Cumberland Town Councilor George Turner faces the first challenge for his council seat in 16 years this June, facing off against Mark Segrist.

Theirs is the only contested race for the seven-member council on the June 8 ballot.

Turner attributes his many reelections to maintaining an open and honest relationship with Cumberland residents.

“I haven’t been a politician,” he said, adding he is proud of  “the council’s ability to come to consensus without animosity.” He also feels the school board has struggled with public relations where the council has been successful.

Segrist said he’s looking to “give a voice to folks who haven’t necessarily felt represented.” If elected, he hopes to do a better job at connecting residents and bringing people together, no matter where in town they reside. To do that, he  said, more sidewalks, bike paths and public trails should be completed and more local events should be held.

“People should feel like they are a part of the town separate from the school system,” Segrist said.

Both candidates spoke about the importance of expanding Cumberland’s commercial tax base.

“We need to get to 10 or 12% commercial ” Turner said. “We are very residential.”

In the early 2000s, Cumberland was about 2% commercial and has come a long way, he said, but there is still room for improvement.

“Other towns have a larger commercial and business base,” Segrist said. “We have a lot of zones in Cumberland where we aren’t even welcoming businesses.”

Segrist said he would commit to surveying residents about the types of businesses they want and present the proposals to business developers.

“By welcoming more small businesses, we can work to broaden the tax base, lower property taxes for everyone, and provide more ways for Cumberland residents to connect and enjoy the community we love, all while supporting the local economy,” Segrist said on his website.

Turner said as a councilor he was involved in a town-wide revaluation that culminated in substantial tax rebates and about $20 million in town revenue in 2012.

He said he has also helped with the process of aging in place for seniors through circuit breaker tax abatements that were given to lower- and middle-income individuals over 65. It is important to keeping seniors in their homes to lower the number of homeowners with children who have contributed to the school district’s overcrowding problem, he said.

In terms of the town ‘s growth and its resulting impact, Segrists said, “We need to respect and preserve Cumberland’s past while we prepare for its future.”

Open spaces are crucial to accommodating growth, he said.

“We should ensure that any new housing developments be built in a way that not only promotes density where possible, but also preserves considerable portions of open spaces or wooded lands, as this not only protects the environment in terms of carbon sequestration but also helps to preserve Cumberland’s rural charm and feel,” he said.

Segrist, who has served on the Climate Action Plan Subcommittee of the Lands and Conservation Commission, said he is committed to achieving carbon neutrality in Cumberland.

Turner has worked on environmental causes as well. “We’re working on eradicating a number of invasive species near our trail system,” he said.

Going forward, the candidates said they are committed to racial equity in Cumberland. Turner talked about the town’s recently approved contract with Maine Intercultural Communication Consultants, which will implement racial-bias training program for town employees.

“We’ve endeavored to embrace the idea of bettering ourselves. We have to respond to the times,” Turner said.

“Like the U.S. Constitution, the Maine Constitution promises that we are all equal under the law, regardless of our race, religion, or tribal identity,” Segrist said. “So, I believe that identifying the racial impact of any new or existing town ordinances is a good way to start in terms of pursuing racial equity within the town.”

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