ANDOVER – Independent gubernatorial candidate Kevin Scott and his wife, Susan Merrow, moved to this small western Maine town from Portland in 2004, bought the old post office and began to renovate it from the foundation up.
Over time, they took the same approach to changing local government, including the fire department, water district, transfer station and town office.
To some in Andover, they are a young, energetic couple who pumped some needed life into town.
To others, they are outspoken outsiders who stirred up trouble that escalated into shouting matches, accusations of assault and requests for protection from harassment filed in the local District Court.
In May, Scott, 42, filed the 4,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the November gubernatorial ballot. He joins four others as candidates: fellow independents Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth and Shawn Moody of Gorham; Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro; and Republican Paul LePage of Waterville.
Scott is least well-known and, to date, has spent and raised the least of any candidate. His most recent reports filed last month show he took in just over $11,000 in receipts — $7,500 of which came from him or his wife.
He has never held a major political office but is a former member of the Andover Planning Board and current chairman of the Andover Water District, the water utility for the community.
Scott relied on volunteers — and lots of his own shoe leather — to get the signatures necessary to get on the ballot. He recently hired a paid campaign manager, Michael Pajak, who worked for Republican Bill Beardsley in the primary, and says he will have enough money to run a television ad.
“Priority No. 1 is a great deal of concern for the direction that politics are moving in,” Scott said recently over lunch at Shere Punjab, an Indian restaurant in Brunswick. “I see a lot of the extremes. I think people here in Maine, like myself, are moderates, for the most part.”
Scott said that to prepare for his run, he has reached out to key government officials — including Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Brenda Harvey — to get the facts about the current state of government affairs. He said he understands voters’ frustration with spending on welfare programs, but he also knows there are Mainers who need help.
If elected, he said his first order of business would be to meet with each legislator to talk about what needs to get done.
“Let’s move to the resolution stage,” he said. “Enough of what we’ve done for 50 years. It’s not working.”
CHALLENGES AND QUESTIONS
Scott said he and his wife first became involved in local politics when the town considered closing the local transfer station in favor of a regional dump. They didn’t think the move would save money and it would force residents to drive 20 miles.
“In a small town, the transfer station is the social station,” he said.
They challenged selectmen over the proposal at the 2005 town meeting.
The article was defeated, and Merrow agreed to lead a committee to study the issue. The town has since moved to a single-sort recycling facility that costs less to operate than the town’s dump did five years ago, Scott said.
Scott has been chairman of the water district board since 2009.
“We have come one million miles,” he said. “We’re making money, we’re billing customers, we’re improving infrastructure, we’re paying down debt.”
Scott’s activities in town government, however, have often intertwined with those of his wife, who is a selectman.
In September 2008 and again in May 2009, a group of residents tried to recall Merrow from office, saying she neglected to perform her duties and displayed behavior unbecoming a public official.
In July 2009, two women who had signed the recall petition said the effort was aimed mostly at her husband and “the ruckus he tends to cause,” according to a report in the Lewiston Sun Journal.
Today, neither woman — Deb Cayer nor Judy Tabb — would comment on Scott or his run for governor.
Merrow eventually survived both recalls — the second was defeated by a wider margin than the first.
About the recalls, Merrow said townspeople got nervous when she and Scott started asking tough questions about how town money was being spent, and that it was those who favored the status quo who tried to have her removed.
“I think it was that general human fear that, even if you’re not doing something wrong, you might be,” said Merrow, who works as a recruiter for Texas Instruments. “When Kevin speaks, the old-timers and others listen.”
Don Wardwell, a 40-year resident of Andover and retired iron worker, said Scott took on the fire department budget — a sensitive topic for many in town.
“He’s a go-getter,” Wardwell said. “He can straighten stuff out. He’s done a lot for this town.”
‘A LOOSE CANNON’
But Scott’s outspokenness — and outbursts at public meetings — have also earned him critics.
At a meeting on May 27, 2009, Scott tried to convince selectmen to reject the second recall effort against his wife. Published reports indicate Scott “was repeatedly interrupted by people trying to shut him up.”
“Well, I thank you for being rude and obnoxious to me,” Scott said, before an unidentified woman interrupted, shouting, “Well, nobody can possibly be as rude and obnoxious as you can, Kevin.”
Philip Milligan, who’s lived in town for 25 years and organized one of the recall attempts against Merrow, called him “a loose cannon.”
“I personally have no use for the man,” said Milligan, whose father-in-law is the former fire chief. “There have been employees who were with the town for 20 or 30 years who have given up because of his constant weekly harassment. He flips with a switch.”
Town politics in Andover led Scott to file three protection-from-harassment requests in 2008 with the District Court in Rumford against various people in town.
Two were immediately denied. The other was put in place until August, when Scott failed to appear in court and it was dismissed.
Then in January of this year, Carl Scot Gisseman of Andover filed a request for an order against Scott.
Gisseman, the former vice chairman of the town’s ambulance coverage comittee, alleged Scott “blocked my egress at the Andover General Store with intent on provoking a response,” and that Scott once stood in the middle of the road to taunt him.
Gisseman’s request was dismissed in February when he was unable to appear in court because of deployment to Afghanistan, according to court records.
The 2008 incidents, as outlined by Scott, included an allegation that “a town hall door” was forced into his elbow, “causing cuts and scrapes,” and that one man almost ran him over after a meeting by “backing away in a fashion where he cut his wheel hard and turned towards me.”
Scott said while he has been threatened, he has not crossed the line with those who disagree him.
“When you’re in a small community anywhere in the state of Maine, and you make the kind of forward progress that Susan and I have made, there is a small, small group that gives you the perception that you need protection,” he said.
‘I AM A PRAGMATIST’
Scott graduated from Mexico High School — now Mountain Valley High School — in 1986, and earned a degree in government and politics from George Mason University in Virginia in 1990.
Today, he owns a company, Recruiting Resources International, that matches engineers with high-tech firms. He believes his combination of business experience and his degree in politics qualifies him to be governor.
“My vision is, the best thing for Maine in the future is a local mentality, a small-government mentality, making those decisions with your neighbors,” he said.
He envisions “having an agenda that is driven more by a municipal association and small towns and cities and city councils than Washington, D.C.”
Scott said he’s never enrolled in a political party.
He describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal. He has reached out to a Maine tea party group, the Maine Refounders, by responding to its questions online.
On gay marriage, he says that, as governor, he wouldn’t push for it but that, if voters approved it, he wouldn’t stand in its way.
“I am a pragmatist,” he said. “I’m very process-oriented. I work with engineering companies. I very much believe that the logical approach to problem solving, and combine that with people, you’ve got a recipe for politics.”
Joe Madigan, a former Andover selectman and retired teacher, said Scott isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo.
“He’s taken a lot of criticism in town, but he’s right,” Madigan said. “It takes a man of independence, decency and honor to do things right. He takes a lot of beatings.”
Scott said he knows that some people in town just don’t like him.
He named some of his gubernatorial opponents, and former longtime Democratic House Speaker John Martin, as examples of people who get things done but aren’t always popular.
“You look at any of the people who have done things over the years — a John Martin, for example, does he have any enemies?” Scott said. “Does Libby Mitchell have any? Paul LePage has a couple. If you’re going to improve things and do better for people, you’re going to ruffle some feathers. That’s what a leader is.”
MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: