Nine candidates running for seats on Bath’s city council discussed what they plan to focus on if elected. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic took center stage at a virtual forum for Bath city council candidates on Wednesday.

Nine candidates vying for four open city council seats outlined what they see as the biggest challenge facing Bath in the next three years, and why they’re qualified to sit on the city council. While the answers varied, most candidates touted their prior experience and love of Bath among the reasons they should be elected.

At-large two-year term

Julie Ambrosino is running to fill the two-year at-large seat, created when City Councilor Mari Eosco announced her resignation to care for an ailing family remember.

Ambrosino has served for one three-year term and said she’s running for re-election to help Bath recover from the COVID-19 pandemic which “continues to affect our businesses and the people who have been impacted by it through job loss, food insecurity, lack of childcare and illness.”

Ambrosino said hopefully another round of the economic relief loan program the city created in April will help local businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. The city set aside $200,000 for another round of the program in next year’s tax increment financing budget.

Brandon Sewall, who described himself as “strict but fair,” is challenging Ambrosino for the two-year at-large position. He’s also on the ballot for the three-year at-large position, but said Wednesday he is only campaigning for the two-year at-large seat.

He landed on both at-large ballots after an error was discovered in the first batch of nomination papers circulated earlier this summer. To correct the problem, the city offered nomination papers for the two-year at-large council seat in September.

Bath City Clerk Darci Wheeler said Sewall refused to sign the withdrawal from the at-large three-year term by the city’s deadline.

Sewall said he is running to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in public and private institutions.”

With this in mind, he said his priorities are tackling the parking shortage for Bath residents, refurbishing abandoned buildings in the city, and “tightening up” the city’s maintenance crew to ensure downtown trash cans aren’t overflowing.

“Trash was overflowing on the weekends, and we didn’t even have Heritage Days this year or the influx of tourism, but we still had trash cans overflowing for sometimes a whole day,” said Sewall.

The annual Heritage Days, a weeklong annual celebration around Independence Day, was canceled due to the pandemic.

At-large three-year term

Former Bath Deputy Police Chief Robert Savary is trying his hand in city government after working in the Bath police department for 27 years. He said his time in the police department prepared him for being a city councilor because he learned the importance of transparency and how to budget.

If elected, he said he wants to focus on helping Bath make two impending decisions: what to do with the existing Morse High School building after the city takes ownership of it this coming winter, and what to do when the city’s landfill gets full in the coming decade.

Jamison “Jamie” Pacheco, said she sees the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of affordable housing among Bath’s biggest challenges in the coming years. If elected, she said she’ll “focus on strengthening our community by supporting our small businesses and ensuring sensible zoning ordinances that enable economic prosperity while also honoring the character of our community.”

Jason Homan said he decided to run for city council because he hasn’t “seen the council take the action needed to address the serious issues facing the working class,” such as high rent costs and low wages.

Although he said he doesn’t consider himself “particularly qualified” to fix those issues, his mission, if elected, would be to “empower people to come together to face the major issues ahead of us.”

Similarly, Elizabeth Dingely said she never wanted to be a politician, but is running for council because “I’m a really fed up citizen who’s a bit dismayed with how her hometown has been going.”

Dingley pointed to the trapping program Bath elected to do earlier this year to curb the spread of rabies and called it “fiscally irresponsible and against the will of the people.”

“The people in the south end objected, but the people on the city council didn’t care,” said Dingley. “I think a lot of people in Bath feel pushed around, bullied, like we’re not represented in the city council.”

Dingley said she wants to “bring back honesty and integrity to our local government” as well as “more fiscal responsibility.”

Ward 1

Incumbent Phyllis Bailey is running to keep her Ward 1 seat on the city council after holding the position for three years. She said she’s running for re-election because “I’m still committed to making Bath livable for a lifetime so everyone from young families to older adults can thrive here and feel welcome.”

Like her fellow councilor, Ambrosino, Bailey said her first priority is helping Bath recover from the COVID-19 pandemic because “I’m worried that this winter people will start choosing between heating and eating while trying to hang onto their housing.”

Bailey’s single challenger, Albert Edwards, said he wants to address the traffic and speeding issues in the city’s south end, particularly on High and Washington Streets as well as adding more affordable housing because “people are getting priced out of places like Portland, Yarmouth, Falmouth and they’re coming to Bath.”

“We have a great opportunity with Bath because we’re an amazing, vibrant community and we need to find a way to keep attracting people to come to our city through better affordable housing,” said Edwards.

Ward 6

Incumbent Susan Bauer, is running unopposed for her Ward 6 seat on the city council. Much like her fellow councilors, Bauer said she plans to help Bath’s local economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The forum was organized by Union and Co., a shared work space in downtown Bath.

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