The new city councilor in Ward 5 in Saco is Philip Hatch, who was appointed to fill a vacancy created at the resignation of former councilor Alan Minthorn. Hatch is shown here, third from the left in the second row, being interviewed by the council. He was among three who expressed interest in the seat. Tammy Wells Photo

SACO — The city’s newest Ward 5 councilor is a longtime Saco resident whose candidacy for the appointed seat generated an estimated 50 emails of support to the council from those in the ward and in other areas of the community,

Evergreen Drive resident Philip Hatch was appointed in a 5 to 1 vote of the City Council Monday after council members interviewed three residents who expressed interest in filling the vacancy created at the February resignation of former Councilor Alan Minthorn. The term expires in December 2022.

Hatch, who served on the Planning Board several years ago, became an unofficial spokesman for a group of Ward 5 residents who expressed reservations about a variety of issues — from traffic to school impact and beyond — at the prospect of a 336-unit apartment complex being built in the ward.

Hatch operates a commercial credit training service and worked for a number of financial institutions before opening his own business. As well, he and his wife Lucy established and operated Winterhaven, an assisted living facility, for 20 years.

The dissenting vote was from Ward 3 Councilor Joseph Gunn, who had moved that former Augusta city councilor and school board member Jennifer Day be appointed to the remaining time on the Ward 5 term, citing her experience.

“We’re asking somebody to step into the City Council a couple of weeks into the budget process and the learning curve is not that easy to begin with,” said Gunn. He said it would behoove the council to appoint the most experienced person to the job.

Councilor Nathan Johnston moved to amend Gunn’s motion to replace Day’s name with Hatch, and that passed 5 to 1 — as did the subsequent vote in favor of appointing him.

Hatch, Day and William Gayle had all expressed interest in the vacancy, which is filled by appointment of the City Council under a provision in the city charter.

Virtually all of the councilors said the process was a difficult one. It involved seeking letters of interest, having the candidates appear and give a presentation on why they should be chosen and answer councilor’s’ questions, followed by a council deliberation to reach a decision.

Councilor Marshall Archer asked Hatch why he thought those who favored his candidacy supported him.

“I think they support me because they’ve come to realize ‘what you see is what you get,'” said Hatch. “I’m a very genuine person and hold myself to a high level of honesty integrity and professionalism, and I think that had an impression on them.”

Asked about how to encourage affordable housing, Hatch said it will take the collective support of local, state and federal governments, and said he believed the federal reserve’s commitment to what he described as artificially low interest rates have fueled the industry. As well, he said building product costs are up and in Maine, out-of-state influences are escalating prices out of the reach of local people. He said the city needs to look at what can be one to raise the income level of those who live in the community.

Gunn noted previous tensions between the School Board and the City Council and said while that has improved,  asked Hatch what he thought the council could do to improve it more.

Animosity grows when there’s no communication, Hatch said.

“When you sit down and talk to people, it’s amazing the synergies that can come from that,” he concluded.

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