WATERVILLE — Former city councilors Phil Bofia and Jay Coelho are vying for the job of mayor in the Nov. 3 election, following six years of Nick Isgro’s at-times tense and controversial tenure.

Isgro has served two, three-year terms and is not seeking reelection.

Bofia, 33, who recently served on the city’s Charter Commission, was appointed in January of 2019 to the City Council as a Republican representing Ward 2. He was defeated by Flavia Oliveira, a Democrat, in his bid for reelection in November of 2019.

Coelho, 43, was elected in 2018 to the council as a Democrat representing Ward 5 and served one year. He was defeated in 2019 in his reelection bid by Republican Rick Foss.

Waterville’s mayor is largely a part-time ceremonial position, although the mayor is expected to preside over City Council meetings; may cast tie-breaking council votes; issue vetoes of council actions; and issue memorandums and proclamations.

Bofia did not attend the Republican caucus held Aug. 3, so was not eligible to run for mayor as a Republican. He is running unenrolled on the November ballot. Bofia said he changed parties before the caucus to reflect his values as a centrist.

Bofia, who is Black, was in the public eye in recent months after he asked the council to support a resolution denouncing police violence and brutality against Black people and reaffirming that Waterville is a welcoming community. The council approved the resolution, with language added by Oliveira. Bofia also led a peaceful solidarity march honoring George Floyd, a Black man who was killed May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer. Bofia also has been working with Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey on a coalition that discusses matters involving diversity and inclusion.

As a councilor, Coelho served on the Waterville Fire Department Study Committee and advocated for the department to buy two used ambulances so the city could be licensed to transport patients to hospitals. At the time, only Delta Ambulance could do that, with city fire officials saying if the city had the authority to do so, it would improve response time and generate revenue for the city. After months of debate, the city is eyeing a plan to collaborate with Delta Ambulance for emergency medical services, but a final agreement has not yet been presented to the council.

The deadline for residents to submit their names as mayoral candidates, even as write-in candidates, expired at 4:30 p.m. Friday, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois.

Asked why he is running for mayor, Bofia said he is doing so to “bring back trust, inclusiveness, and centrism” to the mayor’s position.

“Factions within the council often find themselves at odds because of party ideology and this takes away from problem-solving,” Bofia said. “An independent mayor ensures that the centrist view on issues is maintained and the focus is kept on resolving issues. This will help keep a neutral and impartial view that cannot be swayed either way based on ideology and partisan agendas.”

Coelho said he is running for mayor to “usher our great city forward to a future that works for all of us — one that is inclusive of all residents in our community — and to adequately fund our schools.”

“No candidate has all the answers,” Coelho said. “I am the only candidate that has built businesses and created jobs in the Waterville area. My unique skill set of bringing people together and working across party lines to build consensus is unmatched. Together we can find solutions that benefit our city and its residents, now and in the future.”

BOFIA: BUDGET, INCLUSION FOCUS

Phil Bofia Contributed photo

If elected, Bofia said he plans to work on five specific areas: fiscal responsibility, education, economic development, quality of life, and diversity and inclusion.

He said he would continue the work he did as a councilor representing Ward 2. He would “study the budget inside and out and make sensible recommendations that enable us to have strategic increase, while not taxing our long-term residents out of their homes. And strategic decreases to attract new businesses and new residents.”

Bofia said he would work with school teachers and administrators to increase school ratings and help make the city an attractive place for both new families and well-qualified educators.

“I will tirelessly work with our school officials on joining efforts with neighboring towns to enable us to maximize our resources and provide the best overall education for our children,” Bofia said.

He said he plans to continue the work he has done as chair of the city’s solar committee.

“We have negotiated a deal that will save millions in energy consumption costs and generate millions of dollars in revenue over the next 20 years,” Bofia said. “This influx of new money can then be used to offset our tax load and help fund various services in the city.”

Bofia said he also wants to attract major businesses to Waterville which he said can be done by using tools such as tax increment financing, smaller-scale tax deferment programs, and other incentives already at the city’s disposal. He said he would use a hybrid of TIFs and tax deferment programs to help create and sustain smaller businesses and local property owners in the early stages of creation and development. He said he also would partner with downtown business owners and other business leaders to listen and help solve issues they have been facing.

“A vibrant downtown is critical to our overall economic success,” he said.

For too long, according to Bofia, certain neighborhoods have been “looked down upon.”

“I will work to raise all of our neighbors to an acceptable level of life and opportunities,” he said. “I have started working with our police department and the South End Neighborhood Association to help resolve issues they have been facing for decades.”

COELHO: WORKING TOGETHER ON DEVELOPMENT

Jay Coelho Contributed photo

Coelho said that, if elected, he will continue to work with the City Council and city administrators to find revenue streams that don’t tax residents, but help alleviate some of the burden.

“I would work with city department heads to find ways to streamline and become more efficient,” Coelho said. “I want to see us create infrastructure that helps our community financially and to give our children real opportunities, right here in Waterville.”

Asked how he might do things differently than the current mayor, Coelho responded that his candidacy “is not a rebuke of the current mayor, although we have had our public battles over the years.”

“We have been able to put our differences aside and work well together,” Coelho said. “My mayorship will be different because we are different people, with different experiences. Waterville has grown more diverse over the last 20 years.  It’s important to me as the child of an immigrant to give all voices in the city a chance to be heard. As a Libertarian leaning Democrat, I find middle ground where others have given up. I am a human being who leads with kindness, common sense and logic. I am also a Democrat that punches back — no one should mistake my kindness for weakness.”

Coelho said that “we have to understand that while the mayor represents the city, he/she is also a private citizen and should be able to speak their opinions so long as it is clear that he/she is speaking outside the purview of mayor and not on any city affiliated websites, etc., unless authorized to do so.”

“Furthermore,” Coelho said, “any mayor should understand that a certain level of integrity and leadership comes along with being mayor, and he/she should never speak in a way that might bring negative attention to the city.”

Coelho cited infrastructure as one of the major challenges facing the city now.

“There are still parts of the city that don’t have access to high speed internet,” he said. “Just ask the residents of Trafton Road. We need more housing, our stock is old, our infrastructure is crumbling. From the South End to every other end it’s hard to drive down the street without needing to visit the mechanic afterwards.

“We need workforce housing and more development in areas like Airport Road. We need to make sure our schools are adequately funded and prepared for today’s challenges. We must encourage more businesses to come to the city who want to become active members of our community.”


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