BRUNSWICK, Maine — Town Councilor and former state legislator John Richardson has decided not to seek re-election and may instead run next year for the state Senate.
Former council candidate Alison Harris, meanwhile, gathered enough last-minute signatures before the Sept. 4 filing deadline to run unopposed for Richardson’s council seat.
Richardson, who has been an at-large councilor for three years, took out nomination papers, but confirmed last week that he has decided not to run again.
He said his decision came after discussions with his wife, Stephanie Grohs.
“We began to discuss the ability to work as I do, full-time, and to serve as a town councilor, especially with an upcoming new budget to be put together,” Richardson said.
Another big factor “is my desire to run for the (District 24) state Senate seat – or to consider running,” he said. “I would not be devoting as much time toward the council if running for state Senate. … I can do two things well at once, but not all three. It would be unfair.”
Richardson was a Democratic state representative from 1998 to 2006, and served as House Majority Leader and Speaker of the House.
In 2007, Gov. John Baldacci appointed him commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, which he headed for two years.
He ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.
“I think that we’re at a crucial point in time,” Richardson said. “I believe that there’s a need for experienced legislators. I’ve got the experience.”
The Senate District 24 seat is held by Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, whose term limit expires in 2016.
Cumberland Street resident Harris said learning Richardson was considering not seeking re-election made her think about another campaign.
Harris unsuccessfully ran for the District 6 council seat in 2013, and said she has “continued to be interested in what’s going on in town.”
Harris and her husband moved to Topsham in 2007 from New Jersey, and then to Brunswick in 2009.
“We were both retired, and we grew up and spent our professional lives in the New York area … (and) decided we wanted a different lifestyle,” she said.
Since then, Harris has been a volunteer at the Brunswick visitor center, and a strong supporter of the proposed Amtrak layover facility.
“I see how important the train is to Brunswick … not only drawing visitors, but also bringing a lot of people from the region to Brunswick to meet people coming in or to take the train,” she said.
Harris said she is a big supporter of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, and wants to make sure the “intent” of the document is upheld in the ongoing rewrite of the town’s zoning ordinance.
“(The Comprehensive Plan) is a very good document and it discusses very clearly the distinction between growth areas and rural areas that need to be preserved,” she said.
Coming from New Jersey, which is “notorious” for its suburban sprawl, this planning is very important to her, Harris said.
Although she has never held elected office, she said that five years working for the state treasurer in New Jersey and her “many” years in the nonprofit sector before that prepared her to deal with questions of general services, development, and taxes.
Districts 3 Councilor Suzan Wilson and District 4 Councilor John Perreault both returned papers for re-election bids.
Dan Ford of Ledgewood Drive initially returned papers with 103 signatures for Richardson’s at-large seat – three more than the required minimum – but 13 of them were ruled invalid, according to Town Clerk Fran Smith. Ford will not be on the Nov. 3 ballot.
In the School Board election, District 4 board member Corinne Perreault and at-large board member Joy Prescott returned nomination papers.
In District 3, MacMillan Drive resident Teresa Kelly-Gillis is running unopposed to replace Chris McCarthy, who is stepping down because his wife was recently re-hired as an art teacher by the School Department.
The only local question on the November ballot will be a proposal to change the Brunswick Sewer District’s charter to increase its debt limit to $25 million.
The $5 million increase would help the district fund a proposed $22 million renovation of the sewer plant, which was built in the late 1960s and has not been upgraded since 1991.