SACO — Two residents who have represented Saco for years on different levels are vying to become the city’s next mayor.
City Councilor David Tripp will face off in the Nov. 5 election against Donald Pilon, who represented part of Saco in the state Legislature for eight years.
The mayor of Saco holds a largely ceremonial position and leads City Council meetings, but does not vote with the council.
Current Mayor Mark Johnston decided not to seek re-election so he could focus on running his business.
Tripp, 72, served on the City Council for six years, then took four years off before being re-elected two years ago to represent Ward 1, which encompasses the more rural part of Saco.
He ran unsuccessfully for mayor six years ago.
This time, Tripp said, he has the time and experience to lead the city as it focuses on economic development and controlling property tax increases.
“And I’ll bring a little levity to City Hall,” he said. Tripp said one of his priorities will be involving more residents in city government, especially to contribute to discussions about the city budget.
Pilon, a 62-year-old real estate broker, represented part of Saco in the state Legislature for eight years before he had to leave because of term limits.
This election marks the first time he has run for local office.
“The local level is where the rubber meets the road,” he said. “I want to be closer to the people in my community to see how the discussions at the state level are truly impacting people in local municipalities.”
Pilon believes his background in the Legislature – and the connections he’s made with people around the state – can be a “great resource” to help solve problems.
“You get the same people who have been on the council or mayor for so long they fall into a rut,” Pilon said.
“No new ideas come to the table and no new vision for the city is brought forward.”
Both Pilon and Tripp say they want to focus on economic development, but in different ways. Tripp said he believes the days of downtowns as retail centers are past, and instead would like to focus on bringing more doctors, lawyers and dentists to fill Main Street buildings.
“We keep talking about Main Street dying. It’s been dying since 1955,” Tripp said.
“This is not going to change unless we emphasize bringing in professionals. If we have a vibrant Main Street, other things will follow suit.”
Pilon sees Camp Ellis as an asset for the city that could become a more vibrant economic engine if it included more spaces for artisans and craftspeople.
He also would like to see a farmers market set up on city-owned property in Camp Ellis.
Tripp and Pilon both believe it is essential to expand natural gas service in Saco in order for the city to compete with neighboring towns for new businesses and industries.
“I really see Saco as being positioned to grow in the commercial side of things, but we lack infrastructure like natural gas,” Pilon said.
“I don’t believe Saco is in play right now because we have the business parks but not the infrastructure.”
Both candidates agree that the discussion dominating this election cycle is the question of whether Saco will withdraw from Regional School Unit 23, the district it formed with Dayton and Old Orchard Beach.
Pilon would not reveal whether he supports withdrawal, saying only that it is up to residents to decide.
Tripp voted to allow Saco to join the RSU because city officials were told the schools would otherwise be penalized.
He does not believe any savings were realized through the arrangement and supports withdrawal “to put home rule back in Saco schools.”
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: