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On Tuesday, November 7, 2023, Sanford and Springvale voters will go to the polls to cast ballots for City Council, School Committee, Water District Trustee and Sewerage District Trustee. The City Council races are the only ones contested; candidates in the other three races are incumbents running unopposed. 

There are three seats up for grabs on the City Council. Incumbents Maura Herlihy and Jonathan Martell, and challenger Oliver Jones III are vying for two three-year terms. Incumbent Nathan Hitchcock is being challenged by David Gomes and Victor DiGregorio for a single one-year term. 

We asked each of the Council candidates to answer three questions: 

  1. Housing First is the state’s new model for ending chronic homelessness. Will it be effective for Sanford? Explain your answer. 
  1. The city has chronically struggled to fill vacancies on advisory committees. What would you do to stimulate citizen participation? 
  1. Name two things you would like to change about Sanford and how you will work as a City Councilor to change them. 

See each candidate’s answers below. For more Q&A with the candidates, watch the Candidates Night video on YouTube here

Candidates for 3-year Terms (Vote for Two)

Maura Herlihy 

Occupation: Property manager 

Community service: Six terms Sanford City Council and Town Council, Trafton Center Visioning Committee, Budget Committee, School Construction Committee, Sanford Downtown Legacy 

Housing First: Yes, I believe having a Housing First option in Sanford can be an effective tool for ending certain reasons people find themselves unhoused. Housing First is not a new concept for ending homelessness amongst those with mental health issues or amongst those who struggle with addiction. For mental health and addiction issues, there is a great deal of evidence that stabilizing housing for an individual allows for greater success in managing the issues that have led to homelessness. Housing First brings unhoused individuals back into a safe housing situation, stabilizing a concern that requires a great deal of energy to manage and increases stress, resulting in a worsening of mental health and addiction issues. Furthermore, the Housing First program comes with the added benefit of on-site staff that are there to provide help in accessing the resources for mental health and addiction recovery. 

Citizen participation: As a City Councilor, the best results we have had when seeking volunteers to fill vacancies on advisory committees is to ask directly. Despite what some may think, reaching people through our website, social media channels, the newspaper, email, or text does not connect with people directly enough; it is too impersonal. The City of Sanford is currently working on a new platform for direct engagement and I, for one, hope that leads to finding new volunteers. With the new fire station conversations we will be having as a community, and with the discussions surrounding the extensive work that will be done with the Raise Grant, I strongly believe we will see an increase in new committee members because big issues bring strong engagement and that introduces the city to new citizens to whom we can make the direct asks.  

Changes needed: One of the reasons I love volunteering for the City of Sanford is that I find there is so much positive about the city we live in. Things we need to work on as a city include something already started by our Planning Department and that is updating our Comprehensive Plan, and after that our zoning. Through the Comprehensive Plan process the community gets to look at our city and plan out how we would like to grow into the future. Then we need to modernize our zoning to more effectively allow growth within our community and reduce the roadblocks that occur when good ideas meet zoning restrictions. Change requires good planning, and this process is a necessary next step forward. 

Oliver Jones III 

Occupation: Coach and consultant, retired US Navy 

Community service: Planning Board, Design Review Committee 

Housing First: Housing First can be effective, however it needs to be a help me help you, meaning a temporary solution and not a permanent solution. There are hardworking families who have been struggling due to inflation and rising housing costs that have fallen victim to homelessness, which is a shame. However, there are people that take assistance for granted and abuse the system, which ends up hurting the people who are struggling and do not want to be on assisted living but just found themselves in an unfortunate situation. There has to be accountability and predetermined limits on how long housing assistance will last or be recertified. Also, I would suggest classes for citizens who utilize the program to help them break the cycle of chronic homelessness. 

Citizen participation: There are a plethora of ways we can stimulate participation for advisory committees. First, outreach and awareness: We can Increase awareness through local media, social networks, and community events or even simply word of mouth. Highlight the importance of advisory committees in shaping local policies and decisions. We can share success stories of citizens who have made a positive impact through advisory committees to inspire others. Or we can highlight projects or businesses that have benefited from the decisions of one of our great advisory committees. Lastly, we can create a member in the spotlight in the Sanford Springvale News. A lot of our current committee members are on multiple committees and are known around the city. Giving them a platform to discuss what they like about serving on a committee and to provide a statement on a particular project they were most proud to be a part of would be a good idea. By implementing these strategies, we promote citizen involvement in advisory committees, fostering a more participatory local government. 

Changes needed: There are a few things I would like to change about Sanford, but if I had to name two, I would have to say promoting Sanford and modernizing Sanford. These both tie into my vision of Sanford. Modernizing Sanford — we are on the right track. We have the awesome Artwalk, The SRTC is the talk of the Seacoast, and some events like the soccer tournament cast a positive light on our city. However, we can do more and that is where promoting our city comes into play. It can be the little things like a “Welcome to Sanford” sign as you come down the highways coming through town. Reach out to the local news stations when we have a big event coming, anything that will get people talking about Sanford in a positive light.  

Jonathan Martell

Martell did not respond to our invitation to participate in this Q&A.

