PITTSFIELD — Three Town Council seats are on the local ballot Tuesday in Pittsfield, but only the District 1 and at-large seats are contested.

Incumbent Timothy Nichols, who has served on the council for two decades, is fielding a challenge in District 1 from real estate agent Melissa Bartlett.

Nichols, 60, is a retired corrections officer who said he’s been on the council since 1997 and will stay there as voters want him to and he’s healthy.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, I wasn’t going to do it; but I got thinking about it, and I’m still in decent health, and I think that if you can serve, you should,” Nichols said.

If voters choose not to send him back to the council, Nichols said, he will “take a little break, and then I’ll look to volunteer, to get on some other boards and committees to help.”

Bartlett said she’s lived and worked as a real estate agent in town for a while, and said she’s running because she “would like to see if I can make a difference.”

She also made it clear that she doesn’t consider her candidacy a direct challenge to Nichols.

“I just want to be involved. Mr. Nichols is very nice guy and I’m not challenging him in any way like that — just looking for a way to be involved, that’s all.”

Asked about his biggest asset as a councilor, Nichols referenced his decision-making.

“I think I’m a people person. I think that I don’t jump to conclusions, I tend to look at everything and make a decision,” said Nichols, added that he focuses on what his constituents want, not his necessarily his own opinions. “You represent them. You don’t represent yourself.”

Bartlett said she knows the town well after more than 20 years in the real estate business there.

“Practicing real estate here for 20, 21 years — I know a lot of people,” she said. “I know a lot of what people are looking for, and I know a lot of what’s going on here.”

Nichols thinks the town has “done very well” over the years, but he sees a need for increased investment on the horizon.

“I think the biggest thing going ahead — and this is nobody’s fault; this is just the way it was — is that when the housing bubble burst in 2008, we had to put a lot of smaller, even bigger projects on hold. And we held the title, and we held the budge, and we held the line,” he said.

“But I think, going ahead, we’re going to have to spend some money on things that we’ve had to lag behind,” Nichols added, citing beautification projects, investing in public buildings and keeping up with technology as potential expenses. He also said the town needs to be careful with taxpayers’ money, noting that many people in his district are on fixed incomes.

“We are not in Congress. You can’t spend money that you don’t have,” Nichols said.

Bartlett emphasized the importance of ensuring that Pittsfield is attractive to current and prospective residents.

“I just would like to make sure our town is attractive to people still. We want people to move here,” said Bartlett, 48. “We want people to like this town, and we have a strong community, and just want to keep it that way and do whatever we can to continue attracting people.”

Nichols acknowledged that he has competition for the seat and understands that people can sometimes want to see new blood in elective office.

“I’ll do it again, as long as people from my district want me to serve. But that’s up to them in the end,” he said. “As long as I feel good and I’m able, I’d just as soon serve another term, because I live here, and this town’s been very good to me, and I think I owe them at least that much.”

“I’m just looking to see what’s better for the town, not for me,” Bartlett said on a similar note.

Former Councilor Debra Billings, who said she last served in the early 2000s, is running against Jason Hall for the at-large council seat now held by Mayor Michael Cianchette.

Hall declined an interview request from the Morning Sentinel for this story.

Billings, 61, is retired after spending 15 years as the Maine Central Institute registrar. She said she had to resign during her previous stint on the council because of a health problem.

“I think it’s time for us to start looking ahead,” she said when asked why she has decided to run again. “The last few years, I’ve been looking around and I’ve been listening, and I feel like the town is stuck, and that we just keep plugging the dike. There’s a hole here, so plug it; there’s a hole here so plug it. And I’d like to see the town go in a direction for the future.”

She said one of her top priorities would be revaluation of Pittsfield’s comprehensive plan, which would entail “looking to see if it looked far enough into the future, and if it hadn’t, to start revising that.” She also want to take a closer look at “how our money is allocated and where it goes.”

“I think we could do better with our money. I’m just not sure how,” she said, adding that she would like to delve into that further as a councilor.

Billings sees her voice as the biggest asset she could bring to the council chambers.

“I’m not one to sit by idly and rubber-stamp everything. I intend to question everything. I intend to speak out when it’s necessary. I intend disagree when I think we need to disagree,” Billings said about her willingness to speak out. “I truly believe it’s time for the town of Pittsfield to look forward.”

Billings for some time has had her eye on starting a community art program, and while she acknowledged it would be more of a school board conversation, thinks the town should have a role as well.

“It’s not just a school issue. It’s an issue for everybody,” Billings said. “Everybody should be exposed to the arts in some fashion.”

The District 4 seat currently held by Heather Donahue is also on the ballot next Tuesday, but no one returned papers to run for the seat, according to the Pittsfield town clerk’s office.

There are two available seats to represent Pittsfield on the School Administrative District 53 board of directors, with current school board members Carla Kelley and Christopher Weymouth the only two candidates for those two seats.

Matt Junker — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @mattjunker

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