5 candidates seek 3 seats on Falmouth Town Council

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FALMOUTH — Voters on June 11 will have a choice between five candidates for three seats on the Town Council.

The candidates are Jim Chaousis, Janice de Lima, Tommy Johnson, Valentine Sheldon and Jay Trickett. Only two of them – Chaousis and de Lima – have previously sought elected office, and neither one was elected.

Councilor Claudia King is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, and Councilors Andrea Ferrante and Aaron Svedlow chose not to run again.

Election Day balloting will be held 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at Falmouth High School. Contact Town Clerk Ellen Planer at 699-5305 for more information, including how to register to vote.

Absentee balloting is also now available at Town Hall.

Jim Chaousis

Chaousis said he is running for the Town Council because he believes his 10 years in municipal government administration give him the necessary experience, and he has ideas he’d like to share.

“There are some good ideas for running a town government out there and I would like to bring those to Falmouth,” he said.

He said the biggest issue facing Falmouth is not zoning and growth, but fiscal restraint. Chaousis said he strongly believes in what he called “lean and efficient” government, where the focus is on “principal services first.”

Those services include public safety and infrastructure, he said, although he also warned “it’s easy to cross the line into overspending if you’re not paying attention.”

Chaousis said zoning and growth management are complicated and there’s no simple formula to use. But he called a July 2016 rezoning by the town a “bad decision,” where the outcome was unanticipated.

“Creating policy is a collaboration, which is why we should pause development as we measure the consequences of our options,” he said.

In general, Chaousis said he supports economic development, but said the problem is that “the devil is in the details … we need development to be customized to the identity of our community.”

“I want economic development, but it must be in the right place and fit into the community,” he added. “We need to be open to opportunities, but be restrictive enough to keep out what we don’t want.”

Chaousis said he believes contract zoning is a good tool that has a bad reputation in Falmouth.

When it comes to getting broader, more diverse representation on the town’s appointed boards and committees, he said good leaders “identify where our weaknesses are and recruit accordingly.”

Voters should support him, Chaousis said, because “I’m prepared and ready. I will listen and I understand that getting elected is not the finish line, that’s when the real work starts.”

Chaousis also acknowledged the “elephant in the room,” which is a censure he received from the International City/County Management Association in 2015 for what he called “an embarrassing mistake.”

According to a report in the Bangor Daily News at the time, Chaousis used public money from the town of Boothbay to pay his wife’s and daughter’s cell phone bills.

Chaousis said he took the discipline, as well as the public scrutiny that came with it, and reiterated that he “didn’t do anything illegal or intentional, it was a mistake.”

Janice de Lima

De Lima said she is running for Town Council because she believes she can bring a wealth of experience to the job and wants to “encourage more diversity of thought and ideas.”

“We need broad perspectives and sustainable decision making,” she said.

De Lima said if she’s elected she’ll ask questions, including “who’s missing and who needs to be at the table.” With her banking background, she also described herself as fiscally responsible.

She said she wants to ensure that Falmouth is prudent with its spending and that the town is making what she called the “right investments.” She said she also wants to make sure the town is optimizing the money it spends.

De Lima also said she is running because she feels that “we need to bring back a level of civility and respect in our public discourse.”

Overall, she said, all town leaders want the same thing: “A wonderful thriving community, that provides a sense of inclusion.”

In terms of the big issues facing Falmouth, De Lima said they’re not unique to the town or to Maine, and there are good ways to balance growth and concerns like the desire for high-quality schools.

De Lima said she wants to make aging in place a high priority, and when it comes to economic development her goal is to make it manageable, sustainable and “right for everyone,” which means addressing the “legitimate concerns.”

Those include the impacts of traffic, noise and lighting, as well as impact on the environment. With a changing climate, de Lima said it’s particularly important that Falmouth require developers to “build for the changing environment.”

She also said that with economic development, “we have to be consistent and say here’s what we want and stick to that vision.”

De Lima said one of the biggest concerns voters are voicing is the impact of traffic and congestion, particularly along Route 1. She said because Falmouth is not the only community experiencing this problem, it would make sense to take a regional approach that should include public transit and developing a “long-term strategy” for the area’s transportation needs.

Another issue of importance, she said, is that town leaders must communicate better with residents. “We need to engage more people in our decision making,” de Lima said. “Collectively, I truly believe we can figure this out.”

Voters should support her, she said, because of her overall experience and her “unique and deeper perspective” on a wide variety of issues. “I want Falmouth to be a great place to live, work, raise a family and retire.”

Tommy Johnson

Johnson said he is running for Town Council because he wants to provide the community with “open and honest representation” and he has “strong ideas on growth and development.”

