Two women — Amy Rees and Penny Sergent — are vying for the District 2 Gardiner City Council seat in Tuesday’s election.

District 2 stretches from just west of the downtown neighborhood south and west along Brunswick Avenue. The match up is the only contested race on the ballot on Tuesday. Voting takes place at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley at 14 Pray St.

Rees, 55, has served on the City Council since January. She was one of three applicants to express interest in the seat left vacant when Patricia Hart, who had represented District 2, was elected mayor in November 2018 midway through her City Council term. She was appointed by the City Council.

Amy Rees

Rees is a co-owner of European Auto Service. She and her husband, Robert Lash, owned and ran the former Water Street Cafe in downtown Gardiner.

She has served as president of the Gardiner Main Street board of directors and has been vice president of the Gardiner Board of Trade. She is currently the president of the Kennebec Valley Humane Society.

“I feel like I have been able to offer a lot, particularly in working through the budget,” Rees said. “As a business owner, I do everything in terms of running the business. There’s a fine line between maintaining quality and making a profit.”

She said it’s helpful to have that background when it comes to maintaining city services and keeping property taxes from going up.

Rees said she’s running because she has a deep passion for Gardiner and the people that live there, and she enjoys working with the other members of the City Council and the mayor.

“And I have a big vested interest. I pay a lot of taxes in town, and I want to make sure the money I pay is stewarded well,” she said.

During this budget cycle, city officials were challenged by the unanticipated increases in the cost of dispatch services and workers’ compensation insurance.

“I think the city manager and the department heads did a phenomenal job so that we got a budget that didn’t cause a tax increase,” she said.

In the next budget cycle, the challenges will continue.

“There’s never going to be enough money; there never is,” Rees said. “The job of the city manager and the City Council is to figure out what you can provide for the money you have and do the best job possible.”

Penny Sergent, 47, is running because every time she has cast a ballot in the last three or four years, the race has been uncontested, and to her, that doesn’t seem right.

Penny Sergent

Sergent is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and she has a bachelor of science degree in administration of justice from the University of Maine at Augusta. In 2004, she and her husband lived and worked in Qinhuangdao, China, teaching American English and culture. She currently cares for her husband, who suffered a stroke and lost a leg because of the stroke.

“These are the things that happen in life; we have to learn to roll with the punches,” Sergent said.

Sergent said she’s been talking to people in her district, knocking on people’s doors and asking what their concerns are. Some concerns are citywide, like road maintenance. Others are more personal, like a mailbox that was knocked down during snow removal or a pipe that was rerouted and a basement that floods as a result.

“Believe it or not, which was surprising to me, people are not talking about taxes as much,” Sergent said. “Everyone once in a while, because taxes are always a hot button issue, but not as much as I would have thought, and that makes me happy.”

She said while city officials focus on businesses, Gardiner has more people than businesses.

“As it turns out, most Gardiner residents have to go out of town for their job and that’s too bad. But we have to concentrate more on the people. I don’t remember in the constitution where it says for the business, of the business, by the business. I do think business is important, but we’re forgetting the human faces I think a little bit.”

She said while she’s been learning about what District 2 residents want, she’s less familiar about what the city is now going through. She has watched the City Council meetings when they were aired on Channel 7, but has not recently.

While she has not held an elective position since high school, she has learned a lot about leadership.

“You can’t go through any job without learning something about how to do it so you can teach somebody else,” she said.

She’s a member of the American Legion and volunteers at the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus campus, taking part in powwows and donating socks, toothbrushes and books to the homeless veterans.

She said she wants to work for the residents in the district, and that doesn’t mean telling them just what they want to hear.

“Sometimes being a good leader means telling somebody something they don’t want to hear,” she said. “Although I want to work for the people more than anything, that doesn’t mean I am going to be a yes man. I will tell the truth and the facts of the matter.”

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