HOULTON, Maine — Town councilors on Monday evening quickly replaced a member who resigned his position earlier this month after he was elected to serve on the SAD 29 board. The appointment, however, irked one council hopeful.
Councilor Fred Grant officially resigned Nov. 9. Grant was serving his first term on the council, but decided earlier this year that he could better serve the community on the school board. He easily won a seat on that board on Election Day.
After Grant’s resignation, councilors invited residents to submit their names for a one-year appointment to replace him on the council. Only two candidates came forward Monday evening.
Phil Bernaiche, a former councilor who served on the board during various terms for more than a decade, was one candidate. Bernaiche has been heavily involved in local government, serving on the council, the board of budget review, the SAD 29 board and various committees. But he has run unsuccessfully for council several times in the past few years. He ran for one of two open council seats on Election Day and lost to councilors John Fitzpatrick and John White.
Carl Lord, a Houlton resident, urged the council to appoint Bernaiche to the open seat Monday evening. He said that Bernaiche had gone out and collected all of the necessary signatures to get on the ballot and had participated in the annual candidate’s forum, making his views and goals known to the public.
“He went the extra mile to get on the ballot,” said Lord. “He regularly attends the meetings. He deserves this. If you do anything different, it would be irresponsible.”
Bernaiche also said that he deserved to be appointed to the one-year position.
“I am fully qualified and I feel that if you pick anyone else, you are discriminating against me, whether it is because of my age or how I run the town,” he said. “You have got to be honest and you have got to give me a fair shake.”
Michael Jenkins, the second candidate, is a lifetime resident. He told the council he had never served on the council or the school board and didn’t attend meetings regularly, but said that he wanted to serve now in order to volunteer and “make the community better.”
Councilors immediately voted unanimously to appoint Jenkins.
Jenkins was sworn in at the end of the meeting. He also was appointed as a director of the Shiretown Development Corp. until November 2011.