FARMINGTON — Municipal elections will be held Monday, March 27, with the annual Town Meeting following.

Polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Community Center on Middle Street. Annual Town Meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Bjorn Auditorium on Mt. Blue Campus on Seamon Road.

Deputy Town Clerk Twila Lycette said polls will close promptly at 5 p.m. to allow time to count ballots and move to the auditorium by 6 p.m. to check in voters and register any new voters there ahead of Town Meeting.

Three candidates are seeking two three-year seats on the Select Board. Scott Landry is not seeking re-election. Incumbent Stephan Bunker is running as are Amy DePauw and Dennis O’Neil. The two candidates receiving the most votes will fill the seats.

Responses to questions put to the candidates by The Franklin Journal are below.

In your opinion, what are the biggest issues facing Farmington and how would you address them?


Stephan Bunker Submitted photo

The biggest issues are two-fold, Bunker said. “Of an immediate concern is to address the loss of multiple, very experienced town employees, specifically from the town office,” he noted. “Following the last town meeting, with the extreme cuts to certain departments, we lost decades of valuable experience. This prevented the town from making necessary adjustments to compensations, compatible with other towns in like positions.

“In order to recruit and then retain quality personnel to serve our citizens, we need to continually evaluate our compensation levels and reward excellent service. A warm body to fill a vacancy is simply not acceptable if we are to be a leading service center. I have recommended in this budget proposal, to do  an objective, third-party salary & benefit analysis to help guide the board and manager in future decisions concerning a stable workforce.”

“Secondly, we need in our long-range budgeting, to carefully evaluate our added tax revenues, such as the solar farm and anticipated new projects, against our needs to invest such projects as road improvements, deferred maintenance on municipal buildings and properties, and inadequately funded reserve accounts in many departments,” Bunker continued.” I will press the board, new town manager and department heads to formulate a long-range plan that retains a respectable mill rate while investing in necessary community improvements.”

As a service center, Farmington is critical to the greater community of Franklin County. Our town provides extended Police and Fire Services, has the hospital, a college, provides social services, and is the retail center among amenities available to us and our surrounding neighbors. Our Public Works maintains our roads winter and summer, and our Recreation and Parks Department is well known for the important community programs designed to keep our kids, as well as the children in the surrounding communities, engaged in healthy activities.  It is important for Farmington to maintain a good balance between being a service center and providing needed services for our taxpayers.

Farmington can use the recent development of the solar farms tax base to invest wisely going forward on projects that are going to pay dividends to the town, reduce our debt, and take care of things that will put us ahead and maintain a reasonable tax base for the town residents well into the future. The taxes from the solar farm will be depreciating over the years, and it’s important it’s treated as a short-term funding and not the cause of extended tax commitments once that funding is gone. We need to be welcoming to businesses but at the same time develop and keep the town in a way that we can continue to be proud of it.

O’Neil said the big picture issues facing the Town and area in general are transportation, housing, food insecurity, medical coverage access, drug abuse and lack of social services. “These are all complex issues that need to be addressed on the state, county and local level,” he noted. “They are expensive issues to resolve. We will not be able to solve them alone but we cannot afford to ignore them either.


“The issues that deal more specifically with town government and need to be addressed are the revaluation of all property, retaining quality employees, job description updates and salary scale determinations, accountability through the budget process, a review of the town meeting procedures and everybody’s favorite, road improvements.”

O’Neil said a request for Proposal has gone out to solicit bids for the much-needed revaluation so that process has begun. “It will require board support to be properly done and implemented.

“Much discussion has taken place regarding salary scale and job description. The discussion needs to be clarified and implemented. Qualified and quality employees are important to the success of the town. Not just anybody can do any job. We have to recognize that and treat the employees respectfully and fairly. We have lost several very good employees in recent months.

“The budget needs to be evaluated to determine that we are getting our bang for the buck not just total dollars. Are we getting what we pay for? Do we only care to get services and product for the lowest dollar possible? You can only do more with less for so long, and then you do less with less. What services do we need to eliminate to cut taxes? That answer varies depending upon who you talk to.”

O’Neil believes the town meeting process needs to be evaluated. “How is the meeting to be run, he asked. “What rules do we follow? Are the citizens able to be heard, even minority opinions? We must do better than we did last year.

“Roads have long been an issue. They have been neglected for too long. Everyone agrees and yet every year money is deferred, projects are deferred and the roads decline.”


Why are you seeking a position on the Select Board?

Despite occasional hard times, Bunker said he truly enjoys public service. “It has been the focus of my adult life, in elected office and as a volunteer,” he noted. “It has brought me great wealth, not in dollars, but in the friendships and relationships that make my life full. As the board makeup and managers change, I want to be a voice of experience, a consistency in how we operate.”

