Every city or town has its gadflies – folks who attend every council meeting and have an unending reserve of opinions.

Too often, they’ve tussled with the tax assessor or lost a municipal election, so they come with an ax to grind.

Russ Lunt isn’t one of them, though you’ll find him at every City Council and Planning Board meeting in South Portland, his beloved hometown.

Lunt is a big, lumbering ray of sunshine and positivity. A public works retiree with a bad hip and a ready smile, he’s a community cheerleader whose face is familiar to those who watch City Hall meetings on the local cable channel.

Lunt usually steps to the mic during the public comment segment of council meetings and delivers a brief but glowing roundup of city happenings. A public works project that’s underway. A business that moved. A community event that went well.

“I like to keep people informed and I like to keep things positive,” Lunt said. “It’s just a knack I have. I’m not a negative person. I try to see the good in everything.”


Lunt began attending City Hall meetings three years ago, after he retired from a 34-year career that started riding on the back of a rubbish truck and led to fixing roads and plowing snow.

“I know every inch of this city,” he boasts. “I think it gives me good insight into what’s going on.”

He arrives at meetings early and stays late. He speaks on most agenda items, tempering opposition with gentlemanly deference. He thinks of himself as a community watchdog.

“I just love it,” Lunt said. “People say it must be so boring, but to me it’s extremely interesting.”

He’s politically conservative, so he stands out in a city that’s increasingly liberal and progressive. He doesn’t like the pesticide ban that the council passed last summer or its efforts to block the local pipeline from bringing U.S. and Canadian crude into the city.

But he respects the councilors for the tough decisions they have to make. The feeling is mutual.


“Russ is unusual because he always offers his perspective in a positive manner,” said Mayor Tom Blake. “He speaks from the heart and I believe he is truly dedicated to the betterment of South Portland.”

Lunt shakes off the idea of running for office. “I like to say how I feel and I don’t want to play politics,” he said.

Married and divorced young, Lunt has an adult son, a longtime girlfriend and a burgeoning Facebook following of people who enjoy his iPhone photos of South Portland and beyond.

In January, Lunt is scheduled to have surgery on his bad hip, a consequence of shifting gears in big trucks for decades. But he’s concerned about skipping council meetings.

“I feel bad because I don’t want to miss any,” he said.

Mainers to be thankful for

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