Candidates for 1-year Term (Vote for One)

Victor DiGregorio 

Occupation: Retired businessman and teacher 

Community service: City Council, Warrant Committee 

Housing First: Homeless people aren’t just homeless, they may have mental health or substance abuse issues that are not being addressed. This may not apply to all the homeless, but to a substantial proportion.  

A positive direction is to provide more outreach and guidance programs for treatment of mental health and substance abuse and to make access to these programs easier. 

Housing First has the potential to work well if it is administered correctly. 

Citizen participation: The city administrators/city council must actively engage with citizens outside the walls of city hall. They should engage publicly with citizens either in group settings or one-on-one. 

Currently citizens are conditioned to be apathetic because of the long-term actions of our city government. Citizens feel helpless in their ability to make meaningful decisions and contributions. 

My vision is to engage young people in our schools by introducing them to our process of government through field trips to city hall, observation of town meetings and classroom discussions on current events directly affecting our community. Town councilors should be invited by the school administration to engage students in classroom discussions. 

The city administration is currently conducted behind locked doors on the top floor of city hall and bars free access to citizens. The offices should be open to allow direct engagement of citizens with our city officials like it used to be. 

Changes needed:  

  1. Property taxes – No More Increases 
  • Reduce administrative expenses by removing positions that are not authorized by our city charter 
  • Decrease unnecessary services 
  • Use the proceeds from 911 
  • Use the proceeds from the clerk’s office 
  • Use the proceeds/savings from the solar farm 
  1. Repeal Pay-As-You-Throw 

Citizens have voted twice to end the Pay-As-You-Throw program and city hall has chosen to ignore the will of the citizens. I would introduce a proposal to repeal Pay-As-You-Throw or amend the city council and city administration governance process. 

David Gomes 

Occupation: Cook

Community service: none 

Housing First: I am all for housing first. It is definitely better than the city’s current project. Don’t get me wrong, affordable housing for families is important, but the whole idea of beautifying downtown is like painting and polishing a car with no engine. Unless you deal with the homeless and disenchanted, it’s like pouring perfume on a pig 

Citizen participation: Nobody wants to deal with the current incarnation of the City Council. Their committees are only designed to justify their actions. The citizens in the community of Sanford Springvale are tired of their BS and don’t want to deal with them. It is a tactic used by narcissists that make things too confusing and frustrating so people leave you alone to do what you want. If you want community involvement the council needs to stop treating people with real issues as a burden. 

Changes needed: This community needs affordable housing to deal with homelessness and affordable and safe childcare so the people that want to work can go to work. It needs a recreational facility that is safe and drug free for kids to go to after school. Personally, the council should not see themselves as bettering their living conditions but making it better for future generations of the working class, the men and women that are willing to do blood sweat and tears to make this community great and self-sufficient and for God’s sake remember that to be a council member is to take responsibility and uphold the will of the community and the tax payers that put their faith in them to execute their will without an agenda. Majority rules. 

Nathan Hitchcock 

Occupation: Lawyer 

Community service: Land Bank Commission, Recreational Advisory Committee 

Housing First: If the state and county are willing to fully fund Housing First, I believe it can make a significant impact on chronic homelessness in Sanford. A housing development dedicated to combatting homelessness will provide a safe, healthy location for our homeless population to live and keep them off the streets near our local parks and businesses. What sets Housing First apart is the 24/7 access to services to help find and address the specific issues that led to homelessness. These services will then guide people to maintain sustainable housing on their own. While I believe this program can help the chronically homeless, it must be funded outside of our city budget or else it will not work. Sanford/Springvale citizens are always ready to help, but chronic homelessness is a large-scale issue that requires funding far beyond what I believe is fair or appropriate to force on local taxpayers.   

Citizen participation: I would market our advisory committees to the public through workshops and in-person interaction to show what they accomplish and excite our citizens to participate. As these are volunteer based, we need to find ways to incentivize the public to join. I enjoy my time on the Recreation Advisory Committee and Land Bank Commission, and I’ve learned how pivotal they are in shaping local government. We can do more to promote these advisory committees and educate the public on what they do. It’s a great opportunity for people to get involved with the city and effect change on a meaningful level, and I think we need to advertise them more effectively. Offer workshops with local citizen representatives of these committees to educate the public and answer questions and put a face to a name. With a more direct marketing approach, we can fill the vacancies on our advisory committees. 

Changes needed: I would change how Sanford markets itself for more immediate tourism, potential businesses, and future residents. Sanford is excelling in marketing its long-term future through downtown revitalization and capital improvement, but to have a more immediate impact on our economy, we need to advertise our current attractions more aggressively. I would direct our communications department to market our facilities like Memorial Gym as event space and feature our pre-existing attractions like the Sanford Mainers to draw business from outside the city. I would also like to eliminate our Pay-As-You-Throw waste management system. As a developing city, we need to remove trash while keeping our streets clean and not rely on specialty bags our citizens must separately purchase. I would request our city departments to develop a plan on the costs to switch to a different waste management system and present it to the public for a vote to approve. 

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