AUGUSTA — Four candidates are competing for two contested seats on the Augusta City Council, with the race to be decided Tuesday.

Incumbent Courtney Gary-Allen is facing a challenge from newcomer Chris Voynik for an at-large seat on the council.

And two newcomers to city politics — Robert Austin and Marcus Emerson — are vying to fill the Ward 1 council seat being vacated by veteran councilor Linda Conti.

Augusta City Council at-large candidate Christopher Voynik. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Voynik, 31, a real estate broker, said he’s running because he feels Augusta is no longer “winning” and he wants to advocate for and create actionable policies and initiatives that address the many issues facing the city. He said those issues include stopping tax increases, getting the economic development department to be proactive to bring in more businesses and developers, attracting more affordable housing developers and fighting for current landlords. He also cited top issues of enforcing city laws and ordinances to remove unhoused people from city streets.

“Today we are divided and falling behind; we have lost our focus and priorities and our city is suffering because of it,” he said. “My vision for our city is one where we not only prioritize but advocate for low taxes, economic development, small businesses, public infrastructure, affordable housing, and getting the homeless off our streets.”

Gary-Allen, 30, owner of Capital Consulting, and organizing director of Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, said she’s running due to her love for the city of Augusta. She said the biggest issues facing the city include addressing affordable housing and homelessness, fostering economic growth, ensuring tax stabilization, navigating the Hatch Hill landfill expansion, and tending to road conditions in the city.


“Throughout my initial term, my primary focus has been on critical issues, such as increasing affordable housing stock throughout the city, bolstering support for our vital first responders, and spearheading Project Recovery — a program aimed at aiding individuals with substance use disorder to access vital treatment and recovery assistance at the fire department,” she said. “While I am proud of the work we have done, there is still much to do, and I am running for reelection to continue this important work.”

Incumbent Augusta City Council at-large candidate Courtney Gary-Allen. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Both candidates said the city should expand its economic development department in an effort to bring more business growth to Augusta. Both also noted doing so could increase tax revenues for the city, thus offsetting the need for future tax increases.

One area in which they differ is how the city should address an increase in the number of people who are homeless in Augusta.

Gary-Allen said she would seek to launch what she would call the “Opportunity Crew” program, which would pair people who are homeless with the city’s public works department for cleanup of city parks, funded by businesses and community donations.  She said she’d also like to expand Project Recovery to include street outreach workers to places like Mill Park and Water Street, which could be funded by opioid settlement funds the city is expected to receive over the next 18 years. And she said the city needs a 24-hour, seven day-a-week, low-barrier shelter, led by a local nonprofit, of which she said the city should continue to be a supportive partner.

Voynik said Augusta should identify which members of the unhoused community are genuinely seeking assistance and are citizens of Augusta, and that Augusta residents who are unhoused should receive priority and the city should not give resources to people who are unhoused and traveling here just to use city resources. He said he’s a big supporter of rapid re-housing, which would give a person who is unhoused temporary shelter so they can focus on getting back on their feet instead of where they are sleeping at night. He said the city’s current programs are not capable of handling mass influxes of people and will soon be overwhelmed.

Augusta City Council Ward 1 candidate Marcus Emerson. Contributed photo

Emerson, 47, a substitute teacher at Capital Area Technical Center, registered Maine Guide, and a retired United States Marine Corps chief warrant officer, said he’s lived a life of service since 1998 and will continue to do so if elected to the council. He said the biggest issue facing the city is that it needs more money, in the form of tax revenue, to hire and retain the proper individuals to run the city.


“Incentives for profitable businesses will draw people/places who want to make a profit,” Emerson said of how to spur economic development in Augusta. “Adequate parking, decent roads and sidewalks leading to such, as well as a safe environment for them and their customers would be a great start to make Augusta the destination city it can and will be. The good of Augusta and its people is, and will continue to be, a full-time job for me.”

Austin, 58, a former business owner who now works in operations management in health care, said he’s running for council because he has come to care deeply about the city and he wants to use his real-world leadership experience, team-building and organizational skills to lead Augusta through its challenges and opportunities ahead. He sees the city’s biggest issues as finalizing and adopting a comprehensive plan, attracting positive business and development partners, planning for a sustainable road repair and maintenance program, increasing housing units to boost affordable housing, and fostering better communication with the community.

Augusta City Council Ward 1 candidate Robert Austin. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I will be advocating for adopting a proactive approach to attracting new businesses and development to Augusta,” he said. “This means operating with a culture of customer service in the planning and development office, as well as code enforcement and licensing. The city must be a partner and not a barrier to efforts to contribute to the positive forward progress that has been seen in recent years. In addition to creative problem solving, I will bring a history of effective leadership, team-building and budgeting skills, and a calm, steady and professional approach to all areas of my role as a city councilor.”

Polls in Augusta are scheduled to be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., at: Ward 1, Buker Community Center, 22 Armory Street; Ward 2, Augusta City Center, 16 Cony Street; Ward 3, Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive; and Ward 4, Cony High School, 40 Pierce Drive.




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