HALLOWELL — Maureen AuCoin and George Lapointe of the Hallowell City Council are looking to fill another city position next year — mayor.

Up and down the streets of Hallowell, purple signs with white letters for Lapointe or purple signs with yellow letters  for AuCoin adorn most yards.

Maureen AuCoin

AuCoin, a former interim city manager and code enforcement officer in Hallowell, has been on the City Council since 2016. She had to step down from the council briefly after moving away from Ward 1, only to be elected to an at-large seat in the next election.

Lapointe, an environmental consultant and former commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, has served on the council since 2013. He is now the council’s chairperson.

Both candidates serve on the City Council’s Finance Committee, of which Lapointe is chairperson.

Mayor Mark Walker is not seeking reelection in November. Instead, the Republican is facing off against Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, for the Maine Senate.

AuCoin said her previous experiences in municipal roles have provided her an understanding on how government works from “a variety of angles.” She also said she will bring a “passion and commitment” to the city.

“I love this little city, and it shows,” AuCoin said. “This is likely why I am known as the ‘go-to’ councilor, according to many constituents, because I listen and am willing to go the extra mile to help attend to whatever their concerns may be.”

George Lapointe

Lapointe said he brings “proven leadership ability” from his work for the city and state. He also said his consulting business allows him the time flexibility to attend to city needs.

“I think I’m the best candidate because I have proven leadership skills,” Lapointe said. “I love the city, and I think that’s a necessary component.”

The city’s mayor sets the agendas for and presides over City Council meetings, and only votes on issues in the event of a tie.

When asked why they were giving up their votes on city issues, both candidates said setting the agenda and the overall tone of meetings are just as valuable as voting.

“Setting the agenda is important,” Lapointe said. “It sets a tone for how the City Council works and how the City Council interacts with its citizens.”

“I want to ensure that agenda items are reflective of constituents’ needs and wants, and that committee assignments are based upon councilor’s strengths, skills and passions,” AuCoin said. “The role of the mayor is not to simply run the meetings, but also to inspire action.”

Lapointe said he was looking forward to larger capital projects and the future use of the vacant Second Street Fire Station.

He said he was considering the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the next two budget years, saying it could bring about declining state revenue sharing and reduced excise tax payments.

Lapointe said he was warming to the idea of a new bond for capital expenditures, which would be made possible by a $100,000 reduction in bond payments in the current budget year.

 “I think we have room to bond,” he said, citing upcoming projects, including relocation of the Public Works and Police departments and buying a new fire truck. “One important thing is making sure we have a complete list of the items we want to discuss.”

Lapointe also said he would look deeper into teaming with other communities to provide certain services, which could reduce costs to the city.

Additionally, he said he would work on the city’s “heart and soul,” the downtown district, including a focus on reducing vacancies.

Lapointe said surrounding communities, including Augusta and Gardiner, have been able to reduce their vacancies with an economic development position. He said new deputy assistant clerk position could reduce the strain on City Manager Nate Rudy, allowing greater time to focus on economic development.

Lapointe said it was also important to consider what businesses best serve downtown Hallowell.

“In my 21 or 22 years in town, you think about how the downtown has changed,” he said. “There were tons of antique stores, and now we’re down to one. We have to think about what kind of businesses are going to be more important in the future.”

AuCoin said she would look to start incentive programs with the Hallowell Area Board of Trade to fill the city’s empty storefronts and support the arts culture that makes Hallowell “unique and vibrant.” She said she would also develop a plan to better use the city’s waterfront.

“This area offers unique opportunities for recreational use, while also expanding the draw to our city,” AuCoin said.

In April, AuCoin also raised concerns about diversity in city leadership. She said Tuesday the city’s emergency management team, formed during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and made up of city department heads, “lacks the diverse professional perspectives needed” and “any diversity of gender, race or orientation.”

“Many people felt this just happened to be the people in those positions,” she said. “However, if it’s not representative of our citizens and their needs during this emergency, we should and can do better.”

AuCoin added she would create a diverse COVID-19 task force to address issues related to the virus. She said the Hallowell community is diverse, but city leadership is not.

“We in Hallowell pride ourselves on being accepting and embracing of all people,” she said. “I have experienced what it is like to feel silenced, discounted and marginalized. I couldn’t say it better than Ruth Bader Ginsburg in emphasizing that ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made.'”

When asked how she would balance capital expenditures with a revenue crunch in next budget year, Aucoin said she would work with city staff to create a “clear capital improvement” for maintenance of infrastructure in the city.

She said those improvements would be funded by an increase in city revenue, which she said would be driven by efficient use of tax increment financing and economic development opportunities.

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