Susan Deschambault and Martin Grohman are vying to become the next mayor of Biddeford.  Contributed photos

For the past 12 years, the mayor’s office at Biddeford City Hall has been occupied by the same person. After the Nov. 7 election, a new mayor will take over, but the face will be a familiar one, however it shakes out.

Susan Deschambault and Martin Grohman are vying to replace Mayor Alan Casavant, who decided not to run for reelection after six consecutive terms. Both candidates have represented Biddeford in Augusta, have been elected to the City Council and have long been active in the community.

The race comes at an exciting and critical time for the York County city, which has undergone a remarkable revitalization over the past decade. Once dubbed “Trashtown USA” because of its downtown incinerator and struggling Main Street, it now has a vibrant downtown and developers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the city.

But as the city experiences unprecedented growth, it continues to grapple with the local impacts of the regional housing crisis and other issues that will challenge the mayor and City Council in the years to come.


Deschambault, 75, remembers clearly what Biddeford was like when she was growing up. Her father, the gregarious one in the family, opened two luncheonettes and a sundries store downtown. Main Street was vibrant, full of stores and people.


“The mill was the heart. It was beating,” she said. “There was a pulsating rhythm to it.”

Deschambault lived with her parents and siblings in the apartment upstairs from her grandparents, who ran a laundry business next door. She went to parochial school and graduated from St. Joseph’s. Inspired by a book she read about mistreated children, she wanted to be a social worker, but couldn’t immediately afford to go to college.

After more than a year working the third shift making parts for transistor radios, she came home and told her father she couldn’t stand the thought of doing that for the rest of her life. She applied and was accepted to St. Francis College, the school that preceded the University of New England. She was one of 20 women enrolled.

It was there that she found her voice.

During college, Deschambault learned how to confidently speak up even in settings dominated by men, a skill she carried into her career working for the Department of Corrections. She was the first social worker at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, where she worked for 43 years.

Deschambault’s first involvement in local politics came when she joined a committee to write policies for the school department in 1996. She was the first woman to be appointed to the city’s police commission and served on two charter revision commissions. She served on the City Council from 2005 to 2009 and is a current planning board member.


Through all of those roles, Deschambault said, she has focused on learning and listening to people.

“I’m not a rabble rouser,” she said.

Deschambault was elected to the Maine State Senate in 2016, after the sitting senator resigned. Her election grabbed headlines when then-Gov. Paul LePage refused to swear her into office in retaliation for Democratic lawmakers voting against his nomination for a state panel.

She went on to serve three full terms where she sat on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, including as chair during her last term. She said her time in Augusta allowed her to learn about issues that affect communities across the state and develop a wide network of people.

She said it has been interesting to watch the transformation of downtown over the past decade, from a nearly vacant Main Street to a bustling area that in some ways resembles the Biddeford of her youth.

As mayor, she wants to continue that momentum while also working on issues like affordable housing, homelessness and supporting veterans. But she also doesn’t want to forget the areas away from downtown.


“I think we haven’t addressed the rest of the city,” she said.

Deschambault believes her collaborative approach to leading will be an asset as mayor.

“I feel like I was always the right person at the right time,” she said.


Grohman, 55, is no stranger to work.

The youngest of eight children, he grew up on a farm in Carthage, a small town in Franklin County. He hand-milked the family’s jersey cows before school every day – and once won a cow milking contest at the Windsor Fair.


“On the farm, you’re always trying to keep a lot of things working together,” Grohman said. “It doesn’t tend to be one single project at the expense of others.”

Those early lessons have informed his work ethic ever since.

After high school, Grohman went to Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, where he studied engineering. His first job was with GE Plastics, which took him all over the country to help start up plants that made composite decking. There were few opportunities for chemical engineers in Maine at the time, so Grohman started his own composite decking company.

As he looked for a location for CorrectDeck, Grohman met the city’s economic development director, who helped him find a spot in the Biddeford Industrial Park. Grohman settled in Biddeford, too, though the city looked very different at the time.

“It was tumbleweeds on Main Street,” he said.

Grohman, who is married and has two teenage children, said he has always tried to be a booster for local businesses. During his early years in the city, he’d bring business executives downtown for lunch at one of the only local restaurants open on Main Street. He got involved in the city in other ways too, including donating miles of decking for benches and other projects. He helped restore West Brook Skating Rink and is involved with local veterans’ groups.


Grohman sold CorrectDeck, now known as Duralife Decking, in 2009 and is now a sustainability consultant. He is passionate about working with entrepreneurs, start-ups and people in recovery.

Grohman has served on the city’s recycling and waste management commission and is part of the Climate Change Working Group. He was a state representative from 2014 to 2018. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress as an independent in 2018.

Grohman is now serving his first term on the City Council, which he said is dealing with “big city problems and pressures” that have come with the revitalization over the past decade. Those issues – including housing affordability, homelessness and problems with the city’s parking garage – are often brought up when he bikes around Biddeford and stops to talk to people.

As mayor, he wants to continue work on those issues, along with finding efficiencies at City Hall and sustainability initiatives that save the city money and provide energy security. He also wants to continue to foster the positive current atmosphere in council chambers, where people are passionate and at times disagree, but are respectful.

Grohman believes his background gives him the right skills to tackle all of it.

“It’s my way to give back,” he said. “The community has been really, really good to me and my family.”

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