Incumbent road commissioner faces challenge
HARPSWELL — Two candidates with extensive public service experience will be on the ballot for election to the Board of Selectmen at Town Meeting on March 14.
Dave Chipman, who served on the board between 1999 and 2002, is running against Elinor Multer, a former member of the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors and the state Board of Education.
Chipman and Multer are vying for the seat being vacated by Chairwoman Amy Haible.
Voters will also elect a road commissioner. Robert Venard, the incumbent, is being challenged by Martin Baker.
The polls open 9 a.m. on March 14 and close at 5 p.m. Absentee ballots are available at the town office on Mountain Road.
Chipman, 58, is seeking a seat on the board for the second consecutive year. He finished second to Mark Wallace in a three-way race last year.
Chipman has served on several boards and committees, including the Governance Committee, Energy Task Force, Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee and the Mitchell Field Committee. He is also the vice president of the Harpswell Community Television Corp. board of directors.
Chipman said he decided to run after being asked to do so by several residents. He is a Harpswell native and said he believes the town would benefit from having someone with his institutional memory on the board.
“I’d like to see the selectmen get a little closer to the people they’re representing,” Chipman said. “I think we need to stop relying solely on the town administrator or codes officer and really get out there before making decisions.”
As Harpswell drifts from a marine industry-centered community to a destination for second home buyers, Chipman said the town is feeling pressure to change.
“And most people in Harpswell don’t want those changes,” he said.
Chipman said he’d resist some land-use zoning ordinances and consolidation of emergency services.
He said the town should take advantage of funding opportunities from the recently passed federal stimulus bill and focus on creating green jobs within the community.
Multer, 81, was a member of the SAD 75 Board of Directors for seven years during the 1990s, followed by 10 years on the state Board of Education.
Multer, a former education journalist in New Jersey, said that while much of her experience is based in schools, she has a strong interest in town affairs. She serves on the town’s Budget Advisory Committee.
“I’m not on a crusade to overturn or undo anything,” Multer said. “That’s not why I’m running. … The challenge for this town is very much in the future and I think I’d bring a reasonable amount of intelligence and common sense to those decisions.”
Multer said one of the town’s greatest challenges is development pressure. She said Harpswell has many good ordinances, but that she would review them to ensure they’re sufficient to protect roads and infrastructure.
“Residential development pressure will continue,” she said. “The diversity of Harpswell’s population is one of its attractions, but the development pressure tends to drive out some of the younger people who may have been born and raised here. That’s a major interest of mine.”
“I like living here because it’s such a great community,” Multer added. “I don’t relish the day it become a gated community and the key to the gate becomes money.”
Venard, 53, is serving his fourth winter as road commissioner. He has twice been appointed to replace commissioners who have quit, and is in the final year of a two-year term.
Venard has a degree in civil engineering and is a part-time real estate agent.
Unlike previous road commissioners, Venard said he takes an administrative approach to the job, establishing a capital road improvement program and working with contractors to coordinate snow removal and maintenance activities.
Venard, who previously served on the Budget Advisory Committee, said his tactics have brought fiscal responsibility to the job.
“It’s important to keep track of how we spend our money,” he said. “Now we have a good idea of how much sand and salt we we use and how much it costs.”
Venard said he also benefits from his experience on the job.
“There are 58 roads in Harpswell,” he said. “There’s a real learning curve to the job.”
Baker, 63, is the former owner of Martin Baker Well Drilling, a company he owned for more than 40 years. The Harpswell native said he’s running because the job needs a more hands-on approach.
“A very small amount of the position is administrative,” Baker said. “The road commissioner should get up before the school buses are out and (check for ice). Right now that don’t get done.”
Baker said he’s heard from some bus drivers that some of Harpswell’s roads are unsafe, especially in the winter.
“Somebody could get hurt,” he said. “That’s something I’m worried about. (The commissioner) should be getting information from the people who live in those areas. You can’t do the job from home.”