4 candidates vie for 2 Falmouth Town Council seats

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FALMOUTH — Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Town Council in the June 14 election.

Incumbent Teresa Pierce, who has served one three-year term on the council, is up against three first-time candidates: Jonathan Berry, Patricia Kirby and Chris Orestis.

The polls will be open at Falmouth High School on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Jonathan Berry

Berry, 35, started his own law firm in 2006 in Portland, and was joined in his practice by attorney and state Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, earlier this year. Berry has served 2 1/2 years on the Zoning Board of Appeals and has lived in Falmouth for eight years. He has two boys in town schools.

Berry said he has been disappointed by the information made available to voters about Question 1, the town center referendum.

“I’ve been on the library tour,” he said. “It’s in dire need of repair.”

However, Berry said he feels like the project has been rushed through and he will not support it at the ballot box.

“I think the partnership with Ocean View has not been fully explored,” he said.

Berry said there is a still a lot of work to do on Route 1 and that he is very interested in proactively working to fill the empty Shaw’s supermarket building. He said every potential development project should be reviewed on its merits, rather than restricting developments like big-box stores.

“A blanket prohibition is a sign put on Falmouth that says ‘you can’t do business here,'” he said.

Berry said he is supportive of the school budget, although he wishes the School Board had provided more information about it to voters.

“This is another time the town has been let down by not enough information,” Berry said. “The mil rate increase is directly attributable to the state not paying their mandated responsibility.”

He said he would like to see the town have a cohesive energy plan, possibly including natural gas, and that the town and schools should be working together on energy issues.

Berry said his time on the ZBA has opened his eyes to some issues with zoning that pit neighbor against neighbor, something he’d like to work to change.

Berry said he has never declared bankruptcy, and never been convicted of a crime.

Patricia Kirby

Before moving to Maine, Kirby, 62, was the first woman homicide detective in Baltimore, and later became an agent and profiler for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She has a doctorate from American University in Washington, D.C., and has been a college professor of criminology and women’s studies at Notre Dame.

Kirby also ran her father’s construction company, is a certified high school history teacher and now runs a large commercial property near the Baltimore airport. She sits on Falmouth’s Parks and Community Advisory Committee and is a member of the Falmouth Land Trust.

Kirby said she is glad the voters are deciding Question 1, but stopped short of supporting it herself.

“If voters go yes, there’s still a lot of work for us to do. With the timetable, we need to hit the ground running,” she said. “And if the voters go no, it’s still not finished.”

Kirby said with her background in real estate and construction, she would be prepared to jump in and move things forward.

She said she would not like to see development along Route 1 restricted too much, as that could curb the town’s ability to attract new businesses, but that the area should grow in a way that is appealing to residents.

“We can’t stop the growth – that would be like shooting ourselves in the foot – but we can make sure it’s very smart growth,” Kirby said.

She said the schools are a priority for her and something she would support, while being careful to protect lower-income homeowners who, she said, are becoming concerned that if taxes continue to rise, they or their families will no longer be able to live in Falmouth.

Kirby said she has never declared bankruptcy, or been convicted of a crime.

Chris Orestis

Orestis, 45, grew up in Lewiston and owns a national business that helps families pay for long-term care services. He and his wife, Grace, have four sons.

Orestis said he believes strongly in Maine’s centrist political history.

“I seek consensus,” he said. “I respect points of view of both the left and the right, and take information from the community, and reach consensus about what is best for the most people.”

Orestis said he is passionate about the schools and supports the proposed school budget.

“Our schools don’t just benefit people with kids in school,” Orestis said, citing the connection between property values and successful schools, as well as Falmouth’s recent national recognition for its schools.

He said that after sitting down with town officials, he is convinced Falmouth is a well-run town.

“Some would have you believe they throw money around like drunken sailors. That is not the case,” Orestis said. “Everyone should go over and see the Police Department. They run dispatch as a profit center.”

Orestis said he supports Question 1, looking at it as “an opportunity we don’t want to waste.”

He said he agrees with the development of Route 1 so far, but that he’d like to see more of a village feel in future construction, with second stories and more pedestrian-friendly areas. He said the town needs a vision for the area, and to target that vision by targeting specific businesses. Orestis said a hotel and conference area near the Interstate 295 and 95 ramps would be a perfect fit for the town.

Orestis said he is tired of the cynicism and harassment tactics employed by some in the community, and that, if he is elected, he would stand up to bullies.

“I’m putting anyone like that on notice: It doesn’t work on me,” he said. “If I’m on the Town Council, we’re going to work to bring these things to an end.”

Orestis said he never declared bankruptcy, or been convicted of a crime.

Teresa Pierce, 48

Pierce, 48, has served for the past three years on the Town Council, acting as the finance committee chairwoman for her first two years and as vice chairwoman of the council this year.

“I’m really proud that every year I’ve been on the council (the municipal budget) had a flat mil rate,” she said. “We’ve made sustainable cuts and I’m very proud of our capital improvement plan.”

Pierce said she supports Question 1, the creation of a town center at the old elementary school buildings, something she has consistently supported during her tenure on the council.

“It represents an outstanding compromise,” she said, adding that the project includes a public-private partnership and no tax increase. She said she is a big proponent of reusing old buildings and that the new community center will allow the town to reach an older population that is currently not as well served by community programs as it could be.

Pierce said she’d like to see continued development along Route 1 and Route 100, and plans to be more deliberate in talking directly to new businesses about moving to town.

She said the town and school management teams do a good job anticipating budget fluctuations, and that she will continue to react to their guidance.

Pierce lives with her husband, Sam, a computer programmer and business owner, and her 14-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.

Pierce said she has never declared bankruptcy, or been convicted of a crime.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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