Three residents with lifelong connections to Sanford are facing off in a historic Nov. 5 election that will give the city its first popularly elected mayor.
A November 2012 charter change allowed Sanford to adopt a city form of government, with an appointed mayor for the first year. Interim Mayor Maura Herlihy decided not to run for election, leaving a three-way race between City Councilor Brad Littlefield, Chamber of Commerce President Richard “Rick” Stanley and Thomas Cote, a Budget Committee member who has never before run for office.
The mayor serves as the seventh member and chairman of the City Council, and performs ceremonial duties in the city. The position comes with a three-year term.
The creation of the mayoral position comes at a time when city officials are focused on economic development and changing the image of Sanford, which is home to more than 20,000 residents.
All three candidates say they want to focus on bringing new business to the city and marketing Sanford’s assets to a wider audience.
Littlefield, 61, has been involved in local politics on and off since the 1970s and has served on the City Council since 2004. He believes his experience, leadership skills and passion for his hometown would allow him to lead the city. He said he would focus on improving communication between residents and city officials, and conduct a survey to get residents’ input on city services.
“I want our children and grandchildren to settle here and raise their families here,” Littlefield said. “I want to continue to make quality improvements to the community.”
Littlefield said it is time Sanford focuses on positioning itself to take advantage of the next economic cycle and bringing new businesses to industrial parks and downtown.
“We don’t go out into the world in the fashion we should and tell people about Sanford,” he said. “We need to understand what we’re doing poorly, but also what we’re good at. It’s not all gloom and doom in Sanford.”
Stanley, a lifelong Sanford resident, has been involved with the Sanford-Springvale Chamber for more than 20 years.
His role with the chamber as “the welcoming arm of the community” positions him to step in as mayor and help improve the business climate in Sanford, he said.
Stanley wants to make sure it is easy for businesses to come to and stay open in Sanford.
“I would want to be more involved as mayor and a member of the council in helping those businesses get the support they need to stay open and employ people,” he said. “I think it’s very important that the mayor be supportive of economic development recruitment and marketing the city to encourage businesses to come here. That becomes the solution that will help stabilize the budget.”
Stanley said he also would focus on improving communication with residents and listening to their concerns, especially regarding municipal spending and the city’s new pay-as-you-throw trash program.
Cote, a 43-year-old regional marketing manager for a semiconductor company, is a political newcomer who served on the most recent Budget Committee. He decided to run for mayor after he didn’t see a sense of urgency when it comes to addressing Sanford’s financial position. He said he also wants to help build a purpose and vision for Sanford.
Cote said that as mayor he would bring a new perspective to economic development and the budget process.
“We’ve had a history of stagnant growth since industrial employers left Sanford,” he said. “Our operational budgets continue to grow and expand, while revenue from taxation has remained flat. It’s an unsustainable situation over the long term.”
Like his opposition, Cote said he sees strength in the Sanford community and wants to capitalize on that to bring in new revenue and growth.
“I personally think Sanford is on the move,” he said. “I’ve never seen a more motivated group of people ready for progress and action. I believe Sanford is right on the cusp of strong economic development.”
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: