A former one-term mayor and a longtime city councilor are competing to be the next mayor of Saco as the city sees new economic development and voters prepare to decide Nov. 7 whether to invest nearly $12 million in infrastructure upgrades.

Donald Pilon, who represented Saco for four terms in the Maine House of Representatives, is looking to return to the mayor’s office to continue programs he supported during his term that ended in 2015. Former councilor Marston Lovell, now a York County commissioner, says he wants to return to Saco City Hall to provide guidance during what he describes as a transition period for the city.

Pilon, 66, was mayor for two years starting in 2013, but lost his bid for re-election. A real estate broker who is active with several local nonprofit organizations, he says he feels a void in his life when he is not serving the public. Now ready to return to public office, he said he would like to focus on continuing the programs he supported as mayor.

Pilon said his accomplishments from his first term include fostering collaboration with Biddeford to find cost savings, advocating for the extension of natural gas lines to support economic development on Saco Island and in other parts of the city, and convincing the City Council to hire a commercial broker to sell lots in the business parks.

Pilon feels Saco should fill its business parks with technology companies rather than the medical marijuana growers who currently occupy multiple properties in the area. Pilon said he does not believe growing marijuana is the “highest and best use of the space” because the growers are not providing career paths and are not job creators.

“By building our industrial parks and bringing in more business, you create more jobs and bring in industries that create new jobs to keep people in Saco,” Pilon said.

Pilon would like to create a mayor’s advisory committee that includes representatives from Saco Main Street, the city economic development office and the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce.

“We could be a bigger force and have more things to offer. Saco could do better,” he said. “There’s more synergy if you’re together instead of apart.”

If elected, Pilon said he would also support exploring additional ways to save money by sharing services or positions with Biddeford. During his first term, he said he helped built collaboration with Biddeford through his relationship with Mayor Alan Casavant, who remains in office. At that time, the cities sought funding together for a pedestrian bridge to link the mill districts over the Saco River.

“(Casavant) and I saw the value in the bridge because it was a symbolic and economic connection between the cities,” Pilon said.

Like Pilon, Lovell said he wants to explore ways to save money by partnering with Biddeford, but would also use the connections he developed through his role as a county commissioner to work with other neighboring communities, including Scarborough and Buxton.

“There’s a bit of redundancy among all of our direct neighbors,” he said.

Lovell served on the City Council from 2007 to 2013 before his election as a York County commissioner. He has long been involved with the Maine Municipal Association, serving on various committees and meeting municipal officials from across the state. Those connections coupled with his experience as a county commissioner have prepared him for the role of mayor, Lovell said.

“Though there is always more to be learned, I believe the instruction, reading materials and the matters that have been dealt with by the commission during my time as a commissioner have provided me an understanding of how city and county government can work together to improve the efficient use of Saco’s property tax dollars,” he said.

With a background in accounting and years of experience with the city budget, Lovell said he feels he can bring “fiscal wisdom” to the budget process in Saco.

“It’s not knowing how to make money, but how to spend it that’s important,” he said. “In government it’s not hard to make money because you’re holding people at the end of a mil rate, but knowing how to spend it and recognize it as a limited resource is important.”

Lovell said he supports generating more economic activity in the city, both through manufacturing as people again appreciate the value of “Made in the USA” products and with a diverse range of small downtown businesses to draw people to Saco. He sees Main Street as a rich market for boutiques, restaurants and other small businesses that are specialized and whose customer bases haven’t been captured by large retailers like Amazon.

“This is an exciting and pivotal time for Saco. I believe I can be an effective advocate for Saco locally, regionally and statewide to facilitate the city’s progress,” he said.

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

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