Gary Getchell, who at 88 was just elected to his first term on the Dresden Select Board, stands in his office at his home Tuesday. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

DRESDEN — Age is just a number for Gary Getchell, who at 88 is the newest member of the Dresden Select Board.

Getchell won the town’s race for first selectperson June 11 and will take on that position with his first meeting on July 2.

At his age, he is certainly one of the oldest elected officials in the state of Maine. At a time when the ability of many of the country’s oldest politicians is being called into question, Getchell says he’s prepared to serve the town.

“Too many people say when you get to this age, you’re ready for the rocking chair and jigsaw puzzles, but I’m not ready for either,” he said. “One, rocking chairs make me dizzy and two, jigsaw puzzles are too boring.”

When the Kennebec Journal recently visited the couple’s 263-year-old home off of Cedar Grove Road, Judy Getchell, Gary’s wife of 60 years, sat with him and sipped coffee from her “Select Gary” mug that matched her husband’s campaign signs.

Gary Getchell had coffee mugs made for his campaign for Dresden Select Board, which he won by 21 votes. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Getchell grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts, and spent his summers visiting his family’s home in Dresden, which has been in the family for three generations. The house, which is located off a long, winding dirt road, was built the same year as the nearby Pownalborough Court House, in 1761.


Judy and Gary Getchell started renovating the house in 2002 when they retired and moved into the home full-time, after spending 32 years in Yarmouth, Cape Cod, where Gary was an educator. The house had not been renovated since 1907, they said.

“Instead of using regular paper (to insulate), (my grandfather) used The Boston Globe,” he said. “So the first thing I did was turn to the sports section to see how the Boston Red Sox did that year and they sucked.”


Getchell’s campaign started when he saw an uncontested race forming. He wanted people in town to have a choice between candidates on the ballot.

“There are too many times where there is only one candidate for the job,” he said. “So, I’m sitting here (in the dining room) and Judy is in the living room and I’m thinking, that’s not right. There is going to be someone running against him whether they like it or not, as far as competition is concerned.”


Judy Getchell’s first response to her husband’s request was that she was glad she was sitting down. Then she asked what they had to do next.

Ultimately, he got seven or eight other residents to help out on his campaign. He beat Jeffrey Bickford by just 21 votes.

Getchell feels his background and nearly completed doctoral degree in school guidance and psychology has helped him see both sides of issues in town.

Also, he’s not quite a political neophyte, having served on the Regional School Unit 2 School Board from 2008 to 2014.

The biggest issue in town at the moment is with the Moratorium Ordinance Regarding Mineral Extraction Facilities and Operations, which was approved by one vote and will delay new quarry and mining operations in town for 180 days. Getchell was present at nearly every meeting regarding the moratorium.

After the election, the Getchells invited Bickford and his wife, Leah, over for dinner, which lasted for three hours. Getchell admitted he disagrees with Bickford on some political matters, but the pair left the dinner with a better understanding of each other.


Bickford hopes Getchell can help bridge the divide in town.

“I don’t know what it will take to bridge the gap, but I think listening to people on both sides is critical, and where he hasn’t been in town politics for some time when he was on the school board, now there is a lot that has changed between then and a gap that needs to be closed up,” said Bickford. “I wish him the best of luck.”


The Maine Municipal Association, a nonprofit organization which provides services and advocacy to local government entities throughout the state, does not track the ages of local elected officials in Maine.

In this state and throughout the country, the average age of politicians has been trending upward. According to Pew Research Center in 2023, the average age in the U.S. Senate is 70-79 and in the U.S. House of Representatives is between 60-69 years old.

Of course, both major political parties have nominated older candidates, with Joe Biden at 81 and Donald Trump at 78.


Gary Getchell at his home in Dresden Tuesday, June 25. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Angus King, the independent U.S. senator for Maine, is 80, and his age was highlighted by opponents when he launched his reelection campaign.

But to Getchell, age doesn’t have anything to do with his ability to serve the town.

“I was in second grade when President (Joe) Biden was born,” he said, “I don’t believe cognitive dissonance is synonymous with age the older you get.”


Getchell plans to take the same approach with his new position as he did with teaching.

He always said that his students are a part of his “non-DNA family.” As a retired teacher, principal and professor, Getchell’s students are still a part of his everyday life, as they were for so much of his working life.


Before he retired, Getchell taught math and served as both a principal and professor in his 32 years in the classroom on Cape Cod. He collected around 500 students along the way. Getchell says he remembers the names of every student, their current age and what they are up to professionally. He still connects with them over Facebook, and invites up to his property to play pickleball with Judy or join them for coffee.

And the couple does the same with residents in town — every Sunday, they invite people over for a barbecue, beers and bocce, which nearly every weekend gathers around 20 to 30 people, Getchell said. He invites them into his “BAR-n,” a self-made dwelling next to his home that has a pool table, flat-screen TV and a bar outfitted with any beverage someone could want.

“My feelings towards my students were that they are a part of my non-DNA family, that was my mantra,” he said. “And now with Dresden, as a community, I see them as my non-DNA family.

“I know every family has things they agree on and disagree on, and one of my tasks is to deal with people who agree and disagree. You can disagree without being disagreeable — that’s my mantra on things.”

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