SOUTH PORTLAND — Judy Carpenter’s 20 years of service on the Planning Board came to a close this week after Mayor Tom Blake chose not to reappoint her to the at-large seat.

Blake said he valued Carpenter’s service to the community, but felt it was time for a change. Last week, the appointment of Gerry Jalbert, a senior loan officer who has served on the Zoning Board of Appeals for 11 years, was unanimously confirmed by the City Council. 

The change was seen as an attempted break from South Portland’s history of hyper-development, which has produced a variety of environmental concerns – especially in the Long Creek Watershed, where the Maine Mall and many other shopping plazas and industries are located.

Blake noted Jalbert’s work on the Long Creek Revitilization Committee as the major reason for his appointment over Carpenter. The appointment is an attempt to put environmental concerns ahead of development, he said.

“I consider Gerry Jalbert an environmentalist,” Blake said, noting he has known Jalbert for 40 years. “He asks the tough questions. I think we need people with that mind-set on our boards and committees.” 

Carpenter said she was first appointed to the Planning Board by former City Councilor Kevin Glynn and was reappointed several times by the late Councilor Robert Fickett. Carpenter said when Fickett called her to ask that she serve on the board, she kindly asked him to find someone else.  

“He said, ‘Would you just do it until I do?'” said Carpenter, who has since served nearly 20 years. “He suckered me in.” 

Carpenter is known as a staunch voice for individual property rights who has supported development when proposals met the zoning ordinance. At times, she would remind her fellow board members of their role when they tried to advocate for changes in proposals or seemed poised to oppose developments based on personal beliefs.

“Each member comes with different views of how you want the city to be developed,” Carpenter said. “When you sit on the Planning Board, you still have those views, but you have look at the ordinances and vote and go by them. ”

She added, “that’s the constitution and you have to follow those rules.” 

Board Chairwoman Carol Thorne said she would miss the historical perspective and knowledge that Carpenter brought to every meeting. However, Thorne expressed confidence in Jalbert’s ability to step in and make a positive contribution to the board. 

“Each board member has their own strengths and weaknesses,” Thorne said. “I am going to miss Judy’s expertise. … Things change and we have to accept that fact.” 

The Planning Board on Tuesday honored Carpenter with a plaque, and several former board members were on hand to pay tribute. They described Carpenter as knowledgeable, fair, professional and having a sense of humor about what is largely considered a thankless job.

Former board member Tom Peterson said that sense of humor was displayed a decade ago, when Carpenter called herself the “sewer maiden” because of her interest in sewer and storm water systems. 

“Twenty years of service, now that’s what you call dedication, because this is a thankless job,” former board member Stan Cox said. “(Judy) never used her position to promote her own personal interests.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]

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Carpenter.JPGJudy Carpenter, right, reflects on her 20 years of service on the South Portland Planning Board on Tuesday night as board members Rob Schreiber and Mark Gandolfo, left, look on. (Billings photo)
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