MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town Council candidate Richard Angotti Jr. wants to promote neighborliness. School board candidate Shelley Farrington sees town schools becoming melting pots of diversity.
School board candidate Mike Jewers promises to do his utmost to make town students ready for college. Council candidate David Cyr seeks a more diversified economy. School board candidate Gilda Stratton wants to work to keep town students the school system’s first priority.
A Katahdin Area Rotary Club Candidates Night at Stearns High School earlier this week allowed local and state office candidates to outline their views. About 30 spectators attended. Council candidate Bryant Davis and school board candidates Eric Buckingham Jr. and Donald Dow Jr. were absent.
All candidates said they wanted to serve the town as best they could, promoting Millinocket as a place to live and do business and lowering taxes as much as possible. Most named economic development and the creation of jobs as the town’s top priority but said such work is difficult.
Council candidate John Dicentes suggested that consolidating school and town maintenance departments might save money and eliminate redundancy. He and Angotti praised Millinocket as a tourist and recreational haven.
“A community that works together can make this a town that tourists and residents can appreciate and enjoy,” Angotti said. “Trail systems are a great attraction to this town, but we can’t live on tourism alone. It is one portion of the whole picture. Asking the state to help [town finances] is great, but they are in same boat everyone else is in.”
Cyr also praised the town’s effort to create more multiuse recreational trails.
“It doesn’t replace jobs, but it does keep us alive and keep us viable in the world economy,” Cyr said.
With 62 percent of the town’s residents elderly, and most of them on fixed incomes, “they can’t afford us to keep raising taxes,” but finding a way to answer their needs “is going to be a challenge,” he added.
“We really have to stop and look at our neighbors and say, ‘How can I help?’ That’s what this town needs. It needs neighbors helping neighbors,” Angotti said.
Often, he sees townspeople ignoring efforts to help one another. That must stop, he said.
Farrington said she envisioned students becoming much more technologically adept through the continued introduction of new technologies to the schools. She said the school’s attempt to recruit students from China, which she also supports, would create a much-needed revenue stream while broadening students’ cultural experiences.
Stratton said she wanted school officials pursuing foreign student recruitment to not lose sight of how town students “are a first priority.” She said she also wanted to see the schools improve their ability to prepare students for college.
Cyr said his council experience has shown that big-bang economic development opportunities are rare and that trying to create or expand small businesses gradually is more likely to be successful.
“We have learned that you can’t just throw money at it. You have to do it right and do it slowly,” he said of economic development. “You have to look at the low-hanging fruit.”
“Our No. 1 priority should be the education of our kids,” Dicentes said, adding that he wanted them to know how to “read and write and get into any colleges they want.”
Most candidates had at least some experience in civic affairs. Angotti said he volunteers for many activities, including helping the stage crew at Stearns and serving on the planning, zoning appeals and airport supervisory boards.
Farrington extolled her school board experience and her passion for education issues, saying she spends a lot of time in town schools. Dicentes regularly attends council meetings and said he helped negotiate more than 20 years of contracts as a union member at the former Great Northern Paper Co.