Two longtime city councilors face challenges from political newcomers in the race for two Sanford City Council seats.

Councilors Joseph Hanslip and Maura Herlihy, who is also deputy mayor, are trying to keep seats they have held for multiple terms. Challengers Crystal Helmreich and Kari Zielke, who are both educators, want to bring new ideas and perspectives to the council.

The City Council seats carry three-year terms.

Hanslip has served on the council since 2005 and was a county commissioner from 1997 to 2004. A police officer who retired because of injuries received in the line of duty, his chief concerns are economic development, stabilizing the tax rate and improving the city’s infrastructure.

Hanslip said he would like to continue serving as the city anticipates new economic development opportunities, municipal broadband coming and a new high school opening.

“It’s really an exciting time to be involved in government in Sanford and Springvale. There are a lot of good and interesting and important things going on,” he said. “We’ve made great improvements for infrastructure in terms of roads and building.”

The council has enacted progressive policies aimed at cleaning up housing and abandoned properties and Hanslip said he would like to continue that work.

“We have some great landlords who are responsible people. We also have some unscrupulous landlords, a few who live in town and many who are absentee landlords. The properties they rent to people are subpar. They’re not safe and they’re not healthy. There are a lot of people who are living in squalor. It’s wrong,” he said. “Basic clean, safe housing is a right everyone should enjoy. Beyond that, it drags down the value of other people’s properties who make appropriate investments in their properties and keep an eye on their tenants.”

Herlihy, the managing owner of Townhouse Properties, is a Sanford native who served on the council from 2004 to 2009. She was re-elected in 2012 and has held the seat since. She is seeking another term to continue working on issues such as improving housing stock.

“We’re going to be looking at dealing with some of our difficult properties,” she said. “We want to make the housing in our community better and expand opportunities.”

Herlihy, 48, said she sees this as a critical and exciting time for the city, with a new high school opening, a new city-owned fiber optic network and a solar array at the municipal airport. There are business opportunities ahead, which shows Sanford is coming out of the economic recession well, she said.

“We’re heading in a strong direction and we’re really poised to turn that corner you have when you’re redefining yourself,” she said. “I want to see some of the things I had in my youth, like a burgeoning downtown. It’s about bringing back some of what we had, but we have to think about what our opportunities are in this day and age.”

Helmreich, 59, who grew up in Sanford and raised her children there, said after years of watching taxes go up and little change at city hall, she finally has the time to get involved and bring new ideas to the council.

“The town is stagnated and at a dead end. Change needs to happen,” she said. “People are in office for years. Sanford is dying at the hands of our political system.”

Helmreich said she would push to find out why some storefronts sit empty for years and how the city can attract new businesses. She would like to see the city build on momentum generated with the new high school and projects like the solar farm to create a community where people want to live and where they feel safe.

Helmreich said she often talks to residents who are “tired of the same old, same old.”

“They say we need change and people who are willing to speak out,” she said. “We’re all looking for some change and more communication from officials. We need to be more transparent. We don’t communicate with the people here very well. It’s like a big secret meeting all the time. We need to work together to bring this town back to where it used to be.”

Zielke, 32, said she was motivated to run because sitting councilors have been on the board for so long. A married mother of five, she said she often feels the council does not represent the views of many residents, including her neighbors.

“I want to make sure there is a voice on the council from the parts of the city that people don’t think about,” she said. “I think it’s also super important to have a younger voice on the council. I have a very different perspective on things. Bringing a family and working class view is important.”

Zielke attended a local program, Parents Leadership Training Institute, which teaches parents how to be leaders and advocates. She has since become involved with various community service projects and would like to bring back similar training programs.

In recent months, she has spoken publicly to draw attention to drug dealing in her neighborhood. Zielke said she wants to ensure the city has enough rehabilitation and addiction resources, to address abandoned properties and to revitalize Sanford to make it more business-friendly.

Zielke would also like to explore the benefit of Sanford issuing limited licenses for recreational marijuana businesses to generate revenue for the city.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: @grahamgillian