Alan Casavant talked about his plans for his fifth term as Biddeford’s mayor on Nov. 8 in his office in Biddeford City Hall. Dina Mendros photo

BIDDEFORD — Alan Casavant, 67, was elected for his fifth term as Biddeford’s mayor on Nov. 5. In a close race, the Biddeford native garnered 2,234 votes to the 2,127 earned by his opponent, Jason Litalien.

Prior to being elected mayor for the first time in 2011, Casavant served four terms as a state representative — he completed is fourth term while serving his first two-year term as mayor — and had retired after teaching at Biddeford High School for 35 years. He also served 18 years on the Biddeford City Council.

Casavant is married to Patricia Jalbert; he has two stepchildren and two dogs.

On Friday, Nov. 8, Mayor Casavant, sitting in his office in Biddeford City Hall, answered a number of questions about the election and what he hopes to accomplish in his next term.

Q: How it does feel to be reelected?

A: It feels good. I was tense (Election) Day. In the morning I felt really good because I knew everyone who came in to vote. But then there was a lull and in the early evening I didn’t know so many people. I started to get a little nervous.

I knew it was going to be difficult because the longer you’re in office the more enemies you make. Some vote against just because they think five terms is too long and want a new face.

I just hoped I could hold onto certain segments of the population who always support me.

Q: This election was especially contentious. One of the major issues that differentiated you from your opponent was your position on a parking plan that includes paid parking in municipal-owned lots and construction of a parking garage on city-owned property in the mill district. You support both of these and Jason Litalien said he was against both. How do you think this impacted the election?

A: I knocked on doors and doors and nobody brought it up. Maybe one person mentioned. No one else talked about parking garages.

Q: In many ways, it seems that there are two Biddefords, with some long time residents being resistant to change and others who are looking to see the city grow in positive ways.

A: The demographics in Biddeford have changed dramatically. It’s a younger city.

Biddeford is the new Brooklyn, with many having moved here from Brooklyn, New York. There are more people from Boston.

They bring in a new optimism. The majority of people opening new businesses are from away.

Some residents are clinging to the past. Some hate the change.

I suspect when a community is going though a lot of changes there is a lot of turmoil. Until everything shakes out there is going to be an us versus them mentality.

Q: For many, two terms as mayor is more than enough. Why did you run for a fifth term?

A: I genuinely like the job, and I want to keep the momentum of Biddeford’s growth going.

I thought about not running, 10 years is a long time.

However, I thought the opposition had a view of Biddeford that was in a direction I didn’t want the city to go.

I want to see the mill district develop, I want to see tax rate stabilization and I want people see what we’re talking about — how both those things are related. I think a lot of people can’t connect the dots.

It’s exciting to be this 21st century city instead of that old mill stereotype that seems to weigh us down like an anchor.

Q: What would you like to accomplish in the next two years?

A: I want to change the perception of Biddeford to outsiders and residents. We’re not the same city we were 20 years ago 10, five or even three years ago.

I want to present citizens with the facts and the assets we have such as the more people living in the mill district, the more new businesses are created in the downtown and mill district. It’s a ripple effect.

We have a gift in the downtown and mill district that benefits everyone in terms of increased value of the city and tax stabilization.

Q: What are some of the problems in Biddeford that you think city government needs to address?

A: I do think we have to do a better job of explaining what we’re doing to residents, better communication. The lack of information fuels peoples fears.

Also, so many people are being left behind in this economy.

We have a problem with out housing stock. There are a large number of buildings in need of an infusion of cash.

When new people come in and buy an apartment building and they fix up the place that’s great. But because of the money they’ve spent they have to raise the rent and there is lot of displacement of residents.

We’re talking with Maine State Housing about how to get money to help out the smaller landlords so they can fix up their buildings and keep units affordable. We can’t do it just through the city’s general fund, there are too many other things to pay for with that money; it’s not sustainable.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is this building, City Hall desperately needs some tender loving care. Since the recession there’s not a lot of cash and every year the price goes up.

But look at my windows, they’re steamed up and have sticks in the windows to keep them up. The city tries to be frugal but there are things that have to be done.

I think we have to go out for a bond for road improvement. The sidewalks are horrible but fixing them costs money.

We also need to do something about the high poverty rate and transients in the schools. When people argue that out schools are horrible, they are not. But student performance is linked to poverty and transiency.

Q: Any last thoughts?

A: It’s important to keep the economic boom going. You’re not going to see it again for a long time.

I want to pull more people into believing Biddeford is a great place to live, work and play.

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