Nine candidates are competing for four seats on the Saco City Council in an election that could result in a board with a majority of first-time councilors.

The slate of candidates includes a City Hall watchdog, a school board member, an Emerge Maine graduate and several young professionals seeking to bring a new perspective to the council.

Councilors Roger Gay of Ward 2 and Alan Minthorn of Ward 5 are running unopposed for second terms, while Ward 7 Councilor Nathan Johnston is unopposed as he seeks a third term.

All city councilors serve two-year terms.

Ward 1

Political newcomers Marshall Archer and Matthew DiCianni are running to represent Ward 1. Archer, who is working on his doctoral degree in social work, has served one term as an election warden and is a board member of Saco Main Street.

Archer, 35, said he considers being a city councilor service to the community and he would like to help foster community through collaboration. He said he favors responsible governance and would like to do more cost-benefit analysis when using taxpayer money.

“I’d like to use my educational and personal experience to provide a second look at how we spend our money,” he said.

Archer said he would also like to assess Saco’s infrastructure, including the “chock point” for traffic in the industrial park area. With the high cost of living in Portland creating new development interest in Saco, the City Council must ensure the infrastructure is upgraded, he said.

DiCianni, 38, sees himself as a political outsider who could bring a new perspective to the council.

“For the past 10 years I’ve been living here, I’ve seen Saco have tremendous potential as a community with our mills and downtown district,” he said. “The one thing that seems to keep happening is we get stuck on growing and growing sustainably.”

DiCianni, who works in outside sales, said he would like to bring people in Ward 1 and across the city together more often and get more people involved with local government. In the past, the city has not done well communicating with residents, but he is happy to see that starting to change as the city increasingly uses social media, he said.

“There is a current perception in our city that our government is no good or the city doesn’t do anything. Taxes have steadily gone up for the past 10 years, leading to negative perceptions in the city,” DiCianni said. “We need to come together to change that perception of our government and get other people to participate in the process.”

Ward 3

Councilor William Doyle is seeking a second term on the City Council and faces a challenge from Barbara Colman, who frequently attends city meetings.

Doyle said he is an advocate for investment in the city’s downtown and development districts to further strengthen Saco as a business-friendly center for commercial growth.

Doyle, a 37-year-old labor representative, said he is focused on growing the commercial tax base, building on the city’s assets and being a steward of taxpayer dollars to ensure the city is affordable for people of all ages.

Doyle said he would like to continue promoting a positive environment at City Council meetings.

“I am committed to ensuring diverse voices are heard, and promoting an open and transparent process to guide us forward, while protecting all of the things that make Saco a great place to live,” Doyle said.

Colman, who has an adult son and granddaughter, is a member of Saco Citizens for Sensible Government. A judge this year dismissed a lawsuit Colman filed against city officials alleging they didn’t follow the proper procedures for contract zones when they sold 95 King St. to Thornton Academy.

Colman, an office manager, said she decided to run for council to bring transparency to City Hall.

“When you stand at the podium and you are publicly disclosing they are doing something wrong and someone at City Hall knew the problem and didn’t resolve it, you need to stand up and hold someone accountable,” she said.

Colman said that as a councilor she wants to make sure the schools have the resources needed to meet the learning needs of all students, ensure residents without computers or social media have access to city information, and work with the city administrator to move the city forward. She would also challenge the administration on whether the proper process was followed for property assessments.

Ward 4

The race for the Ward 4 seat features two candidates who have not held elected office, but who are active with political and civic organizations.

Michael Burman, 38, is a University of New England professor who ran unsuccessfully for council two years ago. He said Saco has many things going for it, but feels the city has missed some opportunities and made strategic decisions that are “holding us back.”

Burman said new cafes and other businesses opening downtown have started to bring new energy to the city and the City Council needs to have a comprehensive vision to attract more businesses.

“What I think Saco can do is focus on being a sensible, middle class family community,” he said.

Burman said he believes the city has a revenue problem that needs to be addressed. The city also needs to invest in its schools and infrastructure so families will continue to move to Saco, he said.

“Rather than try to control taxes through controlling spending, we need to make sensible investments,” he said.

Lynn Copeland, a recent Emerge Maine graduate, said she decided to run for council because “my perspective is needed at the table.”

“A woman’s perspective is important,” said Copeland, who is the only woman running for a council seat. “We bring something else to the table. We run our home business, if you will. We have to make ends meet. I don’t think it’s a lot different for the city.”

Copeland, 56, said many residents tell her they are concerned about property taxes and she has discussed the issue with city officials. She believes the council needs to work with city staff to use various tools and resources to attract new businesses, including manufacturing.

“We need to get people excited about Saco. It’s a beautiful place to live and work,” she said. “We have a desire to have industry. We have an open mind. We have employees.”

Copeland said if elected she would also like to look at ways to make the city more sustainable, ensure the schools are as good as they can be and publish a regular newsletter to connect with residents. She would also like to continue setting up a program to connect middle school students with senior citizens.

Ward 6

Ward 6 features a three-way contest between Jason Boucher, Theodore Sirois and Micah Smart.

Boucher, 33, owns a small home remodeling business and is an associate real estate broker. A third-generation Saco native, Boucher said he would like to see more amenities downtown, such as stores and restaurants that are open past 9 p.m. There is “clearly a demand” for those as more young people move to the city and into new apartments in renovated mill buildings downtown, he said.

Boucher said he’s keeping a close eye on the mill district, which he sees as a “great catalyst for growth for both downtown Saco and Biddeford.”

“I personally would like to see some of that space utilized in a manner that brings people from other communities into our community. The city is lacking an event space or something like that to bring people to Saco for a few hours. I often hear that people love the charm of Main Street, but it’s really nothing more than a place that people pass through.”

Sirois, a 62-year-old retired U.S Navy chief and member of Saco Citizens for Sensible Government, is finishing his first term on the Saco School Board. He said he is running for City Council so he can “work with businesses to leverage Saco’s resources to generate more revenue and make sure everyone is paying their fair share of taxes to maintain Saco’s way of life.”

“On the school board, I learned that our high mil rate is not so much the result of school and municipal spending but mostly because of a lack of revenue,” he said. “I believe one reason for our revenue shortfall is due to the city’s hoarding of former private property which is not generating any property taxes but incurs a cost for maintaining them.”

Sirois said councilors have many responsibilities, such as maintaining the heritage of Saco and making the city a safe place, but the greatest responsibility is to ensure the fiscal viability of the city.

“Fiscal responsibility is utmost because we need to be mindful of our elderly citizens, especially long-term residents who have worked, raised children and payed their fair share of property taxes for decades past,” he said. “Many of them have stuck with Saco through numerous economic downturns and they should not be rewarded for their loyalty by being forced out of their homes by high property taxes.”

Smart, 33, is an attorney who moved to Saco from Portland in 2016 to buy a house and raise his family. He and his wife plan to stay in the community long-term.

“I’d like to be involved with the decisions being made in the city,” he said.

Smart said as a councilor he would want to ensure major development projects like the one proposed on the east side of Saco Island are done with an eye toward the long-term effects on the area.

“The city itself and Maine a whole are going through a demographic change. In Saco, there is an influx of young professionals just starting families like myself. Our long-term goals should be pointing toward making sure our infrastructure keeps up with that while not leaving behind existing long-standing residents,” he said.

Smart said he would like to see more foresight in budgeting and the way taxes are used, and supports bringing in new businesses to help alleviate the tax burden on individuals and better utilizing resources like the Saco River.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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