Mayor-elect Ethan Strimling is wasting no time preparing for his four-year term leading Maine’s largest city.

Strimling unseated Mayor Michael Brennan on Tuesday, receiving 51 percent of the vote and winning in all but one of the city’s 12 voting precincts.

But rather than bask in his decisive Election Day victory over an incumbent who has beaten him twice before, including the 2011 mayoral race, Strimling made the rounds on early-morning television and radio programs, before meeting with City Manager Jon Jennings for two hours to plan the transition.

“We really just had a good conversation about the importance of our relationship,” Strimling said about the city manager. “We really have to work closely together. We need to lead by example to unite the city and do everything we want to accomplish.”

Strimling, who only got about two hours of sleep, said he hoped to attend the District 1 neighborhood meeting Wednesday night. He also planned to appear on WCSH-TV’s “207” program and possibly do an interview for community television in the coming days.

Over the weekend, he began reaching out to councilors, school board members and community organizations that did not support him in the race in hope of bringing them into his coalition. He expects to do more outreach in the coming days and weeks.


“Building the coalition we built was not simply to win an election, but it was to govern more effectively down the road,” he said. “Having that coalition gives us the opportunity to move mountains and I’m very optimistic.”

Strimling laid out an ambitious agenda one week before Election Day.

In his first year, he’s looking to confront the city’s heroin crisis by redirecting city resources toward treatment and prevention. He’s also looking to have a community conversation about setting financial priorities.

Within two years, he’s looking to provide targeted tax relief to seniors and low income residents and create more accountability in social service programs by finding more people jobs.

Within five years, he wants to offer universal pre-kindergarten, invest in citywide broadband Internet and permit 2,000 more housing units.

Although the mayor is limited to two, four-year terms in office, he also set 10-year goals: Create five, “Housing First” projects that provide homes and services to the chronically homeless, have 25 percent of homes and businesses using solar energy and invest in the city’s elementary schools.


“In the end, I want Portland to be on the Top 10 lists for more than simply our restaurants,” Strimling said in an Oct. 27 Press Herald Op-Ed outlining his agenda. “I want us on the lists for the best schools, the best jobs and for being the most affordable city in relation to our incomes.”

The full-time mayor post, which pays $70,000 a year, comes with little real power, since the city manager is still responsible for running the city and the mayor is only one of nine votes on the City Council. But the mayor is supposed to work closely with fellow councilors and the city manager to set council agendas and draft the city’s budget, which is currently $322 million, including $102 million in school spending.

Jennings said Wednesday’s meeting with Strimling was “very productive.” He plans to continue meeting with Strimling between now and the Dec. 7 inauguration to bring him up to speed on the budget, council rules, the city’s organizational structure and other issues likely to come before the council.

Though they didn’t get into specifics, Jennings said the two agreed on the need to refocus the city’s priorities on the core functions of government.

“It’s an enormous undertaking to become the mayor of Maine’s largest city and to deal with the variety of issues and the institutional responsibilities,” he said. “I’ve known Ethan for many years and look forward to working with him.”

Strimling said he also plans to meet with Brennan, not only to get his advice, but also to learn more about his initiatives – such as Portland ConnectED, Growing Portland and his healthy food initiatives – and whether to keep them alive. “All of them have seeds of good work for sure,” he said.


Brennan, who received about 38 percent of the vote, could not be reached for comment. Portland Green Independent Committee Chairman Tom MacMillan finished a distant third with 10 percent of the vote.

Strimling said he has agreed to stay on as executive director of LearningWorks until his inauguration, if asked.

He has headed the educational nonprofit that helps at-risk kids, low-income families and immigrants for 18 years.

The 48-year-old said beginning a new chapter in life is both difficult and exciting.

“LearningWorks is going to be fine,” he said. “I’m the one that’s going to go through the emotional separation anxiety.”

Strimling, as well as councilors and school board members, will be inaugurated on Dec. 7.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 8:49 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5 to clarify that Strimling will stay with LearningWorks until his inauguration.

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