A rally announcing the candidacy of business owner James Tranchemontagne for mayor kicked off the local election season this week in Westbrook – one where a total of eight municipal seats are up for grabs.

Tranchemontagne, running as an independent, used Monday’s event at his restaurant, the Frog & Turtle, to collect the necessary signatures to run, but also to lay out his vision for Westbrook.

Well-known for the restaurant and his volunteerism, he is also often seen as a polarizing figure when it comes to local political issues, often pointing sharp criticism at Westbrook officials and using social media to spread his message – a point that he acknowledged Monday.

But Tranchemontagne said his small-business mentality explains his passionate reactions to city issues.

“My life is making quick decisions, and is very matter-of-fact,” he said, likening it to how a coach critiques a player following a poor performance.

It is still unknown who his Democratic and Republican opponents will be. Mayor Colleen Hilton, who is serving the last few months of her third term, is still undecided on whether she will seek re-election, and neither party’s local committee has announced a caucus date.

Tranchemontagne and Republican candidate Ernest Porell lost to Hilton, a Democrat, in 2013.

At Monday’s rally, roughly 30 people listened as Tranchemontagne rolled out his plan for Westbrook, which included ideas both new and recurring from his last campaign.

These include streamlining the budget and city positions in order to lower the property tax rate, an added focus on government transparency, setting up a larger loan system for small businesses to make downtown improvements, holding quarterly joint meetings among the City Council, Planning Board and School Committee, and consolidating services between the city and school departments.

He said he believes the mayor should have more control over the schools, and that the school board should be a section of city government.

He’s also continuing his idea to bring the Westbrook Performing Arts Center under city control in order to use the space on nights and weekends for concerts, putting the revenue back into the school system.

Another of his themes is that he would look at running the city much the same way as he runs his business. He said he is always looking at new ways for the Frog & Turtle to run more efficiently.

“In business, the idea is either going to work, or it’s going to fail,” he said.

Referring to his plan for City Hall, Tranchemontagne said he would not “clean house,” but said he would work to change union contracts.

Matt Brunner, a friend and supporter, introduced Tranchemontagne during the rally. Brunner, who ran for School Committee last November, said he doesn’t always agree with Tranchemontagne, but said he is always honest – sometimes to a fault.

“He’s not always nice when he’s being honest,” he said. “But it’s impossible to be honest and deceptive.”

Tranchemontagne also used the event to talk about his personal story. Unlike many mayoral candidates, he didn’t grow up in Westbrook, but said his hometown of Sanford, with its mills and French-Canadian heritage, has striking similarities to Westbrook. He said because of that, he brought his business and his family here.

“I guarantee you I am Westbrook. I love this city,” he said.

The election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, has the potential to bring a large voter turnout to the polls, with the combination of a presidential election, state legislative races, the local City Council and School Committee seats, and referendums that will most likely include a Westbrook school expansion project.

City Clerk Angela Holmes said Tuesday that based on the numbers from the last three presidential elections, she is predicting a turnout in Westbrook of about 8,900, which is roughly 75 percent of the city’s 12,000 registered voters.

“If someone doesn’t vote very often, a presidential election will be the one they turn out for,” she said.

Holmes said she has sent an overview of the local election information to all city committees, which also includes the Green/Independent party committee that was formed during the June primaries.

Four Westbrook City Council seats and three School Committee seats – all for three years – are up for election. On the council, wards 1, 2 and 5, held by Brendan Rielly, Victor Chau and Mike Sanphy, respectively, are on the ballot, as well as an at-large seat held by Michael Foley. All incumbents are Democrats.

On the School Committee, wards 3 and 4, held by Noreen Poitras and Mike Popovic, respectively, and the at-large seat held by Suzanne Joyce, will also be on the ballot.

Nomination papers are available at City Hall. They must be returned 45 days prior to the election, by Sept. 26.

James Tranchemontagne addresses a gathering of supporters at the Frog & Turtle restaurant Monday. The position of mayor is just one of eight elected seats to be decided this November.

A Closer Look

Here are the three-year seats that are up for election in Westbrook come November:

Mayor: Colleen Hilton

Councilor, At-Large: Michael Foley

Councilor, Ward 1: Brendan Rielly

Councilor, Ward 2: Victor Chau

Councilor, Ward 5: Michael Sanphy

School Committee, At-Large: Suzanne Joyce

School Committee, Ward 3: Noreen Poitras

School Committee, Ward 4: Michael Popovic


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