Women make up the majority of candidates hoping to serve on the Bangor City Council after next month’s election, a first at least in recent memory.
Four women and three men are running for three seats on the nine-person panel, which currently has three women members. The candidates include two incumbent councilors who are hoping to rejoin the body for new three-years terms. Councilor Joe Perry announced earlier this fall that he would not run for re-election.
In the slightly less competitive school committee race, voters will decide which of three candidates will fill two open seats on the seven-person board. The candidates, including the board’s former chairman, also would serve three-year-terms.
Election Day is Nov. 6.
Allen “Seth” Braun, 26, is an electrical engineer who moved to Bangor two years ago from Atlanta, Georgia. In his second consecutive bid for Bangor City Council, he said he’s running “to keep the conversation moving leftward.”
Motivated by a nationwide push to increase police accountability and by specific incidents in Bangor, Braun said he wants to see the city’s police force outfitted with body cameras. He has already researched ways that the city could purchase the technology for around $300,000, he said.
Generally, Braun supports city-driven initiatives to help people living at the edge of their means, such as expanding the hours of the city’s bus service, and creating more community gardens near low-income housing, he said. He wants Bangor to encourage developers to build more affordable housing here, but he also believes in the possibility of government intervention. “Rent control is a great idea” to keep prices down, he said.
Braun is an independent who belongs to the Socialist Party of Maine, he said.
John Cashwell, a semi-retired consultant in the forestry industry and U.S. Army veteran, served on the Bangor City Council from 2003 to 2006, and was chairman his final year. He was a city councilor in Calais during the 1980s, and he’s also made two unsuccessful State House bids.
Cashwell touted previous achievements as a city councilor as a reason to vote for him, specifically his role in negotiations to establish what has become Hollywood Casino in Bangor. But Bangor is facing a different set of issues than when he previously served, Cashwell said.
If elected next month, the 70-year-old wants to pivot the city’s attention to social issues, such as the “homeless issues [and] drug issues” that have plagued neighborhoods and created spectacles of poverty and “despair” in Pickering Square and elsewhere in the city, he said. Cashwell wants to create a pilot program to give the city’s “troubled youth” ways to spend their time during the day, and eventually transition into jobs and housing.
Cashwell is a registered Republican.
Nicole Golden-Bouchard, 42, is a public interest attorney at Pine Tree Legal, where she represents victims of domestic violence. This is her first bid for public office.
The opioid crisis is the greatest challenge facing Bangor, according to Golden-Bouchard. If elected, the Health Equity Alliance board member would promote collaboration among the city and its service organizations to invent “holistic, humanistic” new ideas to mitigate the crisis.
In addition, Golden-Bouchard said she would fight to alleviate property taxes; lobby to restore previously higher levels of state revenue sharing to Bangor; and explore public-private partnerships to tackle social problems via social impact bonds. She is interested in creating mixed-use developments around the Bangor Mall area as a way to create more affordable housing and boost public transit ridership to that part of the city.
Golden-Bouchard is a registered Democrat.
Amy Lee Tidd, 35, is a charge nurse at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. She was inspired to make her first bid for office when she volunteered in hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico last year and noticed how involved local officials were in the lives of their constituents.
Lee Tidd has a background in advocacy and volunteering, having worked at Bangor’s youth homeless shelter and at the Health Equity Alliance triage clinic. As a board member of the Maine State Nurses’ Association, the state’s nurses union, “I have a lot of experience bargaining for the best deal for a large group of people,” she said.
Lee Tidd supports expanding bus service and making Bangor more walkable (she doesn’t drive). She wants to secure more funding for programs that mitigate the region’s opioid crisis; bring the police and fire departments to full staffing levels (the police department is chronically understaffed); and create more quality, affordable housing in Bangor.
Lee Tidd is a registered Democrat.
David Nealley, 57, is running for his third consecutive and fourth overall term on the city council. He is the publisher of Maine Seniors magazine and chairs the city’s Business and Economic Development Committee. Compared to this year’s slate of candidates, many of whom are political newcomers, Nealley cited his experience as a primary reason to re-elect him.
