Former state Sen. Jill Goldthwait is getting back into politics, but it might only be temporary.
Goldthwait has been appointed by the elected Bar Harbor Town Council to fill out the remainder of a term being vacated by Councilor Judie Noonan, who has resigned because she is moving away.
According to Cornell Knight, Bar Harbor’s town manager, the council made the decision Tuesday. Goldthwait will assume her duties as a councilor Nov. 1 and will serve at least until Bar Harbor’s next municipal elections in June 2020.
Goldthwait served in the state Senate from 1994 to 2002 and held an influential post in her final, two-year term. As the only independent in a chamber with 17 Democrats and 17 Republicans, Goldthwait could have shifted the balance of power to either party by choosing to caucus with one or the other. Instead, she was appointed chair of the powerful budget-writing appropriations committee as part of a unique power-sharing arrangement in which Democrat Mike Michaud served as Senate president for one year of the term and Republican Rick Bennett served as president for the other.
Goldthwait later took a job as director of government relations for The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, from which she retired in 2012, and began writing a column for the Mount Desert Islander and Ellsworth American weekly newspapers. She served on the Town Council from 1985 to 1994, prior to running for state office.
Goldthwait said Friday she doubts she will want to run as a candidate when the seat comes up for election in June. She said the likelihood that her service on the council will be temporary makes it more appealing — at the moment — than it would be if it were a longer commitment.
“The town needs somebody,” she said of her willingness to serve for the next seven or so months. “I’ve always been willing to take that bait.”
Goldthwait says she plans to keep writing her column for the weekly papers, which focus on state politics, and will not write about local municipal matters.
Traditionally, when vacancies open up on Bar Harbor’s council, the council has appointed someone with prior council experience who does not plan to run for the seat when elections are next held. The thinking behind this approach was that by not running in the election, whoever got the appointment would not have the advantage of incumbency over others who might run for the seat.
Earlier this month, however, members of the council discussed that practice and agreed unanimously that they would no longer seek a promise from such appointees not to run for the seat they are filling.