Economic development top priority of Dexter council candidates

Posted Oct. 30, 2013, at 12:36 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 31, 2013, at 10:38 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — There will be plenty of choices for Dexter Town Council on the Nov. 5 election ballot as six residents will be seeking three contested seats.

Two incumbents, Chairman Peter Haskell and Councilor Alan Wintle, are seeking re-election. One councilor, Andre Robichaud, has decided not to seek another three-year term.

The other four candidates are Ronald Apel, Sharon Grant, David Palmer and Mark Robichaud, who is not related to Andre Robichaud.

While the candidates have their differences of opinion, they all have one goal in common: to encourage new businesses to move into the community.

Haskell is semiretired but still works for the Bangor Daily News circulation department part time. He has more than 20 years of service on the council and said that he still enjoys serving the community. “Economic development is the big issue, but it’s not an easy task,” Haskell said. “Every time we’ve tried to bring something new to town, we’ve got people who are opposed to it.”

Haskell said that he also supports a bond issue to upgrade Dexter’s roads. “When you put a skinny mix coating on them, it doesn’t last two years,” Haskell said.

On a related note, he said that opposition to the east-west highway concerns him. “We simply don’t have enough information to make a decision on it,” Haskell said. “But we shouldn’t be looking back. We need to move forward.”

Wintle, a corrections officer for the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office, is seeking his second three-year term. “My first year on the council was basically learning about town government,” Wintle said. “In my second year, I participated a lot more; and this year, I’ve been more active.”

Wintle said that one of the town’s major accomplishments was the sale of the former Dexter middle and elementary schools to Gerry Marshall, who has developed part of the complex into apartments. “We’ve had some success with that business, and I hope to see more things like this in the future,” Wintle said. “We definitely need more business to add to our tax rolls.”

Wintle also supports a proposed local bond issue for road repairs. “Who would want to bring a new business into a town with bad roads?” Wintle asked. “The town’s road committee is doing an excellent job. They have the experience to make sound recommendations.”

Apel, a retired systems engineer for IBM Corporation, is making his first run for public office. “Most of my career has involved problem-solving and people skills,” Apel said, “so I hope to bring my experience to the town council.”

Apel and his wife moved to Maine from Colorado in 2006 to be closer to her family. “My wife’s brother lives in Garland,” Apel said. “I really like the small-town atmosphere. Dexter is a very vibrant community.”

But Apel also said that the town “really hasn’t recovered since Dexter Shoe closed. There really isn’t much manufacturing in the area anymore. So we really need more small- and medium-size businesses in town.”

Apel added that he is strong proponent of local control. “It all starts here. As [Abraham] Lincoln said, I believe in government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.’”

Grant is also making her first run for public office. “For a while my co-workers were concerned that people weren’t taking out nomination papers for the council,” Grant said. “So I decided to do it.”

She’s worked at Tillson’s True Value for 36 years, and said that the town she remembers as a child “has had its ups and downs. But we have some good amenities like a nice lake, golf course, the airport and a beautiful new school [Ridge View]. I would like to see more businesses move into the community, and I’m thrilled to see that Spring Street will finally be repaved,” she said.

Grant, a bookkeeper by trade, said that her experience will also help the council “make sound fiscal decisions. I feel we’re moving in the right direction and I’d like to become part of that process.”

Palmer is a relative newcomer to Dexter, although his wife grew up in the community. He owns and operates christiannetcast.com and several multimedia streaming services. “I was asked to run by some people who were looking for some positive change and some new faces on the council,” Palmer said. “I’d like to see the town use more technology to bring things forward. I’ve got 20 years’ experience in the corporate world as well.”

Like the other candidates, Palmer feels that the economy is the primary issue. “We need to find ways to offer some tax incentives for businesses to come into town that will provide some much-needed jobs, he said. “Millinocket has done it. I don’t see why we can’t do it in Dexter,” Palmer said.

Robichaud is an artist who does landscape paintings and drawings on both canvas and paper, and also restores antique cars. This is his first run for public office, and he said that he also wants to see Dexter move forward with the resources already in place. “We need to encourage some small, sustainable businesses to move here and fill those empty storefronts downtown and in the old mill,” Robichaud said. “Look at Fossa’s Store. They’ve done a wonderful job and they’re also helping local farmers.”

Robichaud said that he is opposed to the east-west highway, however. “I know the chairman [Haskell] and Alan Wintle favor it, but I certainly don’t,” Robichaud said. “I don’t think many council members really listen to the people. If elected, I will.”

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