READFIELD — Four people running for two seats on the Readfield Board of Selectmen explained their vision for the town Monday at a candidate forum.

Incumbent Kathryn Mills Woodsum and newcomers Ralph Eno Jr., Alfred Parks Sr. and Marie Rodriguez are vying for a pair of three-year terms on the board.

Kathryn Mills Woodsum Kennebec Journal photo by Abigail Austin

Woodsum, a 40-year resident of Readfield and a selectwoman for three terms, has served on a trio of town committees. Those include seven years as member of the Budget Committee, 11 years on the Solid Waste Recycling Committee, and the Community Park Committee. Woodsum also received the Spirit of America award in 2013 from the town for public service.

Ralph Eno Jr. Kennebec Journal photo by Abigail Austin

Eno, who moved to the town two years ago, served for 20 years as first selectman in Lyme, Connecticut, a position similar to that of a Maine town manager. He also served on the board of directors for several regional organizations there, including a dispatch emergency center and a waste to energy municipal solid waste burn plant.

Alfred Parks Sr. Kennebec Journal photo by Abigail Austin

Parks has been a Readfield resident for 35 years. A military veteran, he served in the Army for six years and the Maine National Guard for three years. He has been a volunteer with Lions Club International for more than 30 years, and he served as district governor overseeing 43 clubs in Maine from 1996 to 1997. He owns Parks Towing in Winthrop.

Marie Rodriguez Kennebec Journal photo by Abigail Austin

Rodriguez has resided in the town for 20 years. She served in the Navy and will be retiring this year as a school nurse from Kents Hill High School after 10 years in the position. After her honorable discharge, she traveled with her husband and children during his military service, and she worked as a nurse in numerous veterans’ hospitals.

More details about the candidates’ qualifications, written by themselves, have been published in the Readfield Messenger, the town’s newsletter.

A fifth candidate, Shawn M. Coull, is listed on the ballot but has withdrawn from the race. Selectman John Parent’s term will expire in June.

Doug Stevenson, of Wayne, moderated the forum. Some of the questions he asked the candidates included:

 

Why do you want to serve the town of Readfield? What are you goals?

Eno: “I was impressed by the way (the board) developed consensus. I thought their vision and leadership were sound. My goals would be to continue the heading that the leadership has set.”

Parks: “My history goes back quite a ways (60-plus years). I am green when it comes to politics. I hope to learn and advance the town in any way I can. I’ve always always served in the leadership position.”

Rodriguez: “I’ve enjoyed this community, and I want to give back to the community. I want to be part of the process. I want to bring people together. I want to be a voice for the people. I like to research, check out things, and I want to be part of the budget — what we want, what we need.”

Woodsum: “I enjoy working for the town. I enjoy being able to speak for the people, and I try to uphold the laws that you folks have voted in at the Town Meeting. I like to bring people together. I think we’re on the right track, and I’d like to continue being a part of that.”

 

How do you enthuse citizens to participate in the governance of the town?

Eno: “I think the town is doing a fairly credible job about putting issues out there and telling people what’s going on. I think the biggest problem we have is that there is a huge vacuum here in terms of local media coverage that speaks to what’s going on in these towns and presents opposing points of view. The Messenger can’t do that. Usually public participation is generated by issues that raise people’s blood pressure here. I don’t see that here. The town is doing a pretty good job of telling the residents and voters what’s going on and is responsive to their concerns.”

Parks: “I think you should be more informative with people and be upfront with people about what’s going on. I think we need to be more open. I know we have The Messenger, but there never really is anything in there telling what’s going with the town, what issues we have, what policies we want to put forward … or leave behind.”

Rodriguez: “I think some of the programs they’re trying to do at the Union Meetinghouse will bring people in. I think we need to post a little more about things that are coming up that we are voting for that we want to improve. I was always taught, if you want to complain, vote. I think we need to bring out that civic responsibility. We need to get people to take ownership of their town.”

Woodsum: “For any town the size of Readfield, which is under 3,000 people, I don’t know of any that have live broadcast TV station of every Selectboard meeting. That’s something that the current Selectboard has expanded over the last four or five years. (Selectman) Dennis Price, who has created a Facebook page for the town, and another Selectboard member Chris Sammons have instituted the Readfield Festival. That young blood is helping us move into those other avenues.”

 

What do you think is the challenge or opportunity to set the stage for the success up the road?

Eno: “We have a shrinking student population with people who cherish their neighborhood schools. I’m not sure how much longer that district concept is going to be able to support this … At some point given the trends, I’m not sure they’re sustainable.”

Parks: “From what I can see, broadband is the way to go.” Prior to this response, candidates were asked, “How do you view the role of technology in the town?” and some spoke about the opportunity for broadband to come to Readfield. Parks responded by saying, “I understand that everything is headed in that direction, but I’m still a little old-fashioned. I still do business the old-fashioned way. I like to talk to people; I really don’t like machines. I’m a dinosaur; I have to change.”

Rodriguez: “I think the most important thing is to really become a community, a community that that cares about their neighbor, a community that wants to work together into the future.”  

Woodsum: “I think communication is going to always be a challenge. The more we can talk people to people … We can’t all have everything we want. How we go about coming to grips with that and how we talk about it and how we interact with each other I think  is key to us be a community of healthy people who want to stay together and be a town.”

The Town Meeting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, by secret ballot on the second floor of the Town Office. Municipal absentee ballots will be available Friday, and Regional School Unit 38 school validation absentee ballots will be available May 17.


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