Alan Casavant

BIDDEFORD — For nearly 10 years — he’s in his fifth term — Alan Casavant has been Biddeford’s mayor. He says he’d like to win a sixth, and final, term in the position on Election Day, Nov. 2. To do so, he would need to best his opponent, Victoria Foley.

Both have elected political experience at the local and state level. Casavant is in his 10th year as mayor and served 18 years on the City Council. He also served eight years in the Maine Legislature. Foley was appointed to the City Council  by Casavant to fill an unexpired term. She was later unopposed in her bid  for election to the council, resigning when she moved from the ward. She served a term in the Maine Legislature.

Both celebrate the positive changes that have taken place in Biddeford in recent years, but identify the lack of housing, especially affordable housing, as one of the most significant problems facing their city.

Casavant says he’s got the experience to finish the job he started. Foley says she is young and ready to work hard to fix the problems and continue the city on the positive path it’s moving on.

Alan Casavant

Casavant, 69, is a Biddeford native and is retired from the Biddeford School Department after a 35 year career . He has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Married, he has two stepchildren.

He said he keeps active by walking his two dogs. He belongs to the local Franco organization, St. Jean Baptiste de Bienfaisance; is an active member of the Good Shepherd Parish; and is a board member and one of the early organizers, of the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center.

During Casavant’s tenure as mayor, the city has changed.

“Biddeford has been on an amazing economic trajectory over the past several years, triggered by the city’s decision to purchase and close the Maine Energy Plant,” Casavant said. “Through systematic and creative investment in the Downtown, including beautification, new lighting, paving, and working in partnership with developers, we have created a destination downtown that is the pride of residents in the city. There is more coming and much more to do in order to keep the momentum going.”

He said he recognizes not all the changes have been good. Addressing the issue of lack of housing is one of his priorities.

“While the city’s economic revival is a good thing, the corresponding desirability of the city for those who want to live or work here, has put pressure on housing,” said Casavant. “…Prices for apartments and the selling prices for houses are rapidly increasing, … This is a supply and demand issue at its core.”

To try to address this, Casavant said, the city has partnered in the construction of new housing, as well as worked to changing zoning and density ordinances in order to incentivize the construction of more affordable units.

“During my time as mayor, the city has added about 1,000 units of new housing, but more is needed to offset the demand,” he said. Fortunately more is coming, liked Adams Street development, which will add 39 new units of affordable housing. “The city has been very focused on the issue of affordable housing, and it will continue to use every tool in its toolbox to better balance the needs of our residents with upcoming construction,” he said.

In addition, Casavant said, he and the council have worked to address infrastructure improvements such as paving roads, building and renovating sidewalks and more, increase funding for capital projects, and addressing climate change by appointing an ad hoc select committee to research what needs to be done to protect Biddeford.

“Lastly, it is critically important that we continue to build neighborhood networking and connections. … I want to stress, in the next two years, the rebuilding of neighborhoods and sense of community,” he said. “I want (residents) to feel proud to be in Biddeford.”

Casavant said he is perhaps most proud of helping to change how people view the city.

“My administration has been very fortunate in changing the stereotype of the city,” Casavant said. “It has been a paradigm shift from an old, dying mill town to a vibrant, attractive community. Even today, while doing doors, a woman told me that she had lived in Kennebunk and never imagined or considered living in Biddeford, but she is here, now, and loves it, because of all the changes.”

“The catalyst for this Biddesance was the decision to close the Maine Energy incinerator and purchase the site,” Casavant said, which occurred in 2012, while he was mayor. While it was a difficult vote, “Still, it had to be done, in my eyes,” he said. “We knew, at the time, that it would trigger a rebirth in the mills, but the speed of that redevelopment was faster than I imagined. The rebirth of Biddeford is incredible, and I am most proud of the pride it has triggered in residents! … by creatively and systematically investing our attention, dollars, and planning in the downtown and mill district, the new Biddeford has emerged, and the benefits are spreading throughout the community.”

“I am very proud of the revitalization of the downtown,” he said. “It is a magnet for many people, and I am thrilled with each new store or restaurant that opens.” It changed from a place few would invest in to a destination spot and one of things that makes residents view Biddeford as a place to be proud to live in, he said.

