At Candidates Night on October 12, 2022, the four candidates for two City Council seats gave introductory statements and then answered questions posed by moderators Tammy Wells and Shawn Sullivan. This is a brief synopsis; the full Candidates Night video may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?tv=xP96uFBz5Z8&t=5263s.
To kick things off, each candidate gave a brief opening statement.
Oliver Jones III recently retired after serving 22 years in the U.S. Navy. He moved to New England eight years ago and Sanford caught his eye because of the potential here. He believes his experience living around the world and around the country will help him make a difference “to help Sanford grow to what I know it could be.”
Bob Stackpole described his long history of community service. Before serving the past six years on the City Council, he served 15 years on the School Committee, with 13 as Chair; served as Chair of the Charter Commission in 2010; and recently as a member of the Charter Review Committee. He served numerous times on the Budget Committee as well. He holds degrees in education and educational administration, and worked for 32 years as a teacher and technology director before retiring. He believes Sanford and Springvale are at the pinnacle of great things “and I want to continue this exciting work for our community.”
Michael Termath was elected to the City Council in June and currently sits on the Council’s Solid Waste Subcommittee. He is a 25-year U.S. Army veteran with combat experience in Iraq. He said Sanford is a wonderful place for he and his wife to raise their three boys, but the City also has it’s fair share of challenges. “I have a bold vision and I’m a hard worker,” he said, adding that he will continue to listen to taxpayers and constituents.
Peter Tranchemontagne is a lifelong resident of Sanford and a proud graduate of Sanford High School Class of 1985. He was raised by a single mom and his two older sisters, and has been married for 33 years with one son and daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. He has been a small business owner since 2011 and has had “great success” in Augusta working with state legislators.
Question 1: Please give us your detailed vision of what you would like downtown Sanford to look like in ten years? Tell us what must be done to realize this vision.
Mr. Stackpole said the first thing that needs to be done is to fix the millyard. He said the abandonment of the mills created a blight on the community that must be addressed. He said the award of the $25 million federal RAISE grant to rebuild downtown streets is a fantastic opportunity to bring more businesses back into the downtown area, with restaurants and places to shop. It needs to be pedestrian friendly and provide a connecting point for the trails, he added.
Mr. Termath said bringing jobs back into the community is vital. Right now, he said things are “upside down,” with about 90% residential and 10% businesses. “In order to bring people back into the community, we need to have good quality jobs,” he said, but clarified that, while Sanford has jobs, it needs to diversify a bit more.
Mr. Tranchemontagne said making Sanford more small business friendly would bring in more jobs and revenue. He would like to open up the roads for more commerce, including making Route 109 double lanes from the turnpike to the airport, at least. “This would give us a chance,” he said, to compete with other communities that have highway access.
Mr. Jones would also like to see more businesses open, but he added that he wants to work on bringing more family-friendly events to town as well. He encourages his daughter to give suggestions that would get more youth involved. He would like to get the hospital and the Sanford Regional Technical Center more involved in the community, to help modernize and revitalize the City. “Getting the community more involved will bring businesses, money, people” here to Sanford he concluded.
Question 2: Currently, a consensus among subcommittee Councilors is needed to move an item to the full Council for consideration. This means that a single Councilor can prevent an item from moving forward. Do you agree with this policy or not? Please explain your answer.
It appeared that all the candidates agreed having Subcommittees reach consensus before moving an item forward to the full Council is a good thing, although most seemed to think that more information and clarification is all that is needed to get there.
Question 3: Subcommittee meetings are not televised, nor are their Zoom sessions recorded for later viewing. Would you advocate changing this policy to provide greater transparency for the public by recording them for later viewing?
All candidates were in favor of recording Subcommittee meetings to make them more accessible to the public.
Question 4: To the incumbents, please tell us about a moment or a vote during your time as a councilor that you now wish you had handled differently or better. To the challengers, please tell us about a vote or a situation that you feel the incumbents handled well.
Mr. Jones said he agreed with the Council’s vote to recognize LGBTQ rights by raising the Pride flag at City Hall.
Mr. Stackpole said a vote he made a number of years ago to eliminate the Fire Marshal’s position was one he regretted, and said he later worked to get that position reinstated.
