A former city councilor and a slate of political newcomers are running for open Saco City Council seats on Nov. 5.
All seven City Council seats will be voted on this year, but only four wards have contested races. Each term is for two years.
Two-term Councilor Marie Doucette is not seeking re-election, leaving the Ward 3 seat open for Bette Brunswick to run unopposed. Ward 5 Councilor Arthur Tardif and Ward 6 Councilor Eric Cote are running unopposed.
Here is a look at the races for the four contested seats.
Ward 1, THREE CANDIDATES
Councilor David Tripp of Ward 1 is running for mayor, leaving his seat open for a three-way race between former Councilor Margaret “Peg” Mills, political newcomer David Precourt and Cynthia Chadwick-Granger, a former Planning Board member.
Mills served two terms on the council before leaving two years ago. She decided to run again after she was asked to by residents and because she feels she can provide political balance to a board that includes many with more conservative viewpoints.
“We need a more even-handed and steady fiscal approach. We need to look hard at the budget; there have got to be more savings to be found,” said Mills, a 57-year-old retired librarian. “I have been told over and over again that there was a time when the city cut too much, and it took a long time to build the city back up. There has to be a happy medium.”
Mills said she would like to find a way to repair the closed Stackpole Bridge. She also said the council needs to take a citywide approach to economic development and not focus solely on downtown.
Precourt, 54, a self-employed excavation and landscaping contractor, ran unsuccessfully for council in the past, but wants another chance to address his concerns about the city budget. He is a member of Saco Citizens for Sensible Taxes and feels the City Council needs to make some hard decisions to avoid future tax increases and to control spending.
“I think we need some new blood in there. It’s been pretty stagnant over the years,” he said. “(The council) is not conservative in spending.”
If elected, Precourt would like to see more focus on filling the city’s industrial parks.
“We need to get good, reliable jobs. That’s something we really have to strive to work on to keep the younger population here,” he said. “We can’t keep our young people here, and it’s sad.”
Chadwick-Granger, 53, previously served on the Planning Board and is a member of Saco Citizens for Sensible Taxes. She said she is running for office because she wants to be more involved in the community and “keep the Saco spirit alive.” She supports withdrawing from Regional School Unit 23 to give the city more flexibility to control the education budget.
Chadwick-Granger said one of her main priorities is to support and create new businesses and jobs in the city.
“We need to work with our economic development team and create affordable lease options and flexibility of contract terms with owners,” she said. “We need to develop incentives to bring the right people into our community.”
Ward 2, TWO CANDIDATES
Incumbent Leslie Smith Jr. faces a challenge from Roger Gay in Ward 2.
Smith, the longest-serving councilor, was first elected in 1989 and says he has historical knowledge about city government that is valuable to the council. He is always trying to control taxes and wants residents to be more involved with ideas about how to save money.
“I’m tight with my own money,” he said. “I’m even tighter still with somebody else’s.”
Smith said he is focused now on ensuring the city is planning appropriately to avoid “hodge-podge” development.
“I’m an advocate that a person should be able to use their property, but it shouldn’t be detrimental to their neighbors,” he said. “I think zoning is an evolving paradigm all the time as uses change.”
Gay, 55, is making his first run for local office after an unsuccessful bid to become a state representative in 2010. He said he is running because he’s “tired of paying high taxes, and others say the same thing.”
“I want to see exactly where my tax money is being spent,” he said.
Gay, a lifelong Saco resident, said he wants to make the city more business-friendly and find ways to encourage residents to buy more local products. He also would like to give tax breaks to small businesses to help them prosper and grow. Gay said he is open-minded and wants to get more people in the city to work together.
Ward 4, TWO CANDIDATES
Incumbent Philip Blood, a retired educator serving his first term, faces a challenge from political newcomer Kevin Roche in Ward 4.
Blood, 66, said after two years of immersing himself in “how the city runs and the connections that need to happen between the city and state, I feel a lot more prepared to continue the work we’re doing.”
“We have to learn how to spend money wisely,” he said. “I think I bring that balanced approach because I don’t come into this other than to help Saco.”
Blood says he favors withdrawal from the RSU because it is detrimental to students when the communities involved can’t get along. He also is focused on finding solutions for the problems with the jetty and coastal Saco because “it’s an important economic issue for the city because the shoreline generates a lot of revenue for the city.”
Roche, a 43-year-old businessman, said he believes his business experience will be valuable to the city.
“It’s gotten a little frustrating to see nothing moving forward,” he said. “We need to do a better job of marketing Saco to new businesses beyond our borders. Biddeford has a lot going on, and there’s a lot of activity and discussion around that. I feel like Saco is kind of being left out of that.”
Roche, who supports RSU withdrawal, said one of his goals as a city councilor will be to get more residents involved. “Saco is stuck in 1982 if you talk technology. There’s no good modern communication, whether it’s email or social media,” he said. “If I’m on the council, I’ll be the communicator-in-chief.”
Ward 7, TWO CANDIDATES
The Ward 7 contest between incumbent Marston Lovell and Nathan Johnston is a rematch of the race two years ago.
Lovell, a business owner, has served on the City Council since 2007. He is running for another term because he feels he still has “significant energy and ideas to add.”
“Two councilors have been there over 20 years and one for over 10. I think I fit into that area of being new and at the same time having experience with budgets, union negotiations and that sort of thing,” he said.
Lovell, who is on the Maine Municipal Association executive committee, said he would like to continue looking for ways to help downtown businesses and to involve more people in city government.
“There are very few people who show up at City Council meetings. We have meetings where the only people there are reporters,” he said.
Lovell served on the RSU 23 Withdrawal Committee and supports the withdrawal effort.
Johnston, 30, has never held public office, but grew up in a family that is very much connected to Saco politics. His father is outgoing Mayor Mark Johnston and his mother, Beth Johnston, is on the RSU 23 Board of Directors.
“Growing up the son of a politician, I see the impact one individual can make on the community,” said Johnston, a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’re having a much older generation make all the decisions about how the city is shaping itself. I want to bring a younger perspective.”
Johnston said he wants to find ways to support downtown and help ensure that existing businesses across the city can stay open and thrive.
Johnston said he feels Saco has “righted the ship” on taxes after an 18 percent tax increase two years ago.
“I think now that the ship has been righted, it’s important to keep it steady. I want to make sure it stays fiscally sound,” he said.