to find a way to unify Waterville and help bring people together.

“In a world that has become so divided, people tend to base their decisions on the stories we are fed from one corner or the other,” he said. “One corner tells us to protect our core even at the expense of the less fortunate. The other corner tells us to protect the less fortunate even at the expense of our overall stability. Each side is convinced the other is bad for being of a varied opinion, but if we can come together to find the truth, it is easy to see we can protect our core and still have empathy and compassion for humanity. Hopefully we can all see that with kindness comes unity.”

Dunn said he thinks one of the biggest issues facing the city is the high tax rate.

“We need to start thinking outside the box to create revenue that will in turn help us to bring down the tax rate for the property owners while sustaining our growth,” he said. “My biggest focus will be creating a Waterville that is a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Thomas said he is running for the seat because “now more than ever, it is important to be involved in the community and the decisions that will shape Waterville’s future.”

“I’ve always believed that rather than just lamenting about the problems the city is facing, it is important to take action and offer creative solutions,” he said.

Thomas said he thinks the most important issue facing the city and the one he intends to focus his energy on is solving budget problems.

“The city needs to look at fairer ways to collect revenues and not place all of the burden on property taxes, as the rising mill rate hits people on fixed incomes the hardest,” he said. “We will also need to have difficult discussions about possibly cutting some services if we are going to reduce spending. The vast majority of the budget goes towards schools, police, fire, and public works. It will be important to communicate to people that any meaningful cuts in spending are going to affect those areas.”

Thomas said it is time to have an honest conversation about what the community’s priorities are and what it can and cannot afford.

“We need to set aside the divisive rhetoric and come up with creative ideas if we are going to keep the mill rate under control,” he said.

Incumbent Waterville Board of Education member Pamela J. Trinward, D-Ward 7, faces opposition from former Councilor Karen A. Rancourt-Thomas, a Republican, for a three-year term.

Rancourt-Thomas said she is running for the seat because “our future begins with our children.”

“I have a vested interest in this race,” Rancourt-Thomas said. “My daughter, Ailie, is an eighth-grader at the Waterville Junior High. I have worked as an ed tech at the junior high school in the special education department. I know what challenges that both teachers and the ed techs have to deal with, day in and day out. I will bring a voice of experience to the school board and be a board member that believes in term limits. Term limits bring a fresh voice to the table and what we have is a school board that has had very little turnover.”

Rancourt-Thomas said if elected, she would be an advocate for children and support teachers. The education system, she said, needs to focus on engaging children and making sure they are ready to be productive individuals.

“We must equip them with the skills that will make them successful,” she said. “Technology must be at the forefront, along with the ability to communicate. The vocational courses that are offered at the high school should be a priority, along with the course work that leads many students on the road to college.”

Rancourt-Thomas said she sees the disconnect between the council and the school board as one of the most pressing problems facing the city and its schools.

“To make a budget run fluidly, one part of government must communicate with the other,” she said. “How can a contract be negotiated at the school level without first talking to the council? We have to work together. By working together, we can avoid the budget repeals. I will not waver on this. Our teachers and students deserve our support. We are very lucky in Waterville to have one of the most dedicated team of educators. Let’s not lose these mentors for our children. I am in their court.”

Trinward said she is running for another term on the school board to continue her work improving the high quality of education while paying attention to budget constraints in Waterville.

“I am a lifelong resident of this city, educated in Waterville schools, along with numerous siblings, cousins and other relatives,” she said. “We benefited from our education here, as did my four children. I want the same for today’s children.”

Trinward said her experience representing Waterville in the Legislature and her current work as a field representative for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, gives her the unique advantage of knowing what resources are available from both the state and federal governments.

“It is imperative that we continue to push both of them to satisfy their responsibilities to help educate the students of Maine,” Trinward said. “Also, I’d like to continue my work on the Policy Committee to help assure that our policies are up to date and meet the needs of our schools, students, and staff.”

Asked what she would focus on if elected, Trinward said it is important, with all the new changes and opportunities in Waterville, that improvements continue to be made to Waterville schools so when families move to the area to work, they also will buy houses in the city.

“The demographics of this city have changed over the years and students come to school with a variety of needs that were less prevalent years ago,” Trinward said. “It is essential that we find ways to meet these needs so these children are better able to learn and be successful in school. We need to be looking for partnerships and outside resources to continue to fulfill our responsibility to provide the children in Waterville with the best education that we can.”

Trinward said the most pressing issue facing schools is always the budget and keeping the high quality of education in Waterville with the limited resources available.

“It is our responsibility to offer the students of Waterville the educational opportunities and meaningful career and technical training necessary to either continue on with their education or to be successful in the workforce,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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