WESTBROOK — Republican Steve Willette and Democrats Claude Rwaganje and Mcdonald Johnson hope to win the race for the at-large City Council seat being vacated by Ann Peoples.

Rwaganje was nominated at the Democratic Caucus in August, while Willette and Johnson gathered signatures and filed papers to secure their names on the Nov. 5 ballot. Peoples did not seek re-election.

Johnson, a Democrat, wants to advocate for Westbrook schools and the elderly, he said.

“A lot of our city budget goes to the school, but the cuts leave the budget insufficient and programs are suffering,” Johnson said. “If we have good students coming out of the schools, they would bring more things to Westbrook, which could reduce the tax burden as more businesses bring more tax money into the city.”

He wants the council to focus more on helping the elderly.

“They have paid their dues and it’s about time we take care of them, too,” Johnson said. “The mayor started the senior tax break program, that is good and I applaud that, but we can do more. Some seniors are happy about it, but some think the process is too cumbersome.”


Johnson says that he is a good listener.

“I’m reachable, I am here and easy to talk to,”  said Johnson, who moved to Maine from Liberia about 20 years ago. “I feel that I am a commoner from Westbrook. I’ve been here for 10 years, starting as a volunteer soccer coach and got all involved. I am available, people around aren’t as readily available. I have the time to devote, and that’s on my side.”

Rwaganje, founder and director of the nonprofit financial literacy group ProsperityME, wants to tackle specific issues as well as be a representative for the city’s growing immigrant population.

“The aging population is growing, and it’s not a secret. We have many seniors, but also many new Mainers,” he said. “Somehow, I felt that we weren’t representing them, not to say that those who represent them aren’t doing good, but do we really, really understand their needs? There is a culture and language barrier, and I realized when someone goes to City Hall and wants to ask a question, who should they go to?

Rwaganje, from the Congo, said immigrants and refugees need to be accepted in the workforce, which is shrinking in Maine. They can also expand tax revenue in the city with new businesses.

“People say (immigrants) just take, but I’ve come and created jobs. … A number of businesses here, we are giving back,” Rwaganje said.


A new workforce and strengthened programs for those in need will help Westbrook.

“Whether you are talking about a senior with a fixed income or low income or new Mainers, people don’t have the means to afford the market price of homes, which could be very high in Westbrook now going forward, and wages don’t match that,” he said.

“For seniors and new Mainers, many of the issues are similar and that has no color,” he said. “I am not coming to change City Hall, but give it the value I have.”

Willette, the sole Republican candidate for the seat, also sees rising taxes and costs of living as harming the elderly and low income.

“My concern is that with all of the development we have had, the taxes are up,” Willette said. “I know we voted for the school bond and public services building, but my concern is we do too much borrowing. Local governments tend to borrow when time is good and bad, but we should be doing more saving so when times are bad we have a rainy day fund. Westbrook also doesn’t seem affordable right now. We still have to redo the Canal School, too, and the fire department needs a ladder truck. These are big projects.”

Willette, a horticulture student interested in soil conditions, also looks to educate residents on ways to reduce lawn care chemicals from polluting the Presumpscot River and hopes to promote overall sustainability and environmentalism.


“With everything we are doing for the river, that is now a major asset that we should protect,” he said.

He said he doesn’t claim to have all the answers but believes working on the council would lead him to them. He previously served one term on the council.

“I’m a great listener, I work collaboratively, I work across party lines and am open to new ideas,” he said. “When I was on the council they fought a lot, and you don’t see that anymore so I’d like to continue that, too.”

Willette is a part of “Team Westbrook,” made up of Republican and Democratic candidates who have endorsed one another and campaign together with the motto, “We serve the people, not a party.”

“I don’t agree with the national politics with what is going on, I just care about Westbrook,” Willette said. “We are like that. We may not always agree, but we have respect for people, we work together, and that is how it should be.”

Comments are not available on this story.