WINSLOW — Voters will see the names of five people on the municipal ballot involved in contested races this election season, with three challenging for seats on the Town Council and two others seeking a spot on the school board.

The three vying for two at-large positions on Winslow’s council include two incumbents: Lee Trahan and Jeff West. The third candidate is Benjamin Twitchell, who retired earlier this year after nine years on the council representing District 2.

Benjamin Twitchell Courtesy photo

Twitchell said that he was happy to retire back in January, but after watching meetings this past year he saw too much “rubber stamping.” Now he wants back at the table to “help people think about what they’re spending” through debate before voting too quickly.

Trahan, 51, sees things differently. He said Monday that the council has been effective lately precisely because it’s been “getting things passed and moving things along.”

“I’m a lot more optimistic now than I was three years ago,” said Trahan, who feels good about the council after a period of turnover that saw the police chief and town manager replaced. “I like the direction the town is going.”

Trahan has been on the council since 2019 and hopes he and West can be reelected so the council can continue its work on two major infrastructure projects: upgrading the Chaffee Brook pump station and improving drainage in the Sunset Heights area.


West, 50, also said his priority would be continuing to invest in needed infrastructure projects around town, such as the pump station. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ll try to keep taxes as low as we can,” West said Tuesday.

Lee Trahan Courtesy photo

Both Trahan and West said past council decisions have meant Winslow’s infrastructure, particularly roads and sidewalks, is not where it needs to be.

“It fell by the wayside for quite a few years, now we’re in the position where we have to play catch-up,” said West, who was first elected to the council in 2016.

Twitchell said that characterization is unfair and that he checked spending to keep taxes low.

“Every time we earmarked money for road-paving, something else would come up,” he said last week. “Certain people think that I’m the problem with Winslow. Well, I was only one of seven (council members).”

Twitchell, 77, says he is a fiscal conservative and would be a “voice of reason” on the council. One project he disagrees with is a new municipal complex for Winslow, which is being considered by the town.


West and Trahan say that project is in the preliminary stages. “It’s not a done deal like everybody seems to think,” West said.

Jeff West Courtesy photo

In the past, West said, the council would have waited until the current building was totally obsolete before considering a new one. By investigating a new complex now, he said “we’re being proactive.”

Trahan agrees with the idea of a new municipal complex, chiefly so Winslow’s Fire Department can be rehoused. Trahan said the cramped facility is not only unaccommodating for female firefighters, but is not compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Trahan is disabled and in a wheelchair himself, and founded an architectural firm that specializes in ADA-accessible designs.

“It has run its course,” Trahan said of the municipal complex.

Residents on Nov. 8 will vote on whether to ban the use, but not the sale, of fireworks in town. West and Trahan took a neutral stance on the question, with both saying their view was to leave it to residents to decide. But both mentioned it was one of the biggest complaints they hear from residents.

Twitchell has a contrary view, noting “99.9% of the people in Winslow do not have a problem with fireworks.


“I don’t think it’s a biggie … I do not agree with a moratorium on fireworks,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the second contested race on the ballot, two people are vying for one at-large school board position.

Nick Weiss Courtesy photo

One contender is 19-year-old Nick Weiss, a student at Thomas College who graduated from Winslow High School last year. Weiss says Winslow is lagging behind other districts when it comes to student representation. If elected, he said he would follow the lead of Augusta- and Gardiner-based districts by working to create a student representative position on the board.

“A younger person would likely contact me, and feel better talking to someone their own age about an issue on the school board,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that flexibility in student learning options is critical, he said. Weiss said he would encourage schools to broaden their learning options and would speak with “students and staff to see how they feel they can best demonstrate their knowledge,” whether it’s through testing or alternative presentations and projects.

Weiss also wants to continue emphasizing the range of options for students after high school, such as community college, trade schools and entering the workforce. “Obviously not everyone is going to go to a four-year college,” he said.


The other contender for the school board seat, Steve Russell, 65, agrees.

A former town councilor of 26 years, Russell said he also wants to ensure students are aware of the range of options available to them after leaving school, including going into business or attending a technical college, and suggested providing more internship opportunities to students.

Steve Russell Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Both Russell and Weiss said that since the pandemic, it’s important to support students who may have fallen behind with extra programming.

“We need to make sure that students are on track to graduate and be outstanding citizens in their community,” Weiss said.

As Russell explained, “A successful outcome for a school system is to have a senior graduate that’s ready to take on any and all challenges that they’re going to face. Whichever direction they go in.”

Russell took a “vacation from the hoopla” that is local government back in 2020 when he decided not to run for reelection, mostly due to health issues aggravated by COVID-19.


Russell said he doesn’t see anything as “broken” in the school system, but would work to build off a solid foundation and maintain standards. He would like to see more parent involvement, though, as a parent of a Winslow student himself.

A parent is “the first teacher a child ever has,” Russell said. “And probably is the most important teacher a child will ever have.”

When asked about Weiss’ plan to have more student input on the board, Russell welcomed that, too.

“Great idea. The more involvement, the better off the whole system is,” he said. “You can never gather too much information before you make a decision.”

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