Casavant said people should vote for him because, “I have lived in Biddeford all of my life. I know this city much better than my opponent, as I know the history, know the people, know the political nuances, and know the culture. I believe that a mayor must be aware of the past, as well as the present, in planning the future. Where we are today, as an attractive, desirable community, does not exist in a momentary bubble. It did not exist five or six years ago. It exists from a history of dreams and hopes, of policies and actions.”

“Mayors must be facilitators, who can find solutions to the problems and concerns of residents by knowing who has the expertise of solving those particular needs,” he said. “I believe that I have faithfully advocated for this city and led this city over the years, as a councilor, legislator, and mayor. My experience is my resume, one of which I am very proud. If you love the new Biddeford, and if you dream of more to come, I believe that I am the best option, as my plan is to continue moving forward.”

Victoria Foley

Victoria Foley

Foley, 38, is married and moved to Biddeford in 2016. She is communications director for New England Cancer Specialists. Her hobbies include running, reading, CrossFit, camping, boating, and volunteering for community organizations — especially those that help young people. She is the advisory board chair for the Northern York County YMCA  in Biddeford, is on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maine, and volunteers with the Heart of Biddeford.

While a city councilor for Ward 5, Foley served on the Capital Projects committee and was also a council representative to the boards of Heart of Biddeford and Shuttlebus-Zoom. During her tenure as a state representative for District 12, she sat on both the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee and the Maine-Canadian Legislative Advisory Commission. She is a member of the Downtown Development Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as Chair of the Public Facilities Subcommittee of the Comprehensive Planning process.

“The most pressing issues I see facing our city are affordability, planning for sustainable growth, and increasing public access and participation,” Foley said.

“Housing is at the top of the list of my priorities — for everyone from those on fixed incomes to new and growing families and young professionals,” she said. “As Mayor, I will keep property taxes low through smart fiscal management, while addressing the affordability of housing for working families by pegging community housing incentives to the area median income so homes are truly affordable.” The city should look at what other communities are doing “to inform our work and help keep Biddeford attainable for residents at all income levels,” she said

Passing an updated comprehensive plan would also be on Foley’s to-do list as mayor. “A long-term vision and careful planning require a community-developed comprehensive plan —  something Biddeford has been without since 1999. Working with the council and city staff, I will ensure the remainder of the current comprehensive planning process is truly inclusive with ample public input opportunities — and I will work to implement the resulting plan so that new growth puts the people and environment of Biddeford first.”

Keeping citizens informed of what local government is up to is key, Foley said.

“When it comes to distributing public information and enabling participation in city business, our job as elected officials is to make that as easy as possible,” she said. “Ensuring that all residents have access to information and can participate in city government is critically important to me. Our city committees are full of people who want to help, but they are rarely heard by council and their work generates little meaningful action. I will increase communication between these citizen committees and the council. I will also work with the council to engage our young people and local nonprofits, to bring their voices and perspectives to community planning. And it’s well past time for us to offer key city documents in multiple languages, recognizing Biddeford’s growing diversity.”

Politically, Foley said, she is most proud of sponsoring “successful legislation to protect access to healthcare for all Mainers, and helped move us closer to 5 percent municipal revenue sharing for Maine cities & towns,” while she was  a state representative in the Maine Legislature. “I also supported legislation to help municipalities to adapt to and address sea level rise, and to strengthen the ability of older Mainers to age in place through comprehensive planning – helping to create senior-friendly policies & communities.”

“As a city councilor, I am proud to have recognized the need for more regular communication from the city to the public,” said Foley.  “I successfully advocated for the addition of a communications position on city staff, a role which has helped to increase awareness and transparency about city business.”

Foley said Biddeford residents should vote for her on Election Day because, “I know we are nowhere near the end of the job — we always need to be looking toward the future to keep adapting. Biddeford needs a leader that has the energy, curiosity, and commitment to ensure all voices are heard and valued. Thinking we are almost finished with our revitalization sells short the potential our city has to keep growing and prospering. If elected I will work tirelessly to set an agenda that positions Biddeford for sustainable success in the long term, because that’s where we need to be focused. Instead of winding down, I’m just getting started — and I can’t wait to work for the people of Biddeford.”

People can vote absentee now or at  Biddeford High School Tiger Gym on Maplewood Avenue on Election Day, Nov. 2 where polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To request an absentee ballot call 284-9307 or visit the City Clerk’s Office 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Absentee ballots must be requested by 4 p.m. Oct. 28.  Absentee ballots may also be requested online at https://apps.web.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/index.pl

 

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