Outgoing Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker stops Wednesday near Erskine Hall in Stevens Commons area of Hallowell. The redevelopment there was undertaken during Walker’s seven years as mayor. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — After seven years in Hallowell’s top elected position, Mayor Mark Walker reflected on many “happy moments” during his tenure.

Walker, a lawyer, was elected in 2013, before being officially inaugurated in early 2014. Before his election, Walker had served on the City Council since 2006. During that time, Walker said that Hallowell has seen “a lot of change and a lot of development.”

“First and foremost, I’ve enjoyed it very much,” he said. “I like the people, I like the downtown. It’s been a nice challenge and opportunity for me.”

Walker said a couple of highlights from his tenure were the building of a new fire station and the development of Stevens Commons, which grew from a run-down set of buildings into a development with numerous tenants.

Perhaps one of Walker’s happiest public moments in recent memory was the reopening ceremony for two-way traffic on Water Street after the reconstruction of the road. During an October 2018 address, Walker proudly declared that “the crown was down.”

“There were many happy moments, but that was certainly one,” he said. “I think the vibrance of our downtown is something special.”

Walker was commonly seen out in Hallowell, a part of the job that he said he enjoyed. He said that he felt that residents enjoyed seeing the mayor out and about in town.

“I enjoy walking into some of the downtown businesses and having some of the people recognize you as mayor,” he said. “Usually, it’s in a very positive way.”

Kyle Ng, owner of downtown’s Traverse Coffee Co., which is only a few doors down from Walker’s law office, said that Walker was supportive of the shop since it opened in July 2019.

“I will definitely say that he has been very supportive of us as a small business and a coffee shop,” he said. “He’s been available if I needed ever to talk to him or ask him any question.”

Walker’s term was not without challenges, however. He said the most challenging period was when a number of changes were forced in relation to the the city manager position. After replacing Town Manager Michael Starn in 2016, Stefan Pakulski died unexpectedly a few months into his tenure. Pakulski was replaced on an interim basis by then-Code Enforcement Officer, now City Councilor Maureen AuCoin, who was later replaced by current City Manager Nate Rudy later in 2016.

“It did put a little more burden on myself as you had newer people coming in and getting a feel for the day-to-day issues and operations,” Walker said. “It was like you were constantly updating them. I think they all did their job, but Hallowell is a unique city.”

The Liberal Cup owner Geoff Houghton hands a petition to Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker in 2018 to put a cross walk in front of his business. Walker is now completing his seventh year as mayor of Hallowell and has been reflecting on his accomplishments as well as some of the challenges he has faced. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Walker, who did not run for reelection in November, will be replaced by City Councilor George Lapointe. Lapointe bested AuCoin by three votes after a recount, after initially holding a two-vote lead.

Walker said that he was going to be “very selective” about his participation in municipal business going forward, but may take more active roles with the Hallowell Board of Trade.

“It’s good to take a break,” he said, but added that he could bring a historical perspective to other city groups if needed.

Former city councilor and longtime city resident Lynn Irish said Walker came into the mayor’s position with a “full plate” and used his skills as a “behind-the-scenes negotiator” to help move items along.

“I think most of everything that was on that plate has been accomplished or is in the works,” Irish said. “I think there’s been a lot of progress during his tenure.”

Irish, who also operated WhipperSnappers Quilt Studio in downtown Hallowell before recently moving it to Manchester, said that Mark was a “visible and accessible” figure to Hallowell.

“I certainly wish him the best in what he chooses to do looking forward,” Irish said.

City Councilor Michael Frett said Walker has shown “solid leadership” and would “easily open to the interests that best serve the city.”

“I feel Mark has been open to the concerns of Hallowell citizens, and always strove to address those in the most judicious manner,” Frett said. “I appreciate his service to this, my city, in helping to continue its role of being among the places to visit in the state of Maine.”

City Councilor Diana Scully said she has found Walker to be an “amiable, fair and responsive leader.”

“His actions as mayor demonstrate that he cares a lot about the people of our little city,” she said.

Walker, a Republican, ran for state Senate in November, but was beaten by incumbent Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester. Bellows was recently appointed as Secretary of State, so that state Senate district is up for special election on March 9.

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