HOULTON, Maine — Four previous or current councilors and one newcomer to local politics are running for three open seats on the Town Council to be decided by voters today.
Incumbents Walter Goodrich and Sue Tortello are being challenged by former Councilors Philip Bernaiche and Carl Lord Jr. and newcomer Brian Donnelly.
During a candidates forum sponsored by the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce last week, the five candidates described their qualifications for guiding the town through its next three years. They responded to questions put to them by the moderator and called in by the public.
When asked about experience and qualifications, Donnelly pointed to his lifelong residency in the town and his good work ethic.
Bernaiche cited his past terms on the council and said he had held a seat on the SAD 29 board. He told the audience he remains dedicated to helping the town move forward.
Lord also said his experience on the council makes him a prime candidate for the position. He has served on the board of budget review, the municipal zoning board and the Southern Aroostook Development Corp.
Goodrich and Tortello each said that as present councilors, they have worked hard to promote economic development and keep the mill rate low. They said they plan to continue that work if reelected.
All of the candidates said that keeping the mill rate low is crucial to promoting business growth. Donnelly said he feels it is vital for the town to keep participating in initiatives such as the Pine Tree Zone program. He said he would be open-minded to all economic development opportunities that come before the town.
Bernaiche said he believes economic development will be instrumental to bringing well-paying jobs to the community and keeping young people in the area.
Lord agreed, and said he has always supported economic development initiatives such as the Tax Increment Financing program and has voted to take money from the municipal surplus to help lower the mill rate.
Tortello said that if re-elected, she will continue to support the use of TIFs to promote business development and growth, and will encourage area economic development groups to work together to lure even more businesses and jobs to town.
Goodrich said he thinks the town is “going in the right direction” and has seen several new businesses arrive in the past few years. He said he has a good feel for what is going on in town and will continue to help attract more businesses and jobs to the municipality if re-elected.