BRUNSWICK — Brunswick native Kate Foye is the first to throw her hat in the ring for the recently vacated Brunswick Town Council seat representing the downtown district. 

Foye announced Wednesday that she will run to represent District 6 in a January special election to replace councilor Toby McGrath, who stepped down last week to tend to family matters. 

Foye, who works for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development in communications and legislative affairs, also has experience in hospitality, fundraising, political campaigns and community development

Kate Foye. Contributed photo

If elected, she believes her experience and expertise will help her guide Brunswick, especially the downtown community, as town officials and business owners work to recover from the ongoing fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I have watched Brunswick grow and change over the years as we’ve met and overcome a number of challenges. Today, we face another great obstacle —  a threat to our health, our livelihoods, and the fabric of our community,” she said in a news release. 

“I look forward to the challenge of supporting our small businesses as Brunswick continues to navigate the shift from reacting to the challenges of COVID-19 to building a strong economic recovery. Our downtowns and our schools are the heart and soul of the Brunswick community and we face some hard choices as we look ahead,” she said.

Beyond the school and municipal budgets and coronavirus recovery, one “exciting … project for the downtown district,” is the roughly $3 million Downtown Streetscape Enhancement Project, she said, which seeks to improve or replace sidewalks, lighting, trees and landscaping in the heart of downtown. The project is still in early phases, and staff is working to find funding, including a recent application for a $2.1 million grant through the Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Program. 

Maine Street is the heart of the downtown district and improving walkability will only improve the town’s ability to showcase what it has to offer, she said. 

If elected, Foye is committed to listening to fellow councilors and constituents, especially joining in the middle of a term, but said she will still speak her mind and not hold back if there’s something she feels needs to be said. 

“It’s not my style to not voice an opinion just because I’m in the minority,” she said, adding that she tries to lead with respect, honesty and integrity. 

“I grew up here, I’m committed to the community,” she said. “My roots are really strong. It would be an incredible opportunity to be able to earn the votes to represent (Brunswick) on the council.”

Toby McGrath resigned from the position last week after just 10 months on the council, citing a family health matter that required his full attention. 

“I’ve enjoyed the public service but it wouldn’t be fair to the constituents,” he said at the time. 

Now, McGrath is endorsing Foye, a close friend, to fill his seat. 

“Kate will do an incredible job as a Town Councilor,” he said. “District 6 is the economic heart of Brunswick, and Kate’s experience working in Augusta for the Department of Economic and Community Development will be a boon for Brunswick. She understands how state and local government can assist small businesses, especially in these difficult times.”

McGrath, elected in November 2019, replaced real estate agent Jane Millett, who decided not to run for reelection after six years on the council. 

McGrath ran against resident Jim Trusiani, and at the time, Millett lamented that there were not only so few candidates, but also the lack of diversity on the council. With her departure, Councilor-at-large Kathy Wilson became the only woman on the nine-person council.

It’s a concern that other councilors have echoed, and in November, the council voted to double the members’ compensation (for the first time in 30 years) partly with the hopes that more people, women, minorities, young families, might step up. 

If elected, Foye said her perspective as a woman could add to the council. 

“I think men and women lead differently,” she said. “It’s important to have representation on the town council and in any form of government. It’s important to be able to look around the table and think, ‘this person looks like me’ … We need more diversity.” 

McGrath’s term was set to expire Dec. 31, 2022 and whoever fills his seat will do so for the remainder of the term. 

A special election date, while not yet confirmed, is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 23. Nomination papers for anyone interested in running for the seat will be available Oct. 15 and must be submitted by Nov. 24.

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