Freeport town council candidates Matthew Pillsbury (left) and Mitchell Rouda (right).

Two candidates running for a single contested seat on the Freeport Town Council this November are weighing how to revitalize the community’s downtown that is currently dominated by retail space.

The seat in question makes up District 3, which encompasses a southern portion of town on the western side of the Harraseeket River. The seat was held by Councilor Doug Reighley, who resigned and left Freeport in September, citing personal reasons.

Candidates Matthew Pillsbury and Mitchell Rouda hope to continue work revitalizing downtown, which has seen higher vacancies due to the COVID pandemic and the shifting retail landscape.

The Downtown Visioning Plan looks to implement a more experiential and community-based economy within Freeport. Over the summer, trial projects had the goal of creating a more vibrant downtown. Examples include a new skatepark, a parklet on Main Street and a community seating area behind Starbucks.

Freeport Town Council candidate Matthew Pillsbury. Courtesy of Matthew Pillsbury

Matthew Pillsbury

A Freeport resident of 10 years, Pillsbury, 43, said he is running to support the town and its residents.

“One of the large projects that the town council has taken on in the past couple years is the downtown visioning,” Pillsbury said. “I think we’re at a crossroads, and I think the steps that they’ve taken are really great and I would just want to continue to support that work.”

Pillsbury works for the University of New England College of Dental Medicine as the assistant dean of finance and administration. Other experiences pertinent to council work, Pillsbury said, include several senior leadership roles and past work on an international public health grant.

“I have a lot of experience building new programs, overseeing change, just supporting processes, putting into place best practices, and overall, just good financial management, good strategic planning,” Pillsbury said. “I’ve just been really fortunate in my career to have some of these opportunities, and I think it would translate well to helping support our town.”

In addition to the ongoing downtown visioning project, other issues in Freeport that Pillsbury said resonate with him include conservation and addressing climate change locally as well as promoting a strong, equitable and inclusive community for all residents

Freeport Town Council candidate Mitchell Rouda. Courtesy of Mitchell Rouda.

Mitchell Rouda

Rouda, 64, has been a Freeport resident for more than 12 years, and currently works as the chief strategy officer of The Farm Journal, a national media organization for farmers and ranchers. He said he was motivated to run after receiving encouragement from friends in town.

“The core issues that are going to be facing Freeport are generally planning issues,” said Rouda, noting the need to balance the preservation of rural and conserved land with development and growth.

Rouda also said that the revitalization of the downtown area is a core issue for him.

“We have a beautiful downtown, and we will have to, over time, put other uses there,” Rouda said, noting the decline in retail.

Past experience that Rouda said would be valuable as a councilor includes work as an architect and urban planner, which was the first half of his career, as well as experience as an editor and journalist for various publications.

Other issues that Rouda mentioned include monitoring Freeport’s infrastructure capabilities as new developments come in as well as the town’s overall affordability for young and older people.

Political polarization is another challenge both nationally and in town, Rouda said, and he hopes to be a voice in Freeport for involving everyone in local politics, regardless of party lines.

At-Large, District 4 Council Seats and Sewer District

Two candidates are running unopposed for an open at-large seat and  District 4 seat on the council.

Darrell Fournier, 65, a lifelong Freeport resident and retired fire chief, is the sole candidate for the at-large position and would be replacing current Council Vice Chairperson Tawni Whitney.

In District 4, which makes up northwestern portion of Freeport, Councilor Henry “Chip” Lawrence is seeking re-election for another term. He was first appointed in 2018.

On the Freeport Sewer District Board of Trustees, five candidates are competing for four spots. The candidates include three incumbents, Michael Ashby, Sara Randall and Adam Morse, as well as two newcomers, Jonathan Chapman and G. Corson Ellis.

Absentee ballots are now available at the Freeport Clerk’s Office. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2 at the Freeport High School Gymnasium.


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