The largest field of candidates in at least 35 years is running for the Bangor City Council this fall.
Eleven residents are vying for four open seats. That’s the largest number since at least 1984, according to records in the city clerk’s office that only go back that far.
The top three vote-getters will each serve a three-year term on the nine-member council. The candidate with the fourth highest vote total will serve two years, finishing the term of former Councilor David Nealley, who left the council to move to Florida.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Residents can vote early by going to City Hall before Oct. 31 and completing an absentee ballot. They can also request absentee ballots at the Maine Secretary of State’s website or by calling 207-992-4200.
The candidates are shown in alphabetical order.
Allen “Seth” Braun
Braun, a 26-year-old engineer who works for an Orono company that makes wireless temperature sensors, is making his third bid for City Council.
He wants Bangor to stay focused on improving the Community Connector public bus system and finding housing for the homeless. He also thinks the city should do more to support homeless people and those struggling with drug addiction, such as by hiring more caseworkers.
He also thinks the city should do more to recognize opioid addiction as a mental health problem and that local police should impose fewer sanctions on those caught using drugs. “I do think the city could go a long way in decriminalizing drug use,” he said
Braun does not belong to a political party but is involved with the Democratic Socialists of America.
Brough, 49, does sales, service and other work for a commercial tire company. He’s running for the City Council because he has discovered several local policies that he thinks should be updated or relaxed — for example, one that limits how many yard sales residents can hold each year.
While he thinks the Community Connector bus system needs to improve, he also said that the city may not need to follow all the recommendations in a recently completed $100,000 study on the bus system, such as creating fixed stops along bus routes and eliminating the ability of residents to flag down buses by themselves. Those changes could make it harder for people with disabilities to use the system, he said.
Brough, a registered Republican who “leans more Libertarian,” also thinks the city should improve its communication with residents and fix its sidewalks to make them more accessible for people with disabilities.
Cotlar, 37, is the director of membership and sales at the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and a former advertising director at the Bangor Daily News. He said his experience as a local taxpayer who lives paycheck to paycheck and his work with Bangor’s business owners would be an asset to the City Council.
“If I can leverage my experience and skillset to support the community, I think I have a responsibility to do that,” said Cotlar, a registered Republican who called himself fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
Among the more pressing needs facing the city, he said, are providing more funding to the Bangor Police Department to help overcome its staffing shortages and using data from the recent study of the Community Connector to make improvements that would have the most impact.
David Des Isles
Des Isles, 64, owns and runs the landscaping business Yankee Clipper.
He said he’s running for office because he thinks he can bring a strong work ethic, innovative thinking and a “different voice” as the city tries to address problems such as the opioid crisis. “I have friends who have died, close friends whose sons have died” from opioid use, he said. “I want to do what I can to minimize the abuse that goes on within our city and find ways to address it.”
If elected, Des Isles said he would research what other communities have done to support people with opioid addiction and try to apply those lessons here. A registered Democrat, he said the city should also improve its sidewalks and public transit while trying to keep its property taxes in check.
Fournier, 60, works as a vice president at Bangor Savings Bank and has had leadership roles with a number of local boards and organizations, including the Bangor Planning Board, the Bangor Water District and the American Folk Festival.
Running for City Council “seemed to be the next natural progression, the next step,” Fournier said.
Besides having served with those groups, Fournier — who declined to identify his party affiliation — also said his experience in the lending industry has given him an understanding of how to grow businesses and bring economic development to Bangor. He said he would bring a sense of “fiscal responsibility” to the council as it tries to address issues such as homelessness and poor sidewalks.
Hawes, 63, works as a dean of education at Beal College.
She has served multiple previous terms on the City Council and is now finishing her third term on the Bangor School Committee, where she serves as chairperson. She’s running for City Council again, she said, to continue trying to promote economic development and work on issues affecting Bangor residents.
A registered Democrat, she said one of her priorities is for the city to improve its roads, sidewalks and transit while also keeping the budget in check. She also wants the City Council to seek more input and involvement from taxpayers.
“I’ve always run on being a voice for citizens,” she said.
Hawkes, 37, is in recovery from substance use disorder himself and said he’s running for City Council because of his unique understanding of people in recovery.
He would like the city to start more prevention programs in local schools. He would also like Bangor to allow supervised injection sites, where staff would monitor drug users and provide them with clean needles. The centers could give users another chance to get into treatment programs, according to Hawkes, who is an independent.
Over the years, Hawkes has been charged with and convicted of several misdemeanors that he attributed to his drug use, including drug possession in 2011, assault in 2005 and theft by unauthorized taking in 2003, according to BDN archives.
“I take ownership for anything I’ve done in the past,” he said. “I don’t want to minimize my actions, but I believe substance abuse was the impetus for bad behavior.” Now, he said, “I’m a completely different person. People can change. I’m proof of that. I want to speak for people who can’t speak for themselves.”
Hawkes also said the city should do more to improve the Community Connector, its sidewalks and its supply of affordable housing. He also said the city should consider installing a laundry facility in the Capehart neighborhood.
Okafor, a 36-year-old attorney and business-owner, just became a U.S. citizen this year after emigrating from Nigeria more than a decade ago. She’s running for office, she said, to bring more diverse ideas into city government and to serve as a voice for people from different backgrounds.
Besides working as an immigration attorney, she owns the store Tropical Tastes and Styles, which sells international foods. She also began offering hair-braiding after finding that some people had to travel outside Maine and spend hundreds of dollars for the service.
“A lot of people don’t understand that having diversity is a major economic driver,” she said.
Okafor — who declined to share her political affiliation — said she also wants to advocate for better sidewalks and public transit for residents who don’t drive.
Roeder, 46, is the executive director of the 1932 Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor and an adjunct professor at the University of Maine.
She’s running for City Council after seeing how much trouble her elderly mother had navigating Bangor’s transit system and sidewalks before she died. She wants the city to improve that infrastructure to better serve other low-income and vulnerable residents.
“Her experiences really sort of opened my eyes to what it’s like to live in Bangor,” said Roeder, a registered Democrat.
Roeder has served as a foster parent and said the city should do more to support people who struggle with opioid addiction. She also said the city should raise salaries for its police officers. From working in Bar Harbor — which started charging for downtown parking this summer — she also thinks the city should consider installing parking meters as a way to bring in new revenue and encourage people to use public transportation.