BANGOR, Maine — Chandler Woodcock has held a lot of titles the last three decades: high school basketball coach, English teacher, Maine state senator and gubernatorial candidate.
Late last year, he added another one: executive director of the Maine Harness Horseman’s Association.
“Jonathan Seavey resigned for family reasons and I decided it would be a great fit for me,” Woodcock said when asked what prompted him to seek the job. “I love to travel, I love the people and I love horses.”
Woodcock, whose grandfather was a trainer at the old Lewiston Raceway, was around horses for much of his young life.
Although he doesn’t own any horses and chooses not to bet on them for philosophical reasons related to his current job, Woodcock likes to be around them.
“That’s definitely true, but the added benefit to this job is these are beautiful animals, which really are incredible athletes,” he said.
Woodcock visited Bangor Raceway for the opening of Bangor Historic Track’s 126th season last weekend. He plans to attend races twice a week at least throughout the season.
“I won’t go to all of them because my wife would complain,” he said with a chuckle. “I go to a couple a week and try to be available to the horsemen, and I love the fair circuit. It’s a real strong tradition in the Maine agricultural community.”
Woodock coached the varsity girls team from Mt. Blue of Farmington to two Class A state titles in three seasons and presided over a 33-game win streak. He also was an assistant college coach and head coach at two other high schools.
The former coach, who became famous for wearing a bow tie at his games, sees a few similarities between basketball and harness racing.
“These horsemen are competitive people, not just for winning, but this is also their livelihood,” he said.
He still misses some aspects of the sport he left nine years ago to run for office. He doesn’t miss them all.
“I miss the competition and the kids and coaches, but I do not miss the administrative hassles and especially not the bus rides,” he explained. “As far as this job, I don’t think there is a downside for me. There are politics in this job, of course, but that’s in most jobs.”
Byers has something cooking
There’s a new chef in town on the back 40 at Bangor Historic Track.
Bangor native Corey Byers is the new head cook and owner of The Paddock Grill, a lunch trailer set up at the back side of Bangor Raceway’s grandstand building.
“I acquired this business last year. I’ve dabbled in cooking and my grandparents used to have a takeout spot,” said Byers, who also runs an interior painting business. “I have a lease for this place through Penn National.”
Although he hasn’t been open for business that long, Byers has been working hard for the last month getting the trailer ready for the breakfast and lunch crowd.
“I’ve been going like crazy for three weeks preparing for this,” he said. “So on opening day, I had a late start. My hot water heater wasn’t turned up enough, but they adjusted it and we’re all good now.”
Byers specializes in typical grill food like hamburgers, hot dogs, onion rings, and French fries, but also cooks breakfast every day.
“On nonrace days, I’ll only be open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and primarily serve breakfast,” he explained. “Right now it’s primarily the horsemen and people in the barns and paddock, but it’ll grow. It’s been fairly steady today.”
Byers is actually more of a stranger to running a lunch wagon than he is the horses as he is an owner.
“I’ve owned horses for awhile. I have a yearling right now and hopefully she’ll be racing here next year,” he said.