August 8, 2010

Governor's Race: Independent Scott moves and shakes

Kevin Scott of Andover campaigns as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative.

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

ANDOVER - Independent gubernatorial candidate Kevin Scott and his wife, Susan Merrow, moved to this small western Maine town from Portland in 2004, bought the old post office and began to renovate it from the foundation up.

click image to enlarge

Kevin Scott, an independent candidate for governor, says a leader will improve things and do better for people but isn’t always popular.

Over time, they took the same approach to changing local government, including the fire department, water district, transfer station and town office.

To some in Andover, they are a young, energetic couple who pumped some needed life into town.

To others, they are outspoken outsiders who stirred up trouble that escalated into shouting matches, accusations of assault and requests for protection from harassment filed in the local District Court.

In May, Scott, 42, filed the 4,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the November gubernatorial ballot. He joins four others as candidates: fellow independents Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth and Shawn Moody of Gorham; Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro; and Republican Paul LePage of Waterville.

Scott is least well-known and, to date, has spent and raised the least of any candidate. His most recent reports filed last month show he took in just over $11,000 in receipts -- $7,500 of which came from him or his wife.

He has never held a major political office but is a former member of the Andover Planning Board and current chairman of the Andover Water District, the water utility for the community.

Scott relied on volunteers -- and lots of his own shoe leather -- to get the signatures necessary to get on the ballot. He recently hired a paid campaign manager, Michael Pajak, who worked for Republican Bill Beardsley in the primary, and says he will have enough money to run a television ad.

"Priority No. 1 is a great deal of concern for the direction that politics are moving in," Scott said recently over lunch at Shere Punjab, an Indian restaurant in Brunswick. "I see a lot of the extremes. I think people here in Maine, like myself, are moderates, for the most part."

Scott said that to prepare for his run, he has reached out to key government officials -- including Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Brenda Harvey -- to get the facts about the current state of government affairs. He said he understands voters' frustration with spending on welfare programs, but he also knows there are Mainers who need help.

If elected, he said his first order of business would be to meet with each legislator to talk about what needs to get done.

"Let's move to the resolution stage," he said. "Enough of what we've done for 50 years. It's not working."

CHALLENGES AND QUESTIONS

Scott said he and his wife first became involved in local politics when the town considered closing the local transfer station in favor of a regional dump. They didn't think the move would save money and it would force residents to drive 20 miles.

"In a small town, the transfer station is the social station," he said.

They challenged selectmen over the proposal at the 2005 town meeting.

The article was defeated, and Merrow agreed to lead a committee to study the issue. The town has since moved to a single-sort recycling facility that costs less to operate than the town's dump did five years ago, Scott said.

Scott has been chairman of the water district board since 2009.

"We have come one million miles," he said. "We're making money, we're billing customers, we're improving infrastructure, we're paying down debt."

Scott's activities in town government, however, have often intertwined with those of his wife, who is a selectman.

In September 2008 and again in May 2009, a group of residents tried to recall Merrow from office, saying she neglected to perform her duties and displayed behavior unbecoming a public official.

(Continued on page 2)

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