SKOWHEGAN — Incumbents Betty A. Austin and Paul A. York are seeking a return to the Board of Selectmen in municipal voting Tuesday, both for three-year terms.

George F. White, a political newcomer, is also on the ballot for two open seats.

In a separate election to finish the term on the five-member board left vacant by the death in January of Selectwoman Vanessa York, Dennis P. Willette is the only name on the ballot for a two-year term.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Municipal Building on Water Street.

Betty A. Austin

Austin, 72, also is a two-term, Democratic state representative in House District 107, serving Skowhegan and part of Madison. She works part time as an insurance agent and receptionist. She is also a lay speaker and organist at the Methodist Church.

Austin is seeking a sixth three-year term on the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen. She said the important issues facing Skowhegan in the coming year include construction of a public safety building for police and firefighters and the siting of an additional bridge across the Kennebec River.

“I think probably in the next few years we’ll be trying to figure out where we’re going to put the public safety building — where will it be built and how will it be built,” Austin said.

Skowhegan voters in November defeated a proposal to fund a new combined public safety building for the Police and Fire departments.

Paul A. York

The final tally was 1,893 votes against and 1,322 in favor of a referendum question that would have authorized the Board of Selectmen to borrow up to $8.5 million to build and equip a combined public safety building for the departments.

The building would have been built on town-owned land on East Madison Road. As for a second bridge, that proposal is probably still years away, she said.

“It’s just exciting to be a selectman when you see our town growing and new businesses coming in and younger families moving in, hopefully to see us grow in a positive way,” she said. “I really care about our community and want to see us be a place where people are happy to work and play and live together.”

York, 50, is seeking his third three-year term on the board. He is the board chairman.

He said he will continue to work to keep taxes down, while providing the same quality of services to the community. York said the board also has to “take care of the employees” of the town to make sure the quality of services remains high and that they stay on the job working for the town.

“We’re trying to keep taxes down and not lose any services,” he said.

York said the two hot topics for Skowhegan — the new bridge and the public safety building — are still on the table. He said the job for Skowhegan residents relating to the bridge is to find an acceptable location. The rest will be up to the state, he said.

As for a new public safety building for police and fire services, York said part of his goal is to see that through. He said the public has to know that there is a need for a new building and that it’s not going to get any cheaper as the months pass without action.

York served for 20 years in law enforcement. He worked eight years for the Skowhegan Police Department, beginning in 1990, before moving to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. He moved up the ranks from deputy to sergeant to lieutenant before leaving the department in 2010.

He owns and operates his own business, York’s Lawn Care.

George F. White

Challenger George F. White, 42, who works as a “dig safe” utility locator, said he has never run for office before. He said he is running for selectman — and not school board — because he wants to give a voice to the people in the light of the Skowhegan “Indians” nickname and mascot debate. He said he was part of the group that wanted to keep the nickname, but when they “started mocking other people,” he decided to get out.

“People weren’t having a voice and I wanted to be able to give the town a voice,” he said. “The school board wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be able to help get the town back to being the same way it always has been — the crime wasn’t as bad, the jobs were more abundant. I’d like to see more jobs come to town.”

He said economic development is a key issue for him. A new combined public safety building also is important, White said, adding that he likes the idea of an additional bridge over the Kennebec River.

“I’m going to listen to what my constituents want,” he said. “I’m not just going to vote the way I feel. I’ll vote the way the town wants. My word is gold.”

Dennis P. Willette, whose name is on the ballot to complete Vanessa York’s term on the board, has, with his wife, run Breezy Acres Motel for the past 40 years.

“I want to just give back to the community,” said Willette, 72. “I want to be involved with the community for a few years. I’m concerned with the budget and taxes in this town.”

He said he supports the idea of a new bridge in Skowhegan and a public safety building.

“I do support a new bridge, but where’s it going to be, I’m not sure,” he said. “I’m in favor of the public safety building, but not where it was proposed and not at the price they proposed it.”


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