The Democratic candidate for the Westbrook City Council at-large seat is looking to return to the decision-making body, while his opponent seeks to be a councilor for the first time.

Michael Foley, who opted not to run for re-election in 2016 so he could spend time with his wife and newborn son, said he was encouraged by others to seek a return to the council where he had served for 10 years.

His opponent is Deb Shangraw, who owns a property management company in Westbrook and has been an active participant in city issues for years.

Foley said he’d like to focus on stabilizing the city’s tax rate and continue to push for public transit improvements.

“I can hit the ground running,” he said. “There will be no learning curve.”

The open seat is being vacated by John O’Hara, a rare Republican in the Democratic-dominated city government. O’Hara, in a letter to the editor in the Portland Press Herald, endorsed Foley.

Foley said he had grown frustrated with the pace of government when he decided to step down, but is eager to get back on the council.

Foley, who serves on the board of Metro, the Portland-area transit district, said he helped spearhead a major expansion of bus service to Westbrook while he served on the council and would like to see even more routes and buses in the city.

He also would like to encourage more development in Westbrook, particularly downtown, as a way to broaden the tax base and ease the tax burden on homeowners.

Shangraw, a Republican, said she’d like to see a party member hold onto O’Hara’s seat to maintain a diversity of opinion.

“Republicans aren’t a huge group here in Westbrook and I want to keep the seat Republican because it’s important to have different perspectives,” she said.

Shangraw said she has been involved as a spectator and commentator in the city’s decision-making for years and is eager to get on the other side of the process.

She said the city should take a look at whether its departments are operating efficiently, and she would like experts to review those operations to make sure they are effective. She has been helping to lead a review of the community center’s operations and said it’s a job that could be expanded and possibly lead to greater efficiencies.

“We might find that there’s a better way to do business,” Shangraw said. “That will bring Westbrook all kinds of benefits.”

One immediate benefit, she said, could be savings that would let the city keep taxes in line, which has been an interest of hers since helping to found Westbrook Taxpayers United. She’s also focused on continuing development in the community, both to make the city more vibrant and to ease the reliance on homeowners’ property taxes as the key source of revenue.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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