BANGOR, Maine — Five of the six candidates vying for three vacant seats on the Bangor City Council participated in a forum Thursday night and, like in most arenas these days, the economy dominated the conversation.
Richard Bronson, Paul Dubay, David Nealley, Gerry Palmer and Andrew Sturgeon each were allowed three minutes to make opening statements.
Each candidate was then given two minutes to answer the question: What can the city do to meet the current economic challenges?
The candidates also fielded a handful of questions from audience members.
Here is a synopsis of the candidates’ opening statements, in alphabetical order. Roberto Zavaleta did not participate.
Bronson, 61, touted his ties to Bangor, from high school and college to his career as a small-business man and also as the fire chief of nearby Brewer.
“My career has moved in two parallel paths, public service and in the private business sector, and in that, I think I have a unique perspective,” he said.
Dubay, 49, admitted he’s an outsider to public office but stressed a common sense approach to local government.
“I’ve traveled considerably and have seen growth in other areas that has been successful,” he said. “I would like to try to help out in any way I can.”
Nealley, 47, served on the City Council earlier this decade and is a small-business owner. He said the economy is, and should be, on everyone’s mind and didn’t mind steering the conversation there.
“The city is so reliant on federal and state money for projects,” he said, adding that much of that could be on hold. “We’re going to have to be much more careful with the revenue streams we do have.”
Palmer, 60, the only incumbent councilor, has served four terms in Bangor dating back to the early 1990s. He said it is important for the public to pay attention to local government.
“I always say, ‘I’m going to keep running until I get it right,’” Palmer said of his relative longevity. “I’ll continue to work as hard as I can because I love this community.”
Sturgeon, 51, is president of Ames A/E, a local architect and design firm. Although he has served on numerous area boards, he is a newcomer to city government.
“I want to contribute because I think it helps [to] not lose touch with the community,” he said.
In addressing the specific economic question, the candidates offered mixed opinions about how they would approach the crisis at the municipal level.
Bronson said while the economic situation is dire, it’s not easy to make cuts cavalierly.
“For nearly every service, there is a constituency,” he said. “We need to either bring in more money or be more frugal in how we deliver services.”
Dubay offered the most unique approach to save money: recycling. He proposed a curbside program that he said would reduce waste by 50 percent or more.
Nealley said the city would need to look closer at regionalization but also at partnering with the private sector on certain projects.
Palmer acknowledged it will be a tough year, or couple of years, financially, but said Bangor is in better shape than some municipalities.
“We need to stimulate business, yes, but also appeal to the businesses that are already here,” he said.
Sturgeon said the economic situation at the federal level would no doubt limit funding sources for the city of Bangor.
“I’d like to bring business principles and more transparency to the budget process as a councilor,” he said.
Prior to Thursday’s forum, which was held at the Bangor Public Library and attended by about 50 residents, two of the three school committee candidates held a forum.
Phyllis Guerrette, the current council chair, and Warren Caruso, a first-time candidate, participated, but incumbent Councilor Christine Szal did not. The candidates are running unopposed for three open seats.