BANGOR, Maine — Longtime Bangor City Councilor and former Mayor Gerry Palmer said Tuesday he will not seek re-election this fall, opting instead to retire and return to being an “active Bangor citizen.”
The 63-year-old Palmer will also concentrate on being a father, grandfather, homeowner-builder, and managing partner of the Palmer Lee & Grace career management agency.
“I’m calling it a career,” said Palmer, who is building a new ranch-style house with his wife, Susan, on outer Broadway in Bangor. “I’m a busy guy and [was] for many, many years and I think this is the right time. The success of the arena really seemed to make this the right time for me.”
Palmer was on hand at Bass Park last Thursday to plunge one of 11 chrome-plated or golden shovels into the earth as part of the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Bangor arena and event center.
“Breaking ground for the new arena was very meaningful to me,” the University of Maine graduate said. “I’ve been pushing for that since 1997.”
Palmer added, “I’m very excited about the future of Bangor. I’ve done all I wanted to do.”
Pat Blanchette, the only member of the Bangor City Council with a longer tenure than Palmer, said few are as tenacious as Palmer.
“He’s like a little pit bull,” Blanchette said with a chuckle. “He gets something in his jaw and he’s never letting it go until it’s done, and he’s been the biggest advocate we’ve had for the new arena.”
Palmer, who is serving his fifth term, has seven children and three grandchildren.
He first ran for office in the mid-1990s with the same mindset he’s retiring with now.
“I have a tremendous amount of passion for this city. I’ve run six times and been elected five,” said Palmer, who was born on the corner of State and Birch streets at the former James A. Taylor Osteopathic Hospital. “I ran for a lot of reasons. I felt Bangor could do more. Bangor is my native city and I feel sometimes we are a little too humble and not as big-thinking as we could be.”
Blanchette said she’ll miss the Bangor City Council’s resident historian, whom she has come to call a personal friend and with whom she has coffee each Saturday.
“I guess what comes to mind most for me … when I think of Jerry is as someone who just loves Bangor,” she said. “He is so proud of Bangor, having been born here and coming back after moving away. He always [promotes] Bangor. He’s been one of the quiet, driving forces behind the Folk Festival.”
Palmer will still have plenty of things to occupy his time.
“It’s a tremendous commitment to be on the council. You need to be in there 15-20 hours a week to do the job justice,” Palmer said. “It’s time for someone new to take the job.”
Potential replacements for Palmer can pick up nomination papers to run for his seat as early as Wednesday.
Palmer said he’s proud of many city developments or projects that he has been part of, but cited a few as being particularly meaningful to him.
“I have a lot of treasured memories of progress and our relationship with Saint John, New Brunswick, and our sister city in Harbin, China. There are many, many things,” he said. “Getting Hollywood Slots here in town to revitalize the area, and watching Cianbro grow and send the first modules down the river — there are a lot of things to be proud of.”
Including his beloved city in general.
“I was downtown one night last weekend and heard the tin drums in West Market Square, and you had J. Geils Band, and people all over the place downtown and walking on the sidewalks,” Palmer said. “It’s a fun place to be now. I can’t think of a better place to live than Bangor.”