AUGUSTA — When outgoing Augusta Mayor David Rollins first ran for City Council in 2005 and nine years later for mayor, he was driven by a desire to change what he saw as a negative, disparaging attitude toward Augusta, both in surrounding communities and within the city itself.

Outgoing Augusta Mayor David Rollins Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Now, 17 years later, after serving terms as a councilor and two full terms as mayor, Rollins believes that attitude has changed, and there is a positive attitude in, and about, the city he calls home. He says Augusta ought to be considered among the best cities in the state, and said when he travels the state he now hears from many people statewide who speak of the state capital in glowing terms. And he said now more area residents look upon the city with pride.

“My campaign, from the beginning, was to change the attitude and spirit of Augusta,” Rollins said Tuesday, just days before Mark O’Brien is slated to take the oath of office as the city’s new mayor in an inaugural ceremony Thursday. “When I started (serving on the council in 2006), there were a lot of disparaging words about Augusta, around greater Kennebec County, and some of those were from within Augusta. I consistently promoted positivity and had a hand in creating a critical mass that has totally changed our image. I certainly had a hand in it, though I’m not the sole reason any of this happened.”

O’Brien, who as a former longtime city councilor served alongside Rollins before he left the council in 2019, agreed that Rollins has been a tireless and constant advocate, selling the positive attributes of Augusta.

Incoming Augusta Mayor Mark O’Brien Contributed photo

“Anybody who has paid attention over the years knows David loves Augusta dearly. I can’t think of a bigger or better cheerleader for the city of Augusta over the years, for developing a positive reputation (for Augusta) around the state,” O’Brien said. “I think Augusta is in a good place right now, as he leaves and I come on board. The city finances are good, we’ve got great city staff in our leadership positions, the council is an outstanding council, good things are happening downtown, and a new, downtown, police station is on the way. So, I’m optimistic and think things are in good shape, going forward.”

Rollins, 66, said something he is most proud of is the work done by the numerous citizens he, as mayor, has appointed to city committees and boards, many of whom volunteer their time and serve out of the limelight. He said he intentionally sought to appoint a diverse group of people to serve the city, not just people who shared his political leanings.


Rollins said he is also proud of major renovations to Alumni Field that were topped off with an artificial turf surface, greatly expanding its usability; the revitalization of downtown including the change from one-way to two-way traffic on Water Street through downtown; the changes in leadership at Augusta Housing Authority that have resulted in development of more rental housing properties in the city; and the creation of historic districts and standards covering the west side neighborhood and downtown that he said have encouraged improvements in both those areas. He said those improvements came while the city remained business-friendly and maintained taxation at a reasonable level.

He said his biggest displeasure while in office has been seeing social media sites such as Facebook become such a large part of public discussion because that is not a good forum for people to gather information and is used to disparage people.

Rollins first became mayor in 2014, filling the last year of William Stokes’ term when he was appointed a superior court judge. Rollins was then reelected to two more terms, from 2016 to 2018 and 2019 until last year, when he did not seek reelection. He never lost an election in Augusta.

He said he chose not to run again because he is nearing retirement age, though he plans to keep working in his property appraisal business, and wants to have time to pursue hobbies and spend time with his growing family, which he hopes will continue to grow with additional grandchildren.

Augusta Mayor David Rollins explains in a promotional video the various options for voting in the city, including bringing an absentee ballot to the city Post Office, background, in October 2020. Rollins will conclude his term on Thursday when Mayor-elect Mark O’Brien is sworn in. Courtesy of City of Augusta

He said he is “definitely not” planning to seek any other elective office, including any city or state positions, but does plan to continue serving on a city committee working on a plan to revitalize the northern end of Water Street and bring infrastructure and housing improvements to the Sand Hill area of the city.

“It certainly went fast. I’m very satisfied with the way it went and the direction we’re headed,” he said of his time leading the city.

Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony is set for 7  p.m. in-person in council chambers at Augusta City Center. While the inauguration has in the past been preceded by a reception, due to the ongoing pandemic the reception will not take place this year, and attendees are asked to wear a mask.

Augusta resident Daniel Wathen, former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, will administer the oaths of office to Mayor-elect O’Brien; at-large school board members Pia Holmes and Kevin Lamoreau; Ward 3 school board member Heidi Wardwell; at-large city Councilor Abigail St. Valle; and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Judkins.

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