Bunker said he wants to ensure citizens and taxpayers are shown respect and listened to carefully during board meetings. “I hope to be a moderate voice on the board and seek compromise among diverse opinions,” he stated. “I would like to foster ideas around regionalized projects among neighboring communities, such as fire protection, that help in shared solutions. I want to work toward improved relationships with the county commissioners in joint projects.”

DePauw and her husband, Joe have seven children and own a small business in Farmington. “I believe it’s important for me to run for select person to ensure that the town truly takes this opportunity to create a brighter and sustainable future for the taxpayers of Farmington,” she said. “In recent years, we’ve seen significant increases in operational expenses in our town at a rate that’s unsustainable, especially once we lose the revenue from the depreciating tax base from the solar farm. I believe the funds that we are receiving from the solar panels should be utilized in a way that can reduce the town’s debt and make needed long term investments, such as improving our roads and other capital improvements.”

“I live in Farmington,” O’Neil said. “I chose to live here 17 years ago. I care for the town that I chose. I have been involved in the community since I got here. I believe there is room on the board for divergent opinions. I am a team player in working on solutions for problems. I have always been involved in the towns that I lived and worked in. I believe in giving back and being a problem solver. I would like to contribute to Farmington, for it to continue to be a great place to live. I need your help to do that.”

What skills would you bring to the table?


Bunker said he has the value of lessons learned from many years experience with municipal government. “I bring over 30 years as a selectman, with eleven of those years also serving on the Maine Municipal Association executive committee, leaving as a past president,” he noted. “I am also a long-tern member of the county budget committee and past school board member. I am in in my 43rd year as a volunteer firefighter for my community. From these experiences, I would hope to continue to promote the best of our practices, attempt to learn from past mistakes, be forward thinking, and move our town upward.”

“As a mother of seven, a small business owner and a Doctor of Chiropractic, I have learned how to listen to people, digest what they’re saying, and then prioritize the next actions that are needed to be taken,” DePauw noted. “I will listen to concerned citizens then review the facts to proceed in making decisions that would be in the best interest of the Town. Dealing with budgets is critical in keeping a business viable, and I believe that the Town has the same responsibility.”

“I’ve been involved in local town governments for over 50 years,” O’Neil stated. “I worked in residential construction for 15 years. I worked in municipal finance for 25 years. I am open-minded. I listen. I asked questions. I can make tough decisions. I do my homework. I understand numbers and budgets. I have a sense of humor.

“I currently serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Assessment Review Committee and the Transportation Committee. I previously have served on the Budget Committee and the School Committee. I belong to several local civic and charitable organizations that serve the community. I try to add value to my community.

“I care and I ask for your vote if you care too.”

Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors candidates 


Two three-year terms on the RSU 9 Board of Directors will also be determined. Incumbent Scott Erb is seeking another term. T. “Will” Jones, Sarah Stebbins and Joe Clark are also candidates. Seats will be filled by the two candidates receiving the most votes. Questions posed by The Franklin Journal and their responses follow.

In a recent board meeting, Superintendent Chris Elkington warned “bullying doesn’t look like it used to.” What are your suggestions on addressing this issue?

Joe Clark Submitted photo

Clark said he doesn’t know what Mr. Elkington’s angle on this issue is, so had no direct answer. “Technology changes but human nature is constant,” he noted. “We must keep our eyes and ears open to how things like this are changing, so we can address them early.”

“I don’t think there is a easy answer to how to respond to things like cyberbullying, on line stalking and abuse of social media,” Erb stated. “I believe the staff of RSU 9 are keeping up with trends and doing their best to create a positive environment. Key is building a sense of community and understanding – discipline cannot be the primary response to bullying. There must be personal attention to the needs of students, and an understanding of this brave new world of social media and internet pressure.”

“This is a very important and timely question,” Jones noted. “I take Superintendent Elkington’s warning about bullying seriously, as should all stakeholders in RSU 9 schools. There is no easy answer to this question; however, I would like to address some foundational ideas that I think can help us on the road to tackling this complex and ever-evolving problem. Before I do so, I first want to acknowledge the heroic ongoing efforts already being made by so many teachers, administrators, students, and parents/guardians to overcome this problem.”

Jones said the goal of schools is to provide quality education for each student – with no exceptions. “With this in mind, our schools should be supported in every way possible to enable each student to achieve their educational needs. This includes the active implementation of a bullying prevention program to help create a safe haven in which learning can take place. I have read that effective anti-bullying programs require strong and effective administrative leadership and commitment on the part of the adults in the school system. I agree with this wholeheartedly, if we understand that “the adults in the school system,” includes not only teachers and school administrators, but also parents/guardians. In other words, we must work together as a community of stakeholder parents/guardians, students, teachers, and administrators – each in their respective roles, teaching, modelling positive life-skills, and encouraging kindness and respect for one another. In essence, practicing the universally accepted Golden Rule. Every student, faculty member, administrator, and parent/guardian should feel both safe and respected in our schools – full stop. This is the essential foundation needed to provide for our students the best we can offer in education. Bullying is a direct attack not only on an individual or individuals, but also on this essential learning foundation.


