Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Voters will decide three contested races for seats on the Westbrook City Council on Nov. 5, the last time all seven council seats will be up for election at once.
Voters approved a change last year to stagger council elections and extend councilors’ terms from two years to three.
To make the transition, four councilors who win election next month will serve three-year terms and three will serve two-year terms.
The contested races include head-to-head contests for the Ward 2 seat and an at-large seat, and a three-way race in Ward 4.
Four incumbent Democrats are running for re-election with no opposition: Brendan Rielly in Ward 1, Paul Emery in Ward 3, Mike Sanphy in Ward 5 and Mike Foley, who represents the city at large. Emery’s term would be for two years. The rest of the uncontested seats are for three-year terms.
Although voters also decided last year to remove party affiliations from the ballot, all but one of the council candidates were nominated by the Republican Party or Democratic Party.
All voters can cast ballots for their own ward representative and for two at-large councilors.
In a repeat from the last election, in 2011, Matt Maloney is challenging Democrat Victor Chau, who has held the seat since 2010.
The winner will serve a three-year term representing the ward that covers the southeast section of the city.
Maloney, 37, a Republican, said he wants to “offer my neighbors a change from the status quo.”
Chau, 39, said the current council and mayor are working hard on several fronts to have a positive impact on the city and he believes he should stay in office to “ensure the momentum ... carries forward.”
He said his focus for the next term would be on streamlining government and reducing the city’s expenses. Chau, a real estate broker, vowed to “watch every taxpayer penny as if it were my own.”
Maloney, a warehouse manager for Wayside Food Programs, said he wants to “reduce the red tape in city government and return prosperity to Westbrook.” He said he would like to “set a new direction for the city” by working personally with residents and businesses, rather than paying consultants to do it.
Maloney said liberty and localism are the foundations of his platform.
Three candidates, all with at least some political experience in the city, are vying for an open seat for a two-year term representing Ward 4, which is between William Clarke Drive and Cumberland Street and includes the downtown.
The seat was held for several years by Dotty Aube, who decided not to run for re-election.
Now, Ann Peoples, a Democrat and former city councilor who has represented the city in the Maine House of Representatives for four terms, will compete with the city’s former finance director Susan Rossignol and Gary Rairdon, who recently served on the city’s Charter Commission.
Rossignol, a Republican who served on the Charter Commission with Rairdon, said she would “listen to the taxpayers, not the political parties.”
She wants to see the city function better than the federal government and said elected officials must spend more time reviewing the city’s budget.
“It seems that we spend money on items not mentioned in the budget process,” she said.
Rossignol, 64, was the city’s finance director for 32 years, before Mayor Colleen Hilton decided not to reappoint her and two other employees to their positions. Rossignol was banned from City Hall for a couple of years after her dismissal. She ran for city clerk in 2011 and lost.
Rairdon, who is not enrolled in a political party, has run for the School Committee and City Council in the past, and lost.
A near-lifelong resident of the city, Rairdon, 49, said he’s an active community member who would strive to make the best decisions for all residents.
“I enjoy interacting with people, will listen and am not afraid of speaking up for the needs of others,” he said.
Peoples, 66, said her experience representing Westbrook would be valuable for building the city’s tax base and creating more job opportunities.
In addition to being “a good steward of our tax dollars,” Peoples said, she would work to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard on neighborhood issues and see that the city’s downtown continues to grow.
“I would hope to build on the progress that has been made in making Ward 4 a vibrant and exciting place to live,” she said.
A current member of the School Committee is challenging the longest-serving member of the City Council for his at-large seat.
Veronica Bates, a Democrat, will try to unseat John O’Hara, who has served on the council for 16 years and is its sole Republican member.
Bates, 40, said she wants “to serve my community in a larger capacity.” She said she’s committed to the city and its residents and wants to give them a stronger voice.
“I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and do what needs to be done for the benefit of all,” she said.
Bates said her goals would be to help the council and School Committee cooperate better, clean up the city’s green spaces and encourage responsible residential and business growth.
O’Hara, 55, said his focus would be on finding a way to finance a new public services facility and coming up with a plan for a new fire and police station in Ward 5.
“You must have experienced people who understand not only how financing in the public sector happens, but also how we can get the biggest bang for our buck,” said O’Hara, who was a leader in the renovation of William Clarke Drive and the construction of Westbrook Middle School.
O’Hara said he’s concerned about how Route 302 in Westbrook could be affected if a sewerage system is installed in neighboring Windham. Because the pipe would have to run through Westbrook, he said, the northern part of town would be opened up to major development.
O’Hara said he wants to make sure that “the rural character of Ward 5 stays intact.”
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: