Jay Coelho, Waterville’s mayor-elect, along the 100 block of College Avenue on Wednesday. On Tuesday he won election to the office after what he called a humbling experience running for the position. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — Democrat and former City Councilor Jay Coelho was elected Waterville’s next mayor Tuesday, defeating challenger Phil Bofia who ran as an unenrolled candidate and also is a former city councilor. The vote was 4,084-3,272.

Voters also approved recommended city charter changes, elected two new city councilors, returned several councilors and school board members who ran unopposed to their seats and elected two Kennebec Water District trustees.

Coelho, 43, will succeed Republican Mayor Nick Isgro, who served two, three-year terms and chose not to seek reelection. Coelho will be inaugurated Jan. 5.

“Honestly, it’s pretty surreal right now,” Coelho said of his win. “I don’t think it’s fully hit me. Results came in 10:15 to 10:30 last night and this morning, my phone just started going off.”

An entrepreneur who owns You Broke IT and Grub Bakery, Coelho said running for mayor and putting himself out there was a humbling experience and he is very pleased with all the support he received.

“I’m pleased by the margin we had — that was a pretty good win. I’m looking forward to (serving). January can’t come soon enough.”

Coelho said he wanted to thank all the people who worked on his diverse campaign, including LGBT, African-Americans and women.

“It feels as if weight has been lifted off a lot of people’s shoulders,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls from city employees.”

Bofia is an IT business analyst for CGI.

Newcomer Rebecca Green, a Democrat, defeated incumbent City Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, 692-669.

Rebecca Green

Green said Wednesday that she is “thrilled and honored to be elected to represent Ward 4 on Waterville City Council.”

“It was a competitive race, and I want to thank Sydney Mayhew for his six years of service,” Green said. “With the uncertainty and division in national politics right now, I’m looking forward to focusing on local issues we can solve, and working together to help lift everyone up over the next three years. We have some challenges ahead, but also exciting possibilities.”

In a surprise move, Mayhew on Wednesday resigned from his council seat. The council could decide at Wednesday night’s council meeting to allow Green to take the seat right away. Mayhew would have served in his seat until January.

He wrote in his resignation letter to City Manager Michael Roy, Isgro and other councilors that it was with a heavy heart that he resigned from the council.

“I have given every ounce of my spirit and physical being to being a competent and dedicated representative of Ward 4,” Mayhew’s email says . “Lately I have been inundated with work and my own personal reasons in managing everything on a consistent and revolving basis.”

Newcomer Thomas Klepach, a Democrat who ran unopposed, was elected to the Ward 3 seat vacated earlier this year by Meg Smith who resigned. Incumbent councilors Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, and Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, ran unopposed and were elected.

Maryanne Bernier

Incumbent Waterville Board of Education member Maryanne Bernier, a Democrat representing Ward 4, beat newcomer Kelley Dow, who ran with no party affiliation, in a 840-458 vote. Incumbent board members Patricia Helm, Greg Bazakas, Spencer Krigbaum and Elizabeth Bickford, who ran unopposed, also were returned to their seats.

Incumbent Denise Bruesewitz was reelected to the Kennebec Water District with 3,746 votes. Sarah Whateley was elected to that board with 3,615 votes. They defeated Thomas Stephen DePre, who got 2,783 votes in a three-way race for two seats.

Denise Bruesewitz Courtesy of Colby College

Voters approved revisions to the city charter, 4,808-1,900. The charter changes will go into effect July 1, 2021, which is also the beginning of the city’s fiscal year.

With the revisions, council vacancies will be filled by special election rather than by council appointment, anyone wanting to run for mayor will be required to have lived in the city at least a year instead of three months, and two-thirds of the City Council must vote to approve a budget, rather than the current majority of four councilors.

Voters are asked every seven years, as required by the charter, whether a charter commission should be established to revise the charter or establish a new one. Residents in November 2019 voted 1,150 to 623 to establish the commission. They also elected charter commission members from each city ward, and the council appointed three members.

Sarah Whateley

Led by Tom Nale Jr. and James LaLiberty, who served as co-chairmen, the 10-member commission held a public meeting Jan. 11, met twice a month through April and in mid-May started meeting every week.

Along with Nale and LaLiberty, members were Cathy Weeks, Ward 1; Phil Bofia, Ward 2; Lutie Brown, Ward 3; Hilary Koch, Ward 4; Julian Payne, Ward 5; Rien Finch, Ward 6; and Ronald Merrill, Ward 7. Nale, LaLiberty and Samantha Burdick were appointed by the council.

Most of the charter changes are related to clarifying issues and amending language referring to state statute. For example, three separate places in the charter address how the mayor, councilors and members of the Waterville Board of Education are inducted into office, and the commission proposed putting them all in one place.

The charter changes will allow the city manager to head up two city departments, along with performing the duties of city manager. The changes voters approved Tuesday say the city manager cannot head up a department unless he or she is filling in on an interim basis because of a resignation or other reason for vacancy, but the city manager may not be a permanent department head.

Other changes approved: the city finance director must provide the council monthly updates on the city budget; those wanting to run for the Kennebec Water District board of trustees must be nominated at a party caucus; anyone wanting to take out papers to try to recall a city councilor or school board member must live in the ward in which the councilor or board member lives; and the city’s comprehensive plan will be evaluated every seven years.

Morning Sentinel reporter Molly Shelly contributed to this story.

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