Three longtime Sanford residents with backgrounds in municipal government are running to be the city’s second popularly elected mayor.

The three-way race features state Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, City Councilor Lucas Lanigan and Victor DiGregorio, a former city councilor who was removed from office in 2016.

Current Mayor Tom Cote is termed out after serving three consecutive terms. He was the first mayor elected by voters after the city charter was updated to create the position. Previously, city councilors elected one member to serve as mayor each year.

Sanford has a weak mayor, who serves a two-year term but has no regular administrative or executive duties. The mayor presides at all council meetings, develops meeting agendas with the city manager and represents the council in all dealings with the city manager and advisory board. The mayor is considered the seventh member of the City Council and votes at all meetings.

The new mayor will take office as Sanford, a city of about 21,000, deals with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Sanford became a hotspot for the virus in Maine in August and September, with multiple outbreaks, including one that closed Sanford High School and others linked to a wedding in East Millinocket.

Lanigan, now in his second term on the City Council, voted against the steps the council took to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including instituting a local mask mandate and temporarily closing parks and playing fields. As mayor, he says, he would show strong leadership in guiding the city forward to protect residents, support businesses and send the message that “Sanford is open for business.”

Lucas Lanigan

“We need to keep a positive and forward-thinking message and not spread fear. When we spread fear, that negatively effects our businesses and residents,” he said. “We need to keep the message out there that our businesses operate safely and follow the guidelines to keep their employees and customers safe.”

Mastraccio, who has served four terms as a state representative and is a former town councilor, also supports the steps taken by the city, especially the mask mandate. She believes her experience in both municipal and state government will serve Sanford well as the city, residents and businesses deal with the pandemic.

“I think we’re in a time when it’s incredibly important to have someone who understands the government institutions that will be stressed in the next few years,” she said. “We need to accept we’re not going to be out of it for a while. The economic outcomes will be long-term. I think you need someone in that position as mayor who has dealt with budgets at all levels.”

DiGregorio, a former town meeting member who served a partial term on the council, said he doesn’t have much knowledge of what the city has done to address the pandemic, but does support the idea of enforcing mask wearing and worries about teachers and students.

Lanigan, 41, owns small businesses and has raised his four children in the city. Before becoming involved in city government, he served on the board of a youth sports organization and founded the Sanford-Springvale Basketball Association.

During his time on the council, Lanigan has served as deputy mayor and on a number of city subcommittees, including the Marijuana Task Force and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Now, he wants to take on the role of promoting Sanford “outside the walls of city hall,” he said.

“I’d like to focus on building our reputation outside of the city as a business friendly city,” he said.

As a small-business owner, Lanigan wants to make sure there are no barriers at city hall for businesses interested in coming to Sanford. He also wants to promote Sanford to developers and through the mayor’s coalition. With more younger families moving to the city, he wants to be in touch with what they’re looking for from an educational, economic and recreational standpoint.

“Because of my involvement through sports and other activities and being a business owner, I have a real good ear to the street,” Lanigan said. “I find that not only do we need to economically lift ourselves up, we need to invest in ourselves locally.”

Mastraccio, 69, has held elected positions in Sanford for the past 29 years. She served 12 years on the school committee starting in 1992, followed by nine years on the town council. In 2012, she was elected to her first of four terms representing House District 18, which includes part of Sanford.

Anne-Marie Mastraccio

In the Legislature, Mastraccio has served on the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future; Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee; Government Oversight Committee; and Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee.

“I have shown the ability to bring people together in civil discourse,” Mastraccio said. “I think that we need to model the kind of government that we want to have. I appreciate that Mayor Cote has done a good job at that. I want to be able to continue that level of discourse.”

Mastraccio stressed her ability to bring consensus to set agendas and council priorities. She also believes the city will benefit from her experience in Augusta because she has a strong understanding of how what happens in Augusta impacts Sanford.

“I will go to Augusta and advocate for the issues that are important for our community,” she said.

In the coming months, it will be important to make sure the city is addressing issues like food insecurity, eviction and other concerns related to the pandemic, she said.

Mastraccio said one of her priorities as mayor would be to help small businesses impacted by the pandemic and revitalize downtown by attracting businesses to Sanford. She wants to create a strong connection with business owners to understand the problems they face, she said.

“The last thing anyone wants is the perception that Sanford is not a business-friendly community because we absolutely are,” she said.

DiGregorio is seeking to return to elected office after being removed from the City Council in 2016.

He lost his seat after he pleaded guilty to six counts of unsworn falsification and admitted he falsified contributions to boost his eligibility for Maine Clean Election Act funds in connection with his failed 2015 bid for a legislative seat. DiGregorio was accused of improperly funding at least 18 $5 qualifying contributions with his own money.

DiGregorio said he didn’t intend to defraud the government, but made a mistake when he used contributions from people outside his district to cover the $5 donations for supporters who couldn’t immediately make a contribution to his campaign.

The conviction on the six Class D misdemeanor counts automatically triggered a clause in the Sanford city charter that disqualifies those convicted of crimes that can carry sentences of more than six months from serving as councilors. DiGregorio, who did not have a prior criminal record, was sentenced to seven days of community service as part of an alternative sentencing program.

Four years after that conviction, DiGregorio said he is running for mayor to bring more “caring and sharing” to city hall. While he believes the city manager does a good job managing the city, there must be more focus on how residents are doing, he said. He is particularly concerned about seniors on fixed incomes and residents who struggle to pay taxes.

“I’m concerned about Sanford because we’ve lost a lot of businesses and it’s becoming the type of community with high taxes on its citizens,” DiGregorio said.

DiGregorio said that as mayor he would be a catalyst to make city councilors think and more openly explain the decisions they make.

“They’re all good people and doing their very best,” he said. “As mayor, what I want to be able to do is be innovative and creative and work with the council.”

DiGregorio said he also wants to eliminate the city’s pay-as-you-throw garbage system, maintain a better sense of community and make sure everyone in the city is treated fairly.

“I want to bring a loudspeaker and be listened to,” he said. “I just want to be a voice. I have nothing to gain.”


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