ROCKLAND, Maine — Rockland voters will decide over the next month whether to give Mayor Brian Harden an unprecedented fifth consecutive three-year term on the city council or to select one of two challengers.
Harden, Harold Dale Hayward and Frank Isganitis are the three candidates on the ballot for a single three-year seat. The election is Nov. 6 although absentee ballots are available at the city clerk’s office.
The three have agreed to participate in a candidates night at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Rockland City Hall, organized by the Bangor Daily News.
The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:
Harden is a Rockland native who was first elected to the city council in 2000.
Harden said one of his biggest accomplishments has been to stabilize local government. He said in 2000 that the city had a history of mistreating city managers. He said one of his goals has been to work with professional managers and for the council to focus on policy matters.
Harden said he also has worked on tax stability. He said this does not mean taxes won’t go up but that he would fight as hard as possible to have taxes go up as slow as possible. He said this has been accomplished so far through less reliance on property taxes and more emphasis on user fees, particularly dump fees.
The enactment of dump fees several years ago has made the solid waste department self-sufficient and has also allowed the city to put money in a reserve account for when the quarry landfill has to be closed, he said. Harden said it would be too much to ask taxpayers to borrow $2.5 million to $3 million for the dump closure.
Harden said he also is seeking re-election to continue the economic development strategy of the past 12 years. He said there has been some success in getting new businesses such as Boston Financial in 2008 but that there have been more efforts to retain existing companies such as Fisher Engineering with tax increment financing.
Harden said work done downtown has not been just to improve the visible infrastructure such as sidewalks and roads, but also the sewer system.
“Other people will say what they want to do. I can say that I’ve already done that,” Harden said. “I’m almost 65 and I’m not ready to be put out to pasture.”
He said one of his shortcomings is that he tends to get preachy, Harden said.
Harden graduated from Rockland District High School and the University of Maine and later received a law degree from the Washington College of Law. He returned to Rockland and is the business manager for the Reading Corner bookstore in Rockland. He has served on the Rockland Historical Society Board and edited the “Shore Village Story.” He also served on the Northeast Health Board of Directors.
Harold Dale Hayward
In responses to emailed questions, Harold Dale Hayward said he is running in an effort to instill accountability in all phases of city business and to foster a dialogue with the public to promote community values and responsibilities.
He said he wants the city government to lower expenses by researching what is needed compared to what is requested. He said times will get tougher.
Hayward said he also will work to lower taxes.
Hayward called for term limits on city councilors. He said he also wanted a mature and respectable relationship between city councilors and administrators and the public.
Hayward also said he wants to keep the responsibilities of the councilors in check.
He wants to provide a voice to encourage taxpayer questions, encourage more people to vote, root out cliques and the insiders, provide another perspective, keep egos and personal agendas out of public affairs and respect businesses and individuals.
He said all departments need to tighten their belts and examine what they need compared to what they want. Shopping lists need to be scrutinized with more emphasis on saving money.
“Being on the public side, not having access to both sides of the story it is difficult to intelligently dissect the past, perhaps the future can be laid out with cooler heads and erase the influence of personalities. A thorough investigation leads to better solutions, for all to consider,” Hayward said.
Hayward was born and raised in Belfast, graduated from Higgins Classical Institute in Charleston, and then graduated from Hartford Institute of Accounting in Connecticut. He served in the Air Force in Delaware. He then served as an auditor for the state of Delaware and later as an auditor for Maine state government. He operated Seaport Office Supply on Main Street in Rockland from 1978 until 1992 and later drove a tour bus for Maineline, retiring in 1999.
He has twice run unsuccessfully for the city council — losing in 1986 and three years ago to Harden.
Isganitis is co-owner and operator of the Limerock Inn in Rockland. He and his partner purchased the inn eight years ago.
He said he wants to get city government’s fiscal house in order. He said he was concerned about the city’s high tax rate and high valuations. He said the taxes are significant in Rockland and are paid into escrow accounts greater than the mortgages.
“I’m more a result-oriented individual,” Isganitis said, noting that he was one of three co-founders of Main Street Inc., which he said has benefited both downtown and the entire community.
Isganitis serves as president of the Pen Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce Board. He noted that the merger of the two separate Chambers — Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville and Pen Bay — was considered an impossible feat, but it was accomplished.
He said he has had preliminary discussions with several landlords on creating an association that would advocate for both them and their residents. He noted about half of city residents live in apartments.
He called for the creation of a tax rebate program that would allow apartment building owners to invest in their properties for safety improvements and weatherization. These investments could then be used to provide up to a 10 percent rebate of their taxes.
Isganitis said he will not be spending money on political signs but instead urged people to donate money to Area Interfaith Outreach. He said he also is encouraging friends to contact their friends and he will meet with people at his home to discuss city issues.
He said there are a lot of ways to generate revenues.
He noted that he was vilified in 2008 by opponents to Walgreens when that company wanted to build a store at the intersection of Camden and Maverick streets. He said that the national-versus-local business battle is the wrong battle for the community to fight. He said businesses want to be located where there is more traffic and the city should not lose out from the benefit of high traffic volumes that already exist on Route 1.
He pointed out that opponents said another pharmacy was not needed but within a few years another pharmacy opened a block away.
He said Rockland will be losing Walmart next year to neighboring Thomaston. Rockland will lose taxes but will still have to deal with traffic on that stretch of Route 1.
He said he does not know of any departments which should see their spending go down but said public works is in need of a new garage and office building.
Isganitis grew up in northern New Jersey. He attended college in the Atlanta area. He worked as a banker for nearly 20 years in Atlanta and New York.
He ran two for the council two years ago and was initially declared the winner and seated, but a recount later found he fell three votes short to Larry Pritchett.