“I do provide some stability, experience, and some institutional knowledge,” he said.
A self-described “budget hawk,” Nealley favors limited government and minimal spending. His priority is to spur economic growth in Bangor — which, he noted, has seen major developments to its downtown and waterfront since he’s been on the council — but without burdening property taxpayers. He called the city’s affordable housing crunch a problem, but said it isn’t the city’s responsibility “to be in the housing business,” and he deferred to organizations such as Penquis and the Bangor Housing Authority to spearhead solutions.
Nealley is a registered Republican but describes himself as a liberartian.
Sarah Nichols is running for her second term on the City Council, and expanding access to public transportation is still a core of her platform, she said. The 28-year-old Bangor native would like to continue pressing for upgrades to the city’s aging bus fleet, more bus stops, and an extension of the bus service’s hours past 6:30 p.m.
The Community Connector’s daytime, Monday-Saturday schedule isn’t convenient for a large segment of the population that uses the service — people who work retail and service jobs that don’t conform to 9-to-5 schedules.
Nichols also supports creating municipally funded broadband infrastructure and exploring ways to build more affordable housing. “What I always tell everyone is that people who work hard deserve to stay ahead, and should stay ahead. That’s kind of my motto,” she said.
Nichols, a graduate of Emerge Maine, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office, works for the Maine Education Association in Augusta and is a registered Democrat.
Gretchen Schaefer works at Husson University, helping faculty integrate technology into their lessons and teaching in the School of Education. She’s also the president of the PTO for the 14th Street School, and this is her first bid for public office.
As a working mother and the child of aging parents who eventually plan to retire in Bangor, Schaefer, 43, wants to make Bangor a welcoming, accessible place to live for both the young and the old, she said. The Washington County native supports fixing the roads and sidewalks to make them more walkable, and fostering a sense of community within Bangor’s neighborhoods.
She identified Bangor’s housing crunch as the greatest problem facing the city, and would push for the creation of more affordable housing in the city. She is strongly in favor creating municipally funded broadband in Bangor — a “no-brainer” that would attract businesses and telecommuters, she said.
She is a registered Democrat.
Warren Caruso served nine years on the school committee, including his last four years as its chair, until he hit the board’s three-term limit in 2017.
If elected again, he said he would focus on two major issues facing the district. He wants to secure more school funding from the state, and alleviate the burden on property taxpayers. He also wants to help the district grapple with changing state and federal assessments of student performance, which makes it difficult for Bangor to consistently evaluate itself.
Caruso, 53, is the director of major gifts and the men’s basketball coach at Husson University, but has served in several capacities there and considers himself “a lifelong educator” who is “very passionate about Bangor.”
John Hiatt, 35, is an ed tech and licenced behavioral health professional who works with students with special educational needs. He’s also a substitute teacher in Bangor, and would be required to stop that work if elected to the school committee. He’s running on a two-pronged platform to improve city schools.
First, Hiatt wants to see the district’s curriculum go “back to basics,” incorporating more classes that teach students “to be able to cook, balance a checkbook, make somewhat sound financial decisions,” he said. Second, he wants to increase transparency on the school committee by adding more public comment opportunities during meetings.
“Any contact you make with a school board member is automatically directed to the superintendent,” he said, a policy he would push to change. Hiatt is also running for Penobscot County treasurer.
Ken Huhn is a health care professional who runs a nursing home in Ellsworth. The past chair of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, he has served on a number of city boards.
Huhn wants to eliminate “brain drain,” and envisions a strong school district as the pipeline for economic growth that will retain graduates. Well-prepared Bangor students should go on to the area’s handful of colleges, then stick around to find and create good jobs in the region, he said.
If elected, Huhn would lobby for more state funding. Relying so heavily on property taxes “is the wrong way of funding schools,” he said. His two adult sons attended Bangor schools, and Huhn sits on the President’s Advisory Board at Eastern Maine Community College.
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