Foley

WESTBROOK — Mayor-elect Mike Foley, working with City Administrator Jerre Bryant and Mayor Mike Sanphy on his move from the City Council to the mayor’s office, says the transition won’t be a challenge.

Foley won the Nov. 5 election by receiving 100 more votes than Sanphy, both outpolling candidates Phil Spiller and Michael Shaughnessy in the four-way race. He will take office Dec. 2.

“I have already started working with Jerre, and we considered a transition team, but given my length of service in the city it wasn’t necessary, I already know the department heads and things,” Foley said in an interview this week.

Foley was a student representative on the City Council at age 16 and was elected to an at-large seat while a senior in high school, stepping down in 2016. He was elected again in 2018.

“This is my fifth mayor and the transition is going very well. Certainly, knowledge and familiarity helps that happen,” Bryant said.

“Every mayor has a different approach to the job, and certainly there is an advantage to have someone coming in that I have a history of working with,” Bryant said. “I think (Foley) is going to be more active, and he approaches the job in contrast to the current mayor. Mike has a different approach.”

Foley said he plans to continue Sanphy’s veteran services and senior tax break programs, and will reappoint all department heads.

“We informed them of that, to dispel rumors of changes,” Foley said. “We still have money left from the senior tax program, so I will be working with (Bryant) to see if we can reopen the enrollment for that as well.”

Over the next few weeks, Foley will meet with department heads and will join Bryant at the Greater Portland Council of Government’s Mayor’s Coalition.

“I will be working right away to get a new traffic enforcement officer, which we greatly need,” Foley said. “Soon after I take office, we will also be starting our budget season.”

He said he hopes to work with the schools on their budgets from the beginning to set reasonable spending goals to avoid tension later on caused by reduction mandates from the City Council.

“I am meeting with Superintendent Peter Lancia later this week. There has always been some strain between the council and the school department, there is the idea that their cuts are to their existing budget instead of just (proposed additions to the budget),” he said. “I want to work on that and build our relationship with the schools.”

Foley will be working with a nearly new City Council, with newcomers Claude Rwaganje in the at-large seat, David Morse in Ward 1 and Elliot Storey, Ward 5. The new councilors will also be sworn in Dec. 2.

“These are people I think will positively challenge me, they all care about the city and I look forward to working with them,” Foley said.

Further, Foley hopes for a caucus to find a replacement for his at-large seat by Thanksgiving. Although he has no control over the appointment, he is recommending his mayoral opponent Shaughnessy for the role. Newly ousted Ward 5 Councilor Larry McWilliams also is seeking Foley’s seat.

“I also hope the council continues to support Gary Rairdon as the chair,” Foley said.

To improve communication with Westbrook residents, Foley said he is thinking about having an official “mayor’s page” on Facebook or elsewhere on social media so he can make announcements.

This year’s mayoral race was particularly tense between Foley and Spiller. Spiller’s campaign, in advertisements and on social media, singled out Foley and his backers, and arguments, some including the candidates themselves, have continued on social media after the election.

Foley said that kind of campaigning can be normal in a four-way race.

“From the voter’s standpoint, a four-way race will have its divisions, but we had a lot of qualified candidates,” Foley said. “I don’t hold grudges, and I think (for voters) that tension tends to go away as we leave election time.”

Foley is also bring back the Westbrook’s traditional mayor’s inaugural ball, which Sanphy decided to forgo. The event, to be paid for by tickets to attend, will be held at a date and venue to be announced later this month.

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