SKOWHEGAN — Michael Lambke, a medical doctor at Skowhegan Family Practice, was the top vote-getter in elections Tuesday for three open seats representing Skowhegan on the School Administrative District 54 board of directors.

Lambke, 51, received 314 votes. Incumbent school board directors Jennifer Poirier and Karen Smith were re-elected with 292 and 293 votes, respectively.

Michael Lambke

Challenger Alicia Boulette, manager at Quinn Hardware, received 273 votes, while Ethan Masterman, 38, a downtown investment adviser, received 206 votes.

Elijah Soll, a write-in candidate, received 89 votes.

The term of office is for three years for all three seats on the school board.

“Respect” was a word Lambke used as a candidate when asked about his approach to educating children. He said “respect” was the key word in his support of retiring the Native American mascot for sports teams.

“Mascots should unify, not offend people,” he said.

He said he has two children in the school district and sees children in his medical practice.

“As a physician, I think what I can offer is an awareness of mental health issues that go on with our kids, that affect their capacity, their ability to learn,” he said. “Their mental health is impacted by school bullying, and as a physician I can provide a helpful voice in that conversation of how we address those issues. I think that respect for each other as individuals is primary. As adults we need to be demonstrating respect for others.”

As members of the school board, Poirier and Smith voted to keep the Skowhegan “Indians” mascot and nickname.

Poirier, 44, who has served nine years — three full terms — on the school board, was the founder of the Skowhegan Indian Pride Facebook page, supporting efforts to retain the “Indians” name and image for high school sports teams. She since has given up her control of the closed social media group.

The SAD 54 board voted 14-9 in March to “respectfully retire” the nickname “Indians” for all schools in the district.

Smith, 53, a banker, said she was disappointed with the board vote to retire the “Indians” nickname. She said the voice of the people was not heard.

“Even though the school board voted on the Indian issue, I feel the majority of the residents of this school district are not in favor of changing the name,” she said.

Candidate Alicia Boulette agreed with Smith, saying district taxpayers were ignored when the issue of the “Indians” mascot was debated.

“It just seems like every time a hot topic comes up, somebody else is more important than the people that are actually earning the money to make stuff happen, whether it be school, whether it be town,” she said. “Part of it is the ‘Indian’ thing, because that seems to be the latest hot topic. I believe politics took it all over and the taxpayers weren’t listened to.”

The new SAD 54 school board already has been updated on the district web site. The district is made up of the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Norridgewock, Mercer, Skowhegan and Smithfield.

In municipal elections also held Tuesday, incumbent selectmen Betty Austin and Paul York were returned to office for three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen.

Austin received 360 votes. York received 294 votes. Challenger George White received 237 votes.

In a separate vote to finish the term on the five-member Skowhegan Board of Selectmen left vacant by the death in January of Selectwoman Vanessa York, Dennis P. Willette was the only name on the ballot for a two-year term and was elected with 486 votes.

Austin, 72, also is a two-term, Democratic state representative in House District 107, representing 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 won a sixth three-year term on the board. 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.

Betty Austin

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.

York, 50, won 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.

Paul York

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.

Dennis P. Willette, whose name was 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.”

There are 6,400 registered voters in Skowhegan, according to Town Clerk Gail Pelotte. She said a total of 593 votes, fewer than 10% were cast Tuesday.

Harvey Austin Jr. was elected as a town assessor for a three-year term with 418 votes. Jeanne Shay was elected Coburn Park Commissioner with 523 votes.

 

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