Bangor leaders to explore possibility of electing mayor

Posted Feb. 29, 2012, at 6:52 p.m.
Last modified March 01, 2012, at 7:20 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Almost four months after Portland elected its first mayor in 88 years, a group of Bangor residents is informally exploring the idea.

Ten community leaders have joined over the last two months to form a nonpartisan volunteer group interested in exploring the viability of a mayoral system for Bangor, which hasn’t had an elected mayor since 1931.

“I’ve been interested in working with city government for a long time, so from that angle, there’s always an interest in the city of Bangor and its governance,” said Penobscot County Commissioner Peter Baldacci, a Bangor lawyer who is a member of the group. “I think people’s interest was piqued when Portland changed its system and elected a mayor this past fall.”

The group has held two meetings and is in the process of gathering information about mayoral systems used by cities of similar size to Bangor nationwide.

“It’s really an informal group that grew very organically from people having some similar conversations,” said Dan Cashman, group member and owner of Cashman Communications. “There have mostly been a lot of questions, really, so far.”

Bangor does have a mayor, who is elected by a simple majority of the nine active city councilors. The title is primarily ceremonial, although it does come with several perquisites, benefits and extra powers.

“The consensus among everyone in the group is that this is in no way a commentary on the current governing body or previous bodies,” Cashman said. “We’re not coming in with any preconceived notions, even as far as whether or not having a mayor is a good or bad idea.

“With Bangor entering an exciting period with a lot of stuff happening,” he added, “we’re seeing such growth that I think it makes sense to see if we have the system to best serve future growth and if it’s something that’s right for Bangor.”

The other members of the group include former Bangor Daily News executive editor Mark Woodward; Eastern Maine Development Corp. President and former Bangor City Councilor Michael Aube; Elizabeth Sutherland, co-owner of Sutherland Weston

Marketing Communications; retired Bangor businessman Clif Eames; Eaton Peabody lawyer Andrew Hamilton; former labor union official John Hanson; Julia Munsey, Oxford Networks marketing and public relations specialist; and Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems director Suzanne Spruce.

Baldacci said the group likely will meet again in a month.

“There is no time element we’re working under and there’s no urgency attached to it,” he said.

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