SACO — Incumbent Michael Burman faces a challenge from former Mayor Don Pilon for a three-year term to represent Ward 4 on the Saco City Council in the Nov. 8 election.

In Ward 5, City Councilor Philip Hatch, who was appointed in April 2021 to fill the unexpired term of former Councilor Alan Minthorn, who resigned that February, is unopposed in his run for a three-year term.

Voters will also consider one municipal referendum question. They will be asked if they wish to amend the city’s  charter to allow the city to provide a ceremonial office in City Hall for the mayor, for ceremonial functions only, at a location to be determined by the city administrator. If approved, it would go into effect July 1, 2023, said City Clerk Michele Hughes.

Saco voters will cast ballots at Thornton Academy Linnell Gymnasium, 438 Main St. from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

We asked the candidates in the contested Ward 4 race to tell us about themselves, to outline a few priorities, and tell us why voters should choose them.

Michael Burman Courtesy Photo

• Burman, 43, was appointed to the Ward 4 council seat in December 2020 to fill the unexpired term of Lynn Copeland, who was elected to the Maine House of Representatives.


He said his first priority is protecting and revitalizing Saco’s waterfront.

“Sitting at the mouth of the Saco River is what makes our town unique,” said Burman, a psychology professor and director of the School for Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of New England. “The natural beauty, unique culture, and recreational opportunities need to be protected and nurtured to ensure that Saco residents  continue to have access long into the future,” he said.

The city has made historic progress working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the plan to combat coastal erosion, and after decades of inaction, expects to receive a project partnership agreement with the USACE by the end of the year, Burman said. He said he supports the proposed York County government-sponsored dredge for use in the Saco River.

“We also need to revitalize and invest in the beachfront economy, including at Camp Ellis,” said Burman. “Incentivizing shops, restaurants, services, and other businesses should be a high priority for the city. Breaking ground on the Ferry Road sidewalk will help bring families and tourists down safely and reduce the pressure on parking. Continuing to support the commercial fishery will help the economy and help maintain the culture of Camp Ellis.”

As a councilor, Burman is liaison to the conservation, shoreline and coastal waters commissions, parks and recreation and the bike/pedestrian advisory committees. He has served on the Saco School’s Strategic Planning Committee and the Saco School Construction Committee.

Ensuring affordable housing is a priority, said Burman. Saco is short on housing stock, and there is much demand, causing property values to soar. Some longtime locals can no longer afford to live in town, he noted. He said municipal and school property taxes continue to put pressure on homeowners.


“The solution here is to grow our housing stock, building smaller units in higher density settings, with a focus on young professionals and retirees,” said Burman. “This should take place in areas served by major roads, with city sewer and water already present. Commercial and industrial growth takes pressure off of residential taxpayers and should be prioritized.”

Burman, who is married and has two daughters, said Saco has a reputation of being a bedroom community, where residents come home to sleep after spending their workday or weekend elsewhere — and he noted a large portion of the property tax burden is on residential homeowners.

“Moreover, when locals or visitors want to go out and spend money, they often leave Saco to do it,” said Burman. “We need to reverse these trends. We want shops, restaurants, bars, galleries, factories, craftsmen, health care, personal services and more to all be located right here in Saco. Making Saco an attractive destination will benefit everyone.”

As to why voters should choose him, Burman said he “bring(s) energy and competence to the position. Ward 4 residents appreciate my kindness, responsiveness, and ability to solve problems quickly, collaboratively, and efficiently. The world is changing rapidly. Saco needs new, innovative, forward-looking solutions to match our changing needs.”

Donald Pilon Courtesy Photo

• Pilon is a real estate broker. He was previously elected to four terms in the Maine House pf Representatives, serving on taxation, insurance and financial services, ethics and on the office of policy evaluation and government accountability committees. He was Saco mayor from 2013-2015. He was a call force firefighter at Camp Ellis, served as mitigation director of York County Emergency Management Agency and mitigation coordinator for the International Association of Emergency Managers. His is married, and has a daughter and a grandchild.

Many Saco residents are seniors who have owned homes in the community for decades, Pilon noted. “In many cases, their income has not kept up with property tax increases,” he said. “We must be diligent in pursuing guaranteed funding for the Property Tax Stabilization Program. The City of Saco will need to work with our local state Legislators to assure that this program remains available and effective for the most vulnerable in our community.”


Pilon spoke about a program he is working on with volunteers to help children in Saco who are homeless.

“A little-known truth is that there are children in our Saco schools who do not have a safe home for any number of reasons,” he said. “ We take it for granted that students can rise from their own bed, brush their teeth, have breakfast, and go to school. We assume that they have a foundation from which they can learn and grow. That is not always the case. Some are unhoused, some are couch surfing or worse. It scares me that we don’t have a safety net to help children who don’t have the foundation that they need and deserve. I am working with a group of volunteers and a non-profit organization to explore the feasibility of creating a safe residential setting where students can sleep, shower, and keep up with their studies. We will work with all available resources to help homeless children.”

He said workforce housing is an issue in Saco and throughout the country.

“We are happy that young families have found entry-level housing here and we would love to see them thrive and stay in Saco,” said Pilon. “But as they thrive, they need (and want) upgraded housing, which is in short supply. Without housing stock which meets the needs of growing and successful households, those families will move on … out of Saco. I would advocate for the city to engage with non-profit organizations, urban planning experts and others to make workforce housing and prudent development of tiered housing opportunities a priority for Saco’s future.”

He said his service and experience in municipal and state government taught him how to work collaboratively to achieve good outcomes for Saco citizens.

“I have valuable perspective on the many services and functions that make our city a great place to live, including budget development, education system, public safety, and economic development,” said Pilon. “I fully understand that the City Council is responsible for making important policy decisions. I know Ward 4 very well. I know the people, the needs and the challenges. Yes, Councilors are elected to advocate for their wards, but they must ultimately work together to create a diverse community with ample resources and cultural opportunities.”

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