T. “Will” Jones Submitted photo

Jones continued, “With the rise and ever-changing face of bullying, RSU 9 needs a clear and active bullying prevention program. Rather than re-invent the wheel, RSU 9 could avail itself of as much accessible information possible about successful programs from other school systems; and then gleaning the information that is pertinent to our particular needs, we can put together and implement our own specialized program.

“It should be no surprise that studies have shown the most effective programs to be those that are comprehensive and involve the entire education community. These programs should include ongoing assessments about bullying, community education, school-wide interventions, classroom activities, and individual interventions. These should also include parental guides to help parents/guardians recognize when their kids are bullying others, or are being bullied themselves, and how to effectively deal with either scenario. How each of these might look can be determined on an ongoing basis according to the specialized program RSU 9 chooses to implement, adjusting accordingly as particular needs arise.”

Jones said this is not a comprehensive, nor detailed plan, but rather a few suggestions from which he hopes a productive discussion can evolve.

Sarah Stebbins Submitted photo

“In todays era, the presentation of bullying stands on a different platform; social media,” Stebbins replied. “All potential avenues of it within the internet as well as personal interactions must be explored and addressed.”

Why do you wish to serve on the board?

Clark is a father of four children in the district: two in public school and two homeschoolers. “I want to serve on the board in order to make sure the district continues to offer great resources and options to all the students in our towns,” he said.


“Having been in education my entire life, and having two children go through the RSU [9] system [the youngest will be a senior next year], I believe in doing what I can to contribute to helping out kids get the best education possible,” Erb stated. “I believe in supporting the professionals who work hard to educate our young people, and assure policy is guided by expert analysis and not ideology or personal bias.”

Jones said his desire to serve on the RSU 9 School Board is three-fold. “First, I have two children in RSU 9 schools and as a parent I want to be active in providing for them – and all students in RSU 9 schools – the best quality education possible. I see quality public education as essential to properly equipping our young people with the tools necessary to build successful careers and prepare them for productive lives.

Secondly, “I believe passionately in actively contributing to the welfare and function of my local community, and in participating in our democratic institutions,” Jones said. “My family and I moved to Farmington six years ago to the town where my wife, Emily Franson, grew up. She loved Farmington. When we all drove down Main Street for the first time together in 2017, the kids and I instantly fell in love with Farmington as well. I remember clearly the 5 p.m. chimes ringing from the Baptist church on Academy Street and feeling as if not just Emily, but all of us, were coming home. I have not looked back since, and my love for this town and community keeps growing. I wish to pay back the warm welcome and neighborliness we have experienced here through service to the community on the school board.”

Thirdly, “I am running for the school board, because I want to help build learning environments in RSU 9 schools that are safe, healthy, and inclusive for all students and shareholders,” Jones stated. “As I mentioned in my answer to question #1 above, every student, faculty member, administrator, and parent/guardian should feel both safe and respected in our public schools. I have worked extensively in non-profits with diverse populations of young people and have valuable experience in helping create safe and healthy environments for them. I would very much like to put this experience to use here in our schools.”

“I want to run for school board because I believe in the importance of education and want to make a positive impact on the lives of students in my community,” Stebbins said.

What areas of expertise would you bring to the board, if elected?


Clark said he is a former academic and university lecturer with a doctorate in information systems, now a full-time software developer.

“I understand the challenges teachers face in dealing with education in the 21st Century, as well as an understanding of how government and bureaucracy function,” Erb said. “I also keep up to date with studies involving effective education methods and specific conditions facing young people today.”

Jones is fairly new to Farmington, but believes his outside experience in working with young people can be of great value to RSU 9 schools, supplementing the effective programs already in place. “Along with my non-profit work with children, I have extensive leadership experience in another non-profit sector where I directed a complex, two-county program for people with disabilities in Oregon,” he noted. “I also have leadership and business experience in the private sector where I have served as sales director in several companies and COO of a green, biotech startup, where I continue to work part-time from home. In addition, I also have government experience from work as a Diplomatic Aide in the Taiwan Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Along with my leadership background, I am a good communicator, organizer, and consensus builder. I also bring with me a desire to listen and learn, a commitment to show up and contribute, and a collaborative disposition. I also bring common sense, civility, character, and compassion. I hope I can win your vote on March 27th.”

Stebbins responded, “As a parent, my experience in raising children is the passion behind what will push me to get things accomplished on the school board. If elected, I can help ensure that all students have access to a quality education that prepares them for success in the future.”

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