Mr. Termath said he stands behind every vote he has made thus far on the Council.
Mr. Tranchemontagne said he agreed with the City Council’s support of new fire stations for the Sanford Fire Department.
Question 5: Do you favor eliminating the budget committee, as proposed as a charter amendment on the Nov. 8 budget? Please explain your answer.
Mr. Stackpole said the Budget Committee needs to be eliminated so that there will be accountability for the budget. With the current system, City Councilors can blame budget decisions on the Budget Committee’s recommendation, while the Budget Committee can blame them on the City Council’s vote. “The buck will stop with the City Council,” he concluded.
Mr. Termath said the Budget Committee was needed to provide input to the Council. “Citizens want to be involved,” he said, adding “it’s important to the process.”
Mr. Tranchemontagne said he is “100% in favor of keeping the Budget Committee.” He said the Council needs to be fully educated before making a vote.
Mr. Jones said he would also keep the Budget Committee. “We need to know where the money is going,” he said.
Question 6: What in city government needs to change, and how will you work to change it?
Mr. Termath said what needs to change is how the Council conducts business among themselves, “with the civility and respect that everyone who sits in these seats deserves…we need to bring the temperature down.” He added that, while the Council members are not going to agree all the time, having disagreements is good for the process. He also wants to engage more with residents. “If they won’t come to us, we’ll go to them,” he said.
Mr. Tranchemontage said preserving the 2-year, 2-term mayoral term limit is important, but he also wants to create term limits for City Councilors, to encourage fresh faces and new ideas on the Council. He has been meeting with City department heads and, if elected, plans to do so once a month.
Mr. Jones said Councilors need to get more involved in the community and find out what residents want and need. He has been talking with people while walking in the parks and at Walmart and said by listening to concerns directly, solutions can be found to address those issues.
Mr. Stackpole reiterated that eliminating the Budget Committee would make City government more efficient by not having Department heads have to go through the entire process of explaining their budgets twice. He added that he would also like to speed up the process of change in the City. “Government moves too damn slow,” he said.
Question 7: Do you envision giving single-family homeowners any relief from recent tax increases, and, if so, how can that be accomplished?
Mr. Tranchemontagne said tax relief would be a good idea, but he would need to have more experience with the City budget to see if there are ways to help.
Mr. Jones, who may not have heard the question correctly, said he would support a tax break for single-income households.
Mr. Stackpole responded that people want tax cuts, but they don’t want to cut services either. He reminded viewers that the City Council was able to cut the mill rate this year, but that increases in property values as well as County taxes contributed to an overall increase in tax bills.
Mr. Termath said it ultimately comes down to the mill rate and said the state does give a lot of breaks to struggling homeowners with the Homestead exemption and help for seniors. “When it comes to the Council, it’s just a matter of watching the mill rate,” he said.
To close out the evening, each candidate was given the opportunity for a two-minute closing statement.
Mr. Jones said that when he moved to Sanford four years ago, he immediately joined committees. “I wanted to be a part of the rise of Sanford, it has so much potential.” He said there is no reason Sanford can’t be “the place everybody envies” in Maine, and said the City may not be on the turnpike, but should capitalize on the fact that people have to go through Sanford to get to it. He would like to get welding students at SRTC involved in creating sculptures to be placed along the trails as a draw.
Mr. Stackpole spoke about what he called “the sign wars” along our streets. “Signs cost money, and when candidates take money, they become beholden to that group of donors or political party,” he said. He stated that he has never taken a penny from any group or political party, but has financed his campaigns personally. “If you want a candidate who is not beholden to anyone else, I ask for your vote,” he concluded.
Mr. Termath said it has been an honor and a blessing to be on the Council. He said he meets and talks with residents on a daily basis. “There is much more work that needs to be done,” he said, to make Sanford the place families want to live, to thrive and grow. “I’m asking for your vote to continue the work I started in June,” he said.
Mr. Tranchemontagne said he has been asked to run by residents several times, and finally decided the time was right. “It’s time for fresh faces and new ideas,” he said. He reiterated that opening up Sanford’s roads for business, as well as creating term limits for the City Council and meeting monthly with department heads would be his priorities.