Westbrook has been undergoing significant change and the four candidates for Westbrook mayor said they want to embrace and help manage that change.

The city has been transformed from an industrial town largely dependent for jobs and taxes on a paper mill into a more diversified economy with more restaurants and entertainment options.

The Rock Row mixed-use project, bringing shops, offices and apartments to Westbrook, is likely to accelerate that change.

Incumbent Mayor Mike Sanphy said he will harness some of that change if he’s re-elected to a second three-year term.

“I think we’ve made some significant progress in the city,” Sanphy said, citing an ability to maintain social assistance while capping costs and a new $500 rebate on property taxes for senior citizens.

Sanphy said he’d like to see Westbrook shift more of the tax burden from homeowners to the commercial base, which he said should be easier once Rock Row, on the site of a former quarry, is developed.


Sanphy said he will continue to focus on ways to keep taxes down if he’s reelected. Two major projects that have added to the tax bill – a new public services building and a school expansion – were both approved by voters, indicating popular support and taxpayers’ willingness to support some spending, he said.

Michael Foley said he plans to draw on his deep experience in Westbrook government if he’s elected mayor. For Foley, that goes back to his school days, when he was a student representative on the school board. He’s served 12 years on the City Council.

If elected, Foley said he will focus on finances and economics, public safety, the environment and leadership.

Westbrook has been successful in drawing new businesses to the city and now needs to develop strategies to keep them, he said.

“A lot of times, economic development is focused on attracting businesses rather than retaining them,” Foley said.

Westbrook should make sure it can keep, and perhaps expand, the senior citizen property tax relief program, he said, and try to develop downtown with more residential options. The police should step up traffic enforcement, Foley said, and the city needs to look at ways to harness solar electricity and consider a city-wide composting program.


“We’re a changing community and we need to come together to solve all these pressing issues,” Foley said. “There’s a lot going on in Westbrook and we need someone to be a leader for the future.”

Philip Spiller, a commercial airline pilot, said that if he’s elected he will push Westbrook to strengthen itself as a community and said that requires a vision beyond balancing a municipal budget.

“It’s not simply focusing on finances and fire truck funds,” he said. “It’s how safe and secure you feel, how your home inspires you each day, and your confidence in the future and how proud you are of your home.”

Spiller, the son of a former Westbrook mayor, said that with a new attitude, Westbrook has an opportunity to be one of the country’s great cities. He said Westbrook can be a leader in sustainability and improve its streets, parks and schools if it stops “being afraid of failure, but even worse, afraid of success.”

Michael Shaughnessy said he wants to encourage everyone to offer ideas to position Westbrook for the future.

“We all bring something different to the plate,” the University of Southern Maine art professor said, saying the city needs to look at innovative approaches to housing, transportation, food and energy.


For instance, Shaughnessy said, the city could try to encourage property owners to install rooftop solar energy panels or look into community solar projects.

More bike paths, better transportation and urban agriculture – even public orchards – could be tried, Shaughnessy said.

“There are lots of creative ways” to drive innovation, he said. “I think there’s a lot of potential that we don’t really capitalize on.”

The city could explore ways to collaborate with neighboring towns and cities on some projects, Shaughnessy said, and Westbrook could offer incentives to encourage innovation. But the best approach, he said,  is to throw open the doors to ideas.

Everyone “should have a place at the table, he said. “That really takes the edge off things, if we all have a voice in this in some way.”

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