Portland’s first responders are split over who they want to be the city’s next mayor.

Incumbent Ethan Strimling has won the support of the city’s firefighters union for the second straight election, while City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau has been endorsed by the police union – its first endorsement in recent memory. Both candidates announced their endorsements Wednesday.

The firefighters union represents 210 members and is one of several Maine-based labor groups to announce support for Strimling at a news conference Wednesday.

Chris Thomson, president of the Portland Firefighters Local 740, Professional Firefighters of Maine, said they were endorsing Strimling because he fought against decommissioning a fire station on Munjoy Hill.

Strimling offered an amendment to increase the budget by $400,000 in an effort to add nine firefighters, but it was defeated in a 6-3 City Council  vote. The Munjoy Hill station remains open with an ambulance and a fire truck and five personnel per shift, instead of eight.

“Mayor Strimling has been a strong supporter of the Portland firefighters,” Thomson said in a written statement. “Throughout the budget process he has listened to our concerns about cuts to our staffing and consistently supported the fire department at every meeting of the finance committee and at regular council meetings … Mayor Strimling listened to our grievances and spoke for us in the meetings, where we are not allowed to speak. Without his offer to amend the budget, we would have been cut without discussion.”


During his news conference, Strimling also announced support from other unions, including the Maine Lobstering Union, Local 207; International Longshoremen’s Association, Local 861; and the Maine AFL-CIO. Those join a growing list of labor groups supporting Strimling’s campaign since he began raising money in November. Strimling’s campaign said it has received support from 31 unions in all.

Thibodeau, meanwhile, said in a news release that he had received the endorsement of the Portland Police Benevolent Association, the union representing all officers below the rank of sergeant. The union represents 120 members.

Union President Les Smith said he was not available to comment Wednesday, but said in a written statement that the union appreciated Thibodeau’s collaborative approach.

“Public safety is a team effort and Spencer has proven to be committed to the health, vibrancy and safety of our city,” Smith said. “As a councilor he has worked collaboratively to ensure Portland’s officers can provide the highest level of service and we are confident he will continue to do so as mayor.”

Candidates also have been collecting competing endorsements from city officials.

Thibodeau has been endorsed by five fellow city councilors and a school board member.


Strimling has been endorsed by one city councilor and five sitting school board members.

Kate Snyder, a former school board chair also running for mayor, has been endorsed by two city councilors.

This will be the city’s third mayoral election since switching in 2011 from a ceremonial mayor appointed by fellow members of the council to a mayor elected by city voters.

Portland’s mayor is a full-time position that pays about $73,000 a year and carries a four-year term, which is one year longer than the terms of other councilors and one year longer than school board terms. However, the mayor has no executive control over city staffing or operations – those duties belong to the city manager.

The mayor’s duties include guiding policy development by working with councilors to establish citywide goals and implementing those goals through the city manager. The mayor is also tasked with providing comments on city budgets, giving an annual “State of the City” address and advocating for the city at the state and federal levels.

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