WINDHAM — A returning candidate and a political newcomer will face off in two races for Town Council next month.

Newcomer Harrison Deah is challenging incumbent Brett Jones for the East District seat. The position represents Windham residents from south to north along Roosevelt Trail to the intersection with Varney Mill Road, then along Ditch Brook to Tandberg Trail, and also from the intersection of Ditch Brook and Tandberg Trail, between Collins and Mill Ponds, from west to east along Tandberg Trail to the Gray town line.

For the at large seat, Bob Muir, who previously served on the council, faces newcomer Mark Morrison. Both seats are for three-year terms.

Current at large Councilor Clayton Haskell is not seeking re-election; he could not be reached for comment.

All four candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot cited growth as one of the main challenges facing the town and at the top of their list if elected. They said that a growth ordinance passed by the Town Council in August, which limits the number of building permits that can be issued each year, will need continued examination.

“I think after COVID-19 you’re going to see more people come out of the bigger cities,” Jones said. “Windham looks very favorable for that growth, and we’ve had a significant increase in the last few years before COVID-19, so I see that only getting worse on the council.”

Jones was appointed to the council following Councilor Rebecca Cummings’ resignation in February over her opposition to allowing retail marijuana in town.

Deah, the social services director for the city of Westbrook, said it will be imperative to consider whether new developments are the “best fit for the town of Windham,” and if not, “we need to make sure we’re walking away from them.”

Morrison said that the town must think about growth “proactively … we have made some significant steps forward in trying to be more proactive to try and get ahead of it and managing it, versus with being reactive.”

Muir last served on the council in 2019, but lost a reelection campaign to Councilor David Douglass. Now, he said, “I’d like to be on the council when they’re talking about those things,” citing growth, traffic on Route 302 and the sewer system in North Windham.

East District
Deah

Deah said that although this is his first time running for elected office, he brings extensive professional experience to the table.

“All my working life I’ve been helping people (and this is) another way to give back to the community that has given back to my family and (me),” he said.

Prior to working for the city of Westbrook, Deah worked with homeless veterans to find housing at the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland.

“In my job, (I’m) solving people’s problems. That’s what I do each and every day … I’m working in the best interest of clients. That’s what I’m bringing to the council, (to) citizens. Their voice has to be heard, (but) also to find common ground and common solutions.”

In addition to growth, Deah said that another big topic he’s heard about from residents is taxes.

“We all pay taxes, but we also need to be cognizant that we are in depressed times with COVID … (and) prioritizing how we spend tax payer dollars,” while also making sure that residents are getting the assistance and resources that they need.

Deah said that he is running on a campaign of “accountability,” and that community engagement will be key to “help moving the town forward.”

Jones

As a farm owner, Jones said he understands the pressure on many Windham landowners to sell their land to make space for residential and commercial developments.

“If we want to keep Windham looking the way it is, we’ve got to find other ways to protect (open space),” Jones said.

He has served twice on the council; both times he was appointed following a vacancy. He ran for the at large seat in 2017 but lost to Councilor Clayton Haskell.

Jones said in his time on the council, he’s worked to create a sewer system, especially in the commercial-heavy North Windham district, as well as for private roads.

A sewer system is “all connected” to the growth of the town,” he said. “What our town is going to look like in 20 years is up to you to shape.”

When he started on the council in 2016, it was “focusing heavily” on private roads, but said there is more work to be done there, he said.

Right now, however, Jones said that his main priority is “protecting our town employees,” and ensuring they get their paychecks, adding that he’s been involved in numerous labor contracts as both a career firefighter and public servant and as an appointed official on town committees.

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet (with COVID-19). I think we have an interesting fall and winter ahead of us.”

He said he brings his 28 years of “serving the public in a variety of (ways)” to the council, along with his understanding of crisis and emergency management.

At large
Morrison

As a resident of Windham for 30-plus years, Morrison said “we need to make sure that we still maintain our family character” when discussing growth.

“Windham has a charm to it. It has a very strong community base,” he said.

On the flip side of managing growth, the sewer system and traffic issues need to be dealt with, he said.

“There are some constraints that are holding the town a bit, especially with the North Windham area. Traffic is becoming more and more of a problem, especially in the summer and fall months when we have a lot of visitors from out of state.”

Not only is reducing and improving the overall flow of traffic a safety issue, but it is also a matter of convenience, Morrison said.

“Convenience cannot be understated because we need to have people from the town comfortable to go to North Windham and do business, and also from other towns … If it’s a good experience then we’ll see more business come our way,” he said.

Installing a sewer system will also expand business opportunities, which will “bring more jobs and broaden our business base from a tax standpoint,” he said.

Morrison added that he wants to improve programs and initiatives for residents, especially seniors.

“Many of them still want to give back, (and we) need to make sure that we have resources available to them to assist with that,” he said.

His many years as a financial advisor and his background in economics gives him “an approach that allows me to look at things and analyze to make sure that the initiatives that we are considering are sound and fiscally responsible. (We have) to be able to roll up our sleeves and do our due diligence,” Morrison said.

Muir

Muir’s years of experience serving on the Town Council equip him to be the voice for people who do not feel comfortable standing in council chambers (or speaking via Zoom) about the issues they care about, he said.

“I’ve done that before if I know what they’re looking to ask. I’ve always been able to bring up (their concerns) to the table,” Muir said.

He said he wants to look at noise in the town and also ensure that public services, such as Public Works and the Police Department, are able to keep up with growing infrastructure and population.

“It’s inevitable, we’re growing, but there are a lot of issues that go along with that,” he said.

“The more people you have, you’re looking at your Police Department (and) the number of patrols that you have out there. The more buildings, subdivisions, streets you have, (the more) plowing with Public Works.”

In looking at these issues, as well as a new sewer system, Muir said that he wants “to make sure that whatever we do in any of these areas is going to be a good deal for the town and taxpayers,” also keeping in mind how spending decisions could affect taxes.

“I’m a conservative and I’d like to have that voice be heard on the council.”

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