Joining an already packed June 8 ballot in New Gloucester, 11 candidates are vying for six spots on the Charter Commission, a position that carries a term of one year to 24 months.

Voters approved the creation of a charter commission last November, which includes nine commissioners, three of whom are appointed by the Board of Selectmen and six of whom are elected.

The town government operates now with a select board, town manager and Town Meeting, without a town charter. The purpose of a charter, in general, is to define the powers, functions and procedures of municipal government. New Gloucester supporters of a town charter said previously that it will give residents more oversight of their local government and increase transparency in town affairs.

The select board appointed select board member Linda Chase and brothers Steven and Donald Libby at a meeting last month, but the validity of those appointments has since been questioned.

Kathleen Potter confirmed last week that she is withdrawing from the commission race for personal reasons. Because she withdrew after the ballots were printed, her name still appears on it.

Candidates Michael Lang and Cleo Werner did not return requests for an interview.

Michael Arata

Arata said that as an engineer, “I’m a professional problem-solver and am used to working with diverse groups of people to find practical solutions.” The charter should lay out a “clearly defined and user-friendly structure” for town governance to promote cooperation, efficiency and citizen participation, he said.

Similarly, the commission should consider the “voices of all citizens” in writing the charter. Term limits has been a hot topic in discussions for a town charter, and Arata said that it “deserves careful consideration to determine if it will benefit the town.”

A charter should define the structure of town government and shouldn’t get caught up in the “administrative details,” as Arata put it.

Peter Bragdon

The current select board member said that through his involvement in municipal governance, “I have seen what works and what doesn’t work.”

Among some of the topics the commission will consider are term limits, if family members may serve on the same board or committee together and other ethical questions, as well as meeting procedures and financial policies.

“Working through those topics can be a bit stressful,” Bragdon said. “There will need to be give and take,” but most importantly, the commission will need to listen to residents.

He said he will “try to find a fair solution for everyone involved” and that he “understands the needs of our wonderful small town and how to balance them.”

Cindy Brakey

Brakey said serving on the commission is an opportunity to “shape a plan for the future” of New Gloucester while maintaining the “special character” of her hometown.

“New Gloucester is at a fork in the road,” she said.

The commission will need to consider term limits and other topics, such as if the Town Meeting form of governance “still works for us,” she said.

“I personally love our Town Meetings and intend to work to keep them so that the voters retain as much control as possible.”

She said she will seek citizens’ input on other issues the commission should consider.

Brakey said she will bring her “open-minded” and “logical approach,” business experience and knowledge of the town to the commission as she and the other members “plot the course for the future of our town.”

Dan Ellingson

“The best charter will be one that has the greatest consensus and considers input from residents,” Ellingson said. As an architect, he often works with town officials, planning boards and others as “to resolve complex issues to create the best result for all stakeholders.”

Though Ellingson and his family moved to town 24 years ago, he said his wife’s ancestors were among the original founders of the town. That motivates him to “see the great heritage of New Gloucester continue and for it to be a place that young families would want to call home,” he said.

The charter creation process should be thorough and carefully considered, Ellingson said, and ultimately focus on “only what is necessary and what makes sense for New Gloucester.”

Karen Farrell

Farrell said the charter should address a number of issues, including the budget process, a “legal framework to provide protections” in states of emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic, policies on conflicts of interest in town government and implementation of the Comprehensive Plan.

Her business experience will offer the commission “key insight into building a successful road map for the town for years to come,” she said.

A charter will give the town greater agency in the governance process and increased transparency, she said.

She added that she loves living in New Gloucester and wants “to volunteer to help our town during this critical decision-making period.”

Stephen Hathorne

Hathorne, a former selectman, was one of the leaders of the group “New Gloucester Citizens for a Town Charter,” which successfully got the Charter Commission referendum on the ballot twice – once in 2018 and again in 2020 – and he took part in the effort to get the question passed last November.

The charter must be easy to understand and offer a clear path to follow that is specific to the needs of the town, he said.

“Some things that I feel should be paramount in the writing of this document are nepotism, term limits and a well-defined selectmen agenda,” he said.

Hathorne said that he hopes to bring his continuous “fight for a more harmonious government for all citizens of New Gloucester, not just for the chosen,” to the commission.

Penny Hilton

As a resident of New Gloucester and a writer for the community website NGXchange, Hilton said she’s “never seen public confidence in New Gloucester government so low.”

She said it’s time for an overhaul of the town’s governance and the charter is an opportunity “for the townspeople to decide how local government shall run.”

Accountability and transparency are at the top of Hilton’s list of priorities.

“I will be promoting much more timely public access to information and a better budget-setting process, as well as ending the ability of some families to have inordinate power in government,” Hilton said.

“With honesty and a spirit of collaboration, I think this town will bloom in a way that we can all be proud of,” she said.

John Salisbury

Salisbury helped draft the constitutional amendment that created home rule and town charters in Maine as executive director of the Maine Municipal Association, a post he held from 1966-79. He also worked on the statute that created the guidelines for charter commissions and has been involved with New Gloucester Citizens for a Town Charter.

He laid out five key topics that the charter should address: greater transparency and communication; increased government accountability through mechanisms such as recall provisions; an “ethical” road map for dealing with conflicts of interest; determining the structure of town government, including Town Meeting; and creating a budget process with guidelines for public participation.

Residents should vote for Salisbury for his “education in municipal government, experience with advising Maine municipalities and former service as an elected official,” he said.

He said that most importantly, he has a “genuine interest” in ensuring that citizens “benefit from a more effective town government.”

Ben Tettlebaum

Tettlebaum said that New Gloucester “possesses tremendous opportunity” and a charter is its chance to “take advantage of those opportunities.”

“I am excited to take part in helping the town navigate this critical process,” the attorney said. “I believe it is my civic duty to engage in the community in a way that I can best serve.”

One advantage of a charter would be for the town to “assert greater local control,” which Tettlebaum said is important with the increased demand for real estate in New Gloucester’s surrounding communities.

“Structuring our government to meet the demands of the future and adapt in a smart way will be vital work of the commission,” he said.

Tettlebaum said that he will bring a “lawyerly attention to detail combined with a mediator’s sense of diplomacy” to the commission.

Voting takes place from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 8 at the New Gloucester Fire/Rescue station at 611 Lewiston Road. For more information, visit the town’s website at newgloucester.com.

Comments are not available on this story.