April Fournier, left, and Bill Linnell are vying for an at-large Portland City Council seat in the Nov. 7 election.

First of four stories. 

Bill Linnell, a semi-retired lobsterman who once served on the Cape Elizabeth Town Council, is challenging incumbent Portland City Councilor April Fournier for her at-large seat.

Both candidates in the Nov. 7 election identify the city’s worsening homelessness crisis as a high priority.

Fournier, 43, wants the city to focus on “housing first” models, which aim to first get homeless people into stable housing before helping them tackle other problems. She wants to see the encampment sweeps paused and to have the city focus on moving people off the streets and into transitional housing, aided by creative land use and rezoning.

But Fournier is aware it will take more than just housing to stabilize the homeless population.

“It’s really important to think of it more broadly, not just finding housing but addressing underlying causes, too,” she said, adding that the city can tap into opioid settlement money to fund social services to support people struggling with mental illness and addiction as they leave the encampments.


Linnell, 67, also wants to get people out of tents. He supports pausing the sweeps while the city searches for a place to offer campers. A sanctioned encampment with community support could be a temporary option, he said, but come winter “the encampments have to go.”

“Any of us could become addicted and I would not want to be left out in a tent by my family or my city,” Linnell said. “We need some tough love.”

Linnell would like to see a program that would compel campers into drug and mental health treatment, with same-day rehab placement that he says could be funded by opioid settlement money. In the meantime, he said, the city should build more affordable housing.


Fournier is nearing the end of her first term. She is a member of the Navajo Nation and was the first Native American elected to the council. During her term, she led an initiative to deprioritize prosecuting residents who use psilocybin, found in psychedelic plants and fungi, and she pushed to stop encampment sweeps throughout the city. She also has been vocal in prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion.

She is a program manager for Advance Native Political Leadership, where she works to help Native candidates all over the country get elected. She wants to use the relationships and skills she’s built in government to keep working on Portland’s problems.


“My work just feels unfinished,” Fournier said.

Linnell has years of experience working with vulnerable communities and thinks he has valuable perspectives to offer the city during a tough time. He’s a lobsterman part time, but worked for many years as a program manager at Long Creek Youth Development Center. He also founded the nonprofit Cheaper, Safer Power, which pushed to close Maine Yankee, the former nuclear power plant in Wiscasset. He was on the Cape Elizabeth Town Council from 1993 to 1997.

“I thought, Portland is going through a tough time and maybe I can help,” Linnell said.

Fournier and Linnell are both clean elections candidates and each had received about $10,000 from the city to fund their campaigns as of late September.


In addition to tackling the homeless crisis, Fournier wants to prioritize racial equity and social justice and improve the city’s communications with citizens.


“I’m committed to Portland, and that is the scope of my work,” she said. “Being one of the councilors who says I’m going to look at the whole playing field and think about who hasn’t been brought into this conversation.”

If she wins reelection, Fournier wants to focus on setting more actionable, concrete goals. She appreciates the need for lofty, long-term visions, but says it’s more important to enact real change soon.

“Maybe I had 10 things I wanted to do but I can only get two done, I want to be organized and streamlined,” she said.

Linnell wants to improve neighborhood safety with more streetlights, patrols and bike lanes. He also wants to make sure translation services are widely available so immigrant families have an easier time understanding what is going on in the city, especially in schools.

“Portland is a great city, and I think we should celebrate it and make its good parts better,” he said.

Linnell believes that working with addicts and the mentally ill has equipped him to understand some of Portland’s most vulnerable residents. One priority is to make sure they get offered the services he has seen so many other people benefit from.


“Every day that they’re in the street or in a tent, they’re at risk of an overdose,” he said. “There but for the grace of God go I.”



Age: 43

Occupation: National Program Manager for Advanced Native Political Leadership

Education: BA in business management from University of Phoenix and MA in Education from University of Maine Orono


Hometown: South Portland and Albuquerque, New Mexico

Political Experience: City Councilor since 2020. Chair of Health, Human Services and Public Safety Committee. Served on the police citizen review board

Website: aprilforportland.org


Age: 67

Occupation: Semi-retired. Teacher, carpenter, fisherman. Owner of Cap’n Bill’s Lobster LLC


Education: BA in American Studies from Colby College, certificate in disaster relief from Blackfeet Community College, Browning Montana

Hometown: South Portland

Political Experience: One and a half terms on Cape Elizabeth Town Council. Former president of the Stroudwater Village Association

Website: linnellforcouncil.me  

Tomorrow: City Council District 4. 

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