DURHAM — This year’s town election features contested races for two seats on the Board of Selectmen.
The election is Friday, March 31, at the Durham Community School, 654 Hallowell Road. Polls will be open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
The election precedes annual Town Meeting on Saturday, April 1, also at the school, where 42 articles await residents’ decisions.
Reducing the tax burden on residents by encouraging business growth is a theme among the selectman candidates.
Incumbent Michael Stewart, Todd Bealieu, Scott Farling and Kevin Nadeau are seeking election to a three-year seat on the board.
Beaulieu, 55, is a 48-year resident of Durham. He earned a high school diploma, focusing on technical school. Previous town service includes 14 years on the Planning Board, three as chairman.
“I’m running for selectman because I enjoy serving the town. I think of myself as conservative; I’m concerned with the tax burden placed on the residents,” he said. “We need to live within our means. We can’t sustain double-digit percent tax hikes.”
Stewart, 46, is a 36-year resident of Durham. A high school graduate, his work experience includes being a site foreman for a construction company, plus building town roads and private driveways. He is a supervisor for the town of Lisbon treatment plant, and has 15 years’ municipal government experience, focusing on town and wastewater plants.
Financial and infrastructure needs town-wide are his reasons to seek a second term.
“I feel we need to find the balance between raising taxes and running the town’s departments,” Stewart said. “Our roads are in poor condition and need a lot of attention. I am very knowledgeable in this area and have a lot of experience and wish to help our town with decisions to do the most it can with our municipality’s budget.”
Nadeau, 52, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of Maine. He is an 18-year resident of Durham. He coaches youth basketball and soccer and is treasurer of Cub Scout Pack 145.
Previous town government service includes his 2012 appointment by selectmen to chair the Educational Exploration Committee. He’s been a Budget Committee member since 2013. He is the current chairman of the Durham Comprehensive Planning Committee.
“Durham has proven to be a great place to live and raise our two kids, now ages 9 and 11. Durham’s attractiveness, coupled with overflow development pressures from surrounding towns, will result in a significant amount of growth and change over the next several years,” Nadeau said. “We need to take a long-term view and make good decisions that will enable us to manage these pressures while maintaining the core of what makes our town so special. I want to help us work through these challenges.
“Planning for the future needs of a growing town while maintaining a reasonable tax burden is Durham’s biggest challenge. This is especially true in an environment where the state continues to push expenses down to the local level. For example, we need a long-term plan for improving our roads that will bring them up to satisfactory condition at a pace taxpayers can handle. “
Nadeau said the town’s budget year needs reviewing.
“Currently, we vote in April on a budget that started in January and we don’t collect any tax payments to fund it until August. That makes it very difficult to manage town finances effectively,” he said.
Farling, proprietor of Scotty’s Trucking, did not participate in pre-election interviews.
In this year’s other contested race, two candidates seek a one-year term on the board. The winner will serve the remaining term of former Selectman Joshua Libby, who resigned from the board in January, citing professional and personal reasons.
Candidate Richard George, 41, is a 14-year resident of Durham. He graduated in 1994 from Brockton High School in Brockton, Massachusetts, and then enlisted in the Navy. George served in the Navy from 1994 to 1998 as a medic, and has taken business classes from La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Viterbo University.
This is his first political race.
“I have never run for an elected position or volunteered for a government position, with the exception of military service. I am running for selectman as I would like to be more involved in the community that I call home. I am interested in helping serve the community in a time of many changes. I do not have an agenda for what I want for the community, but am focused on doing what the community feels is best for all of us,” George said. “I would like to see a financially strong community that has opportunities for both the young and older population. I feel my background in business will help in making this possible.”
George owns and operates eight national restaurant franchises, Subway and Aroma Joe’s. He works from his corporate office at Fort Andross in Brunswick. His two children attend Durham Community School, and he volunteers in Durham as a soccer, basketball and softball coach.
George is opposed by former Selectman Barry Baldwin.
Baldwin, 66, has also served on the town’s Comprehensive Plan Committee, Conservation Commission and Planning Board. He is a high school graduate and a 30-year Durham resident.
Solving fiscal challenges for residents is why he decided to again seek office.
“We have a serious tax problem,” he said. “We need tax revenue and nobody in town wants to change.”
Baldwin said more commercial or residential growth may add revenue to offset property taxes that have increased 8 percent over 10 years.
“We have to address what we’re going to do to get more taxable property,” said Baldwin.
He did not want a photo taken of him, nor one submitted.
“I’m not pretty, I’m just smart,” he said.
Four three-year seats are open on the Budget Committee, but only incumbent Milt Simon is running. He is known for his leadership on a committee that transformed the former Grange hall into the Eureka Community Center.
Similarly, Jennifer G. Galletta is the only candidate for a three-year seat on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors. Brian Pike, who currently holds the seat, is not eligible to run again due to term limits.