June 23, 2018
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Six seek two seats on Camden Select Board

By Tom Groening, BDN Staff

CAMDEN, Maine — Six candidates seeking two seats on the town’s Select Board will be on Tuesday’s ballot. The number of candidates might suggest a divided town, but most said they want to see the town continue on its current course.

John French has been on the board for 15 years. Though candidates often cite a duty to public service as their motivation, with French, 57, that cliche isn’t handy when asked why voters should re-elect him.

“I hate that question,” he said after a pause, and admits it’s because it requires tooting his own horn. “I just want to serve the town. I want to continue to represent the people. I wasn’t born here, but I grew up here, went to school here,” French said, taking a break between working on cars at Coastal Automotive, the repair shop he runs with the help of his father.

French grew up on Curtis Island in Camden’s harbor, where his father operated the lighthouse as its Coast Guard keeper.

Though he cites his local ties in a town whose leaders are often from other parts of Maine and beyond, French rejects the native-vs.-newcomer philosophy.

“I’ve sat there and listened to people, and I’ve learned to compromise, and even vote with people” with whom he initially disagreed, he said.

• Matthew Lewis, 30, has lived in Camden for six years and he and his wife have two young children. He served on the town budget committee for the last two years.

“I’ve really enjoyed serving on that committee, and I think I have had an impact on how some recommendations from our committee have been handed down,” Lewis wrote in response to an email inquiry.

A graduate of the Ohio Police Academy, Lewis said he pursued business management instead of law enforcement and in 2009 launched the Yellow Cab Co. which serves Rockland and Camden.

Camden has been good for him and his family, he said, and his candidacy aims “to return the favor to the people who live here.” Lewis believes his business management and law enforcement experiences would serve the town well.

He wants town government to maintain infrastructure “without affecting what makes our downtown unique.”

• As he walks a reporter around the vibrant downtown, Leonard Lookner has a prop to make the central point of his candidacy. It’s a zip drive, a pocket-sized data storage device, given out by the town’s Community & Economic Development Advisory Committee.

Printed on the sleeve for the zip drive are the words, “We roll out the red carpet, not the red tape!”

The underlying philosophy of this message, as he perceives it, is offensive to Lookner, 72. It reflects a bias toward business interests above all else, including the environment and quality of life, he explained.

“The strength of our economy is what we are, not what we’re not,” he said. Lookner has owned and operated The Waterfront restaurant on Bayview Street for 34 years. The seasonal economy is “the way it’s always been,” he said, and thinks efforts to change that will hurt what works for Camden.

Lookner, who served a term on the Select Board several years ago, wants town government to sustain and improve Camden’s quality of life, not try to diversify its economy.

• Robin McIntosh thinks Camden is doing just fine and wants to join the effort to keep up the momentum.

“I like what’s going on in Camden. I like the direction Camden is going in. There’s a lot of good energy,” said McIntosh, 55, who will be listed on the ballot by her full legal name, Diane Robin McIntosh.

The Connecticut native first moved to Camden in 1976 with her family, which ran a lumber supply business on Union Street. Later, she and her husband left the area for Portsmouth, N.H., where she was active in the city’s economic development efforts.

A particular success in Portsmouth was working with the city’s neighborhoods, ensuring these distinct areas were in harmony with business boosting efforts. The business community and neighborhood leaders “didn’t always talk,” she remembers, but through the city’s focus, communication began to improve.

Business boosting is something McIntosh is immersed in her day job as member services manager for the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Though Camden’s downtown is, by most accounts, economically healthy, McIntosh believes the Select Board should be mindful of the need for diversity.

“I think it’s really important that you build that year-round base in the downtown,” she said.

At the same time, McIntosh wants town government to remain focused on “the quality of life that is so important to people.”

• Mary Lowe Quinn, 57, was born and raised in Camden and is proud to note that her father once served as a selectman and helped build up the local Chamber of Commerce.

She works the night shift at the Circle K store in Rockport.

“I love Camden,” Quinn said. “I feel I am a reasonable person who can listen to people’s concerns and weigh them out.” She has served on the town’s budget and parking committees.

“I just want to see Camden become all it can become,” she said.

• John Lewis did not return phone messages seeking an interview about his candidacy.

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