BIDDEFORD — Incumbent city councilors and their challengers in Wards 4 and 5 will vie for votes on Election Day but in the city’s other wards there are no contests, nor are there for councilors at large. We asked those in contested races to tell us a bit about themselves, what they saw as the city’s foremost issues.

WARD 4

In Ward 4, incumbent Ashanti Williams faces former City Councilor Bobby Mills in the race.

Bobby Mills

Mills, 56, said his prior 10-year tenure as a city councilor in neighboring Ward 5 gives him the experience to represent residents of Ward 4.

“I’ve got a proven track record of accomplishments in my voting record — from the removal of MERC to the establishment of the dog park, many public parks and meeting spots, to the purchase of the former Knights of Columbus Hall,” said Mills. “I have a strong record of supporting conservation to development in our city.”

Mills is a military veteran and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas Wesleyan University and a master’s degree in management and leadership from Liberty University. He works at FedEx. Married, he has six boys. He said he is active in various veterans’ organizations.

“I’ve been honored to serve as the York County treasurer and will serve as councilor as a strong effective leader,” said Mills. “I’ve always been a strong voice for everyone who was intimidated by the process of dealing with city government. I’ll continue to be that voice. The people’s voice needs to be heard.”

Mills named high property taxes as the foremost issue in Biddeford.

“A large majority of our population is renters,” he said. “Renters are bearing the brunt of the revitalization costs and tax increases. Our revitalization is wonderful, but too many TIF’s have been crippling our tax base. Residents shouldn’t have to suffer.”

“It’s so important that we are heard, and we haven’t been in a long time,” said Mills. “Our taxpayer dollars are being spent at a phenomenal rate and there needs to be a strong voice to speak up for residents’ concerns.”

Ashanti Williams

Williams joined the council in June, appointed to fill a vacancy of an unexpired term.

“As a recently appointed councilor by the Mayor, I am proud to have appointed a new Assistant Fire Chief, adding extra staffing at the Biddeford Fire Department, approving their fire dorm rooms project and recently approving union contracts that benefit our committed staff,” said Williams.

He said he is pleased at how the city continues to redevelop itself.

‘It’s important that we as local government keep Biddeford moving forward,” Williams said. “… I’d like to continue to offer more insight on the development of the Maine Energy site, as well as the development of the old National Diamond land, behind Subway/Domino’s. Also, I’d like to ensure that everyone feels represented in our community. One of the reasons why I fell in love with this city is the people who already live here. ”

Williams, 45, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama from the University of Hartford, is bar manager at Martinis on Main, is an actor/model for Dirigo Talent Agency and a reserve corrections officer at York County Jail. In February, he will appear in a Good Theater production of “Our Boy,” a play about parents dealing with a son who has been accused of a crime.

As a councilor he is a member of the personnel, capital projects, solid waste, and municipal services committees.

Housing costs are the foremost issue in the city at present, he said. “We’re going to have to deal with this issue aggressively by working across the table with other councilors and generating resources for our residents to use, to make housing affordable,” he said.

He said he has a passion to make Biddeford a diverse and inclusive community and that his role as a councilor will help him give back to a city that has given him so much.

“I am proud to be one of their many voices in this community and I’m not afraid to take a position and defend it, when necessary,” said Williams. “As a bartender and first responder, I’ve developed my skills as a great listener, especially when it comes to all points of view. I welcome any and all opinions that make our community better for our future.”

WARD 5

Amy Clearwater

Clearwater said she is proud of the city’s ability to weather the pandemic.

“We continued services to the greatest extent that was safe, while not laying anyone off,” said Clearwater. “I’m proudest of our support of the staff during such a struggle and grateful for their commitment.”

Asked Biddeford’s foremost issue, she said the city is changing quickly and is facing a number of resulting challenges and opportunities.

“The council has set a series of ambitious goals in the past and it’s imperative that we deliver on that agenda going forward,” said Clearwater. “If given the opportunity to serve an additional term, I will be a strong voice for setting and adhering to targeted strategies for smart growth and effective development.”

Clearwater, 37, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, sociology and philosophy from the University of Maine Farmington and a juris doctor from the University of Maine School of Law, both magna cum laude. She and her wife bought their home in downtown Biddeford in 2017. She is a bank vice president, with the role, she said, of directing the sales narrative for pitch and proposal materials for institutional clients seeking securities services. Clearwater has served on the downtown development commission and serves on the boards of the Heart of Biddeford and the My Place Teen Center.

She was appointed to the City Council in October 2018, following the resignation of Councilor Victoria Foley who moved from the ward. She was elected to a two-year term in November 2019.

Jessica Johnson

Johnson, 37,  owns Soul Stitcher LLC. She has a degree in English and served four years in the U.S. Army.

Johnson runs an initiative called “Sew Together,” conducting monthly workshops teaching sewing skills and applying them to a project later donated to charitable organizations. Sew Together workshops have cat mats for the Animal Welfare Society, chemotherapy dresses for Maine Children’s Cancer Program and baby hats and matching blankets for the NICU at Maine Medical Center.

Johnson volunteers with the band program in Biddeford schools and said she was partially responsible for restarting the Biddeford High School marching band program. She is a member of the Alumni Band and is a runner. She and her husband have five children.

If elected, she said, she would hold regular Ward 5 meetings.

“I have grown up here and have witnessed how this community has evolved,” said Johnson, adding she believes there is a disconnect between government and citizens.

“I want my citizens to be heard and their voices respected,” she said. “I truly feel like many issues surrounding the city can be solved when we unite and listen to each other. … Biddeford has made a remarkable transition from an old mill town to a city that has become a destination point. I think that we have more to do to keep moving forward, but, at the same time, be sensitive to our people and their needs and wants.”

Running unopposed are incumbent Councilors at-Large Marc Lessard and Doris Ortiz.

Incumbent Ward 1 Councilor William Emhiser is unopposed in the Nov. 2 municipal election, as is Ward 6 incumbent Norman Belanger.

Running unopposed in Ward 2 is Scott Whiting; Ward 3, Martin Grohman; and Ward 7, Liam LaFountain.

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