FALMOUTH — There are four candidates for two, three-year seats in this year’s Town Council election.
Incumbent Councilor Ned Kitchel previously served from 1997-2003 and was re-elected in 2015. Challengers Hope Cahan, James Chaousis and Amy Kuhn have never run for political office, and have various levels of community engagement and volunteerism.
Councilor Karen Farber, who has served since 2012, is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election.
Polls will be open Tuesday, June 12, from 7 a.m-8 p.m. at the Falmouth High School gym, 74 Woodville Road.
Cahan is 46 and has two children in Falmouth Middle School. Her husband, a former district attorney, is recently retired. The family moved to town from Santa Clara County in California last June.
She works as an environmental and transportation policy analyst and has done work for California state Assembly members, the Santa Clara Democratic Committee and the San Jose Planning Commission.
Cahan said she did not initially intend to run for Town Council this year, but issues surrounding growth management convinced her to join the race.
She’s also running, she said, because “I love policy work and working with the community and I bring the experience of two decades of working in urban planning.” Most of all, Cahan said, “I want Falmouth to continue to be the great town it is.”
She said the town’s “major issue is growth management,” adding that “the people are not being heard” by the current councilors. “We need to make sure that growth is in line with what the schools can handle, while maintaining a stable tax base,” Cahan said.
“Any time you have almost 900 people willing to rally together, it may be time to course-correct,” she added, referring to a petition that sought to overturn the creation of new growth districts in town.
Cahan said she is not against using contract zoning as a development tool, as long as “it’s for a project the majority likes and is excited about. We are going to grow, but let’s grow with more community consensus.”
To help build the tax base, Cahan said the town should promote commercial development “where appropriate,” because it doesn’t have a negative impact on the schools or emergency services.
Cahan said she would like to do more to protect Falmouth’s open space while also pushing developers to incorporate more sustainable practices during construction, such as requiring a solar component and charging stations for electronic vehicles.
When asked why voters should support her, Cahan said “I have a great deal of experience in policymaking and community outreach. I will always look at the big picture and the long-term impacts and will have an open-door policy.”
Chaousis is 41 and moved to Falmouth two years ago. He and his wife have a blended family of four children and he has a history of municipal management. He also served for six years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He was formerly the city manager in Rockland and town manager in both Boothbay and Livermore Falls.
In 2015 he was censured by the International City/County Management Association for what Chaousis called an unintentional mix of public and private funds.
According to a report in the Bangor Daily News, Chaousis used public money from the town of Boothbay to pay his wife’s and daughter’s cell phone bills.
The censure was issued, the newspaper said, because of “the length of time that the personal expenses were inappropriately paid by Boothbay (and) the fact that Chaousis did not take immediate and affirmative action to resolve the matter when he discovered it.”
Chaousis was city manager in Rockland for one year. He was the seventh manager in the city in a seven-year period, he said, and left the position of his own accord to deal with a health issue, which has since been resolved.
“As a municipal manager you’re the carrier for the council’s policies and visions,” he said, “but if elected to the Falmouth council, I look forward to using my own voice.”
Since moving to Falmouth, Chaousis has been appointed to the Long-Range Planning Committee. He works for his father-in-law, who owns an Auburn-based company that sells and services forklifts.
Chaousis is running for the council, he said, because local government “is at the forefront of public policy making and it’s an exciting place to be.” He called the growth management and density issues being discussed in town “superficial,” but also said they are the reasons he’s running.
“I think we can communicate in a way that puts things in perspective,” Chaousis said, while focusing more deeply on how decisions are made and how to involve the public.
Chaousis said he’s “a budget hawk” and “will focus on every line item,” but also said he wants Falmouth to be a community that “offers the best public services in the state. I want to be part of a council that stays sharp and focuses on the basics, like good roads, schools and public safety.”
