Monday, December 9, 2013
SOUTH PORTLAND — Four candidates are running to fill a vacancy on the South Portland City Council in a special election on Tuesday.
The seat representing District 1, which encompasses the Willard Beach area, was vacated by Tom Coward, who took office in January as a Cumberland County commissioner.
The council term expires in December 2014.
The candidates are a longtime school board member, a retired grandfather, the owner of a carpentry business and a musically talented insurance specialist.
The winner will join the council as it starts to tackle the 2013-14 city budget -- a job that could be made more difficult by Gov. Paul LePage's proposals to cut state funding to towns and cities.
While all of the candidates said they oppose a tax increase, none would say which services the city should cut to make up for the potential loss of state funding.
None of the candidates has served on the council.
Richard Carter, 50, is finishing his ninth year on the Board of Education and hopes to lend his expertise about the school budget to the City Council.
"We must seek to maintain a balance between preserving the excellent schools and city services that South Portland currently has with the needs of the taxpayers," he said.
He wouldn't speculate where cuts could be made if the city loses funding from the state.
Carter, who is married and has two sons in their 20s, is a retail operations manager.
Robert Foster, 64, the grandfather of 12, says the city must expand its tax base through economic development.
He said he would support cuts to services or a tax-rate increase only as "a last resort," after fighting "with a maximum effort" against LePage's proposals to suspend state revenue sharing with cities and towns.
Foster says he would bring a fresh, forward-looking perspective to the council. "As a retiree, I have the time and energy to give back to the community," he said.
Michael Pock, 66, says he is "fiscally responsible."
A business owner with an accounting degree from Westbrook College, he says his background would be valuable to the council.
Pock, who is married and has two adult sons, would rather "draw on reserves to weather this fiscal storm" than raise taxes or cut services.
He says taxes are already too high and there are too many regulations "that choke small business."
W. Rob Schreiber, 47, an insurance specialist by day and a musician by night, says his problem-solving ability, his willingness to ask tough questions and his "indomitable spirit" would be assets to the council.
Schreiber, who is married and has a master's degree in business administration, says South Portland must work on "getting (its) story out" -- that its parks, trails, ocean and stable tax rate make it "a great place to live and do business."
The District 1 councilor, like all councilors, is elected through a citywide vote. All voting on Tuesday will be at the South Portland Community Center, where polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at