He said he supports designating growth areas and sees contract zoning as a “tool every town should have,” as long as it’s used “like a scalpel, not a chainsaw.” He said he would not approve a contract zone that could bring more than 100 new housing units to West Falmouth.
“I would oppose that contract zone at this moment because a lot more dialogue is needed,” Chaousis said. “Instead of pulling people along, we should be encouraging them to walk alongside.”
Chaousis said Falmouth is lucky to have four people running for the council who can do the job.” But, he said, “in this age of term limits, we need someone who can understand what’s going on and be ready to weigh in on Day 1.”
Kitchel is 73, retired and a U.S. Army veteran. He worked at L.L. Bean and was also president of a company called Quaker Marine Supply. He and his wife have one grown child.
He is chairman of the town’s Finance Committee, anc vice chairman of the Town Council. He is also a member of the Greater Portland Council of Governments’ new Regional Voices Committee.
In addition, Kitchel has a history of service with Cumberland County government, where he served on the Budget Advisory Committee and most recently was chairman of the Board of Assessment Review.
He said he is seeking re-election because he likes “being part of public service and this is a great town with a lot happening and a lot of forward-thinking people on town committees, who all have great ideas and a great vision.”
Like candidates, Kitchel said growth management is a major issue. He also said he would like to see more commercial development, as long as it’s “tasteful,” and would like to get the Route 100 revitalization project underway.
He supports the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget, which will likely receive a final vote at the council’s May 14 meeting, and credits the School Department with presenting “a very tight budget that left a lot on the table.”
Kitchel has backed the contract zone proposed in West Falmouth from the start and said he hopes the council will have a final vote on the project prior to the municipal election.
“We’re not going to stop development, but (with contract zoning), we can have a positive impact,” he said. “At the end of the day you want a project that looks good and (a neighborhood) that people are happy to live in.”
If re-elected, Kitchel said he would like to focus on reviving a stalled proposal for a community center with a pool.
He said voters should choose him because “I have considerable institutional knowledge and I’m level-headed, patient, a good listener and a fiscal conservative. I (also) enjoy working collaboratively with people for good outcomes.”
Kuhn is 52 and she and her husband have three children. Two have graduated and her youngest is now a senior at Falmouth High School. The family moved to town in 2004.
Kuhn, a lawyer, has worked in the nonprofit arena for most of her career, including for organizations that focus on the arts, social justice and education. She is the community engagement manager at the ACLU of Maine.
Kuhn has volunteered at all three schools, including on the board of the Falmouth Middle School PTO. She also volunteers for sports booster clubs and the Falmouth Food Pantry. She was president of the Falmouth Memorial Library board until 2015, and helped create the library renovation and addition project.
She said she’s running for the Town Council because “I love this town and as we move forward, I want to be sure that we embrace new opportunities while also maintaining our character and sense of community.”
Kuhn also said managing growth is the biggest issue facing the town and Falmouth must be careful to “balance the social and economic benefits growth brings with maintaining its character and values.”
She said any large development project should be examined on “a case-by-case basis, with a close attention to detail and the opportunity for a lot of public input.”
Another critical issue, Kuhn said, would be maintaining the excellence of the school system in light of declining funding, particularly from the state. Her solution would be to expand the tax base through “responsible and thoughtful development,” while trying to “keep taxes as low as possible.”
Overall, she said, “Falmouth is in great shape. We’re honestly doing great and we’re all lucky to be part of this community.”
Unlike some of the other council candidates, Kuhn said the current council is in the best position to make a determination on whether to move forward with the West Falmouth contract zone.
“I am hopeful that the council will make a decision on this matter before Election Day,” she said. “At this point, the current council has invested hundreds of hours pouring over thousands of details. If the proposal is ready, this council should act on it.”
Kuhn said voters should choose her because “I have a demonstrated commitment to the town and I’ve intersected with a wide variety of people that give me clear insight into the community’s culture and values.”
She also called herself “fair and a good listener” and said her approach to problem-solving is to build consensus.