In addition, he said he’s concerned about a lack of communication from town leaders to residents.

“Like a lot of folks, I feel like we’re not getting information delivered or dispensed in a way that’s helpful,” he said.

If elected to the council, Johnson said he’ll listen and try to be representative of the desires of his constituents. “We can only get feedback if people know what’s going on,” he said.

Johnson said he is not quite sure what steps to take to improve communication, but said town councilors “need to represent the entire town and be available” so that a resident can go to any councilor and “have their voice heard.”

He said schools are of the utmost importance and his goal is to “maintain their high level of excellence.”

When it comes to economic development, Johnson said the town needs “a thoughtful, go-slow approach,” where leaders take into account what services the town already has and what the local market can bear.

He also said the town needs to employ both “an historical perspective,” as well as being willing to move forward and make progress. But to do that, Johnson said, we “really need to analyze what our demographics are and what is the real need.”

Another important issue to Johnson is being “more mindful of the need for more diverse housing,” including affordable workforce housing that could be purchased by teachers or firefighters.

And, he said, any future development, whether it’s commercial or residential must include open space. “Conservation easements are critical,” Johnson said, especially when it comes to protecting the health of Casco Bay.

On zoning and density issues, Johnson said it should be clear that “it’s not one size fits all. We need to get much more specific with our language and maybe look more case by case.”

However, he said he’s also in favor of “smart growth” as a way to broaden the tax base. But when it comes to budgeting and taxes, Johnson said “if there’s value in the spending and there’s a good return on investment, I will support it.”

When it comes to including more diverse voices in decision making, Johnson said “it’s critical that we encourage people to be part of the solution.”

He said voters should support him because he’s “a bridger … a connector. I can work with people from all different backgrounds and I can bring disparate groups of people together for thoughtful conversation.”

Valentine Sheldon

Sheldon said he is running for Town Council because he wants Falmouth to implement “sound, resident-friendly land use policies” and wants to be sure the town is making “informed” budget decisions.

He said he also wants to make town government “as transparent as possible” and said “at this stage, we have an exciting opportunity to have an impact on the vision for Falmouth.”

Sheldon, who created the Save Falmouth website, said he also feels he’s been “doing good work in representing residents” over the past few months and he wants to continue to do that.

He described himself as a collaborator who knows how to “debate and ask questions to get the best results.”

Sheldon said he’s “resident-focused” and his goal if elected to the council will be to “give them a true voice.”

He said the biggest issue facing Falmouth is managing growth. “That’s front and center,” Sheldon said. “Growth and how we want to grow will determine everything. I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of people and their No. 1 concern is growth.”

He said he also wants to see a “stronger process and guidelines that govern how the town will handle large (development projects).”

Like Johnson, Sheldon said he thinks a lack of communication with residents is another big issue that must be tackled.

He said open communication is key and has suggested that Falmouth look into creating an app for residents that would keep them updated not just about municipal affairs, but community events and school functions.

Sheldon said he also feels strongly that Falmouth needs a “town crier type publication,” that would be mailed on a monthly basis. He called such a newsletter an “easy and effective means of communication.”

He feels the town needs to be much more proactive about getting information out, instead of relying so much on people signing up to receive email alerts or other notifications.

When it comes to the schools, Sheldon said it’s imperative that impact on the School Department be considered whenever any large development project is being considered.

But he also said the town must also require information about how such projects would impact other things, such as traffic, the environment and the town’s public infrastructure.

Overall, Sheldon said, “we’re incredibly fortunate that people want to move here, but we need to figure out as a town how to manage growth. We also need a balance of residential and commercial development and we need to be the ones to set the pace.”

When it comes to economic development, Sheldon said he believes the town should focus on local, grassroots businesses, which he said have been fueling Portland’s economic success.

“Falmouth is absolutely capable of doing that, too,” he said. “I would like to see 21st century businesses put roots down and grow here.” For him that might include encouraging “experiential” retail, where people can gather, and looking at trends.

Voters should support him, Sheldon said, because he’s “a proven champion of resident rights and transparency. I also have a clear understanding of our community and its values.”

Sheldon said he’s a good listener, is fair and is a creative thinker who can bring people together. He’s also “ready to hit the ground running,” he said, and is “fully ready and excited to get to work.”

Jay Trickett

Trickett said he is running for Town Council because he has a “fair amount of expertise” in the areas of land use and zoning, which have been front-burner issues in Falmouth for more than a year, and he’d like to be “part of resolving those issues in a win-win way.”

He said he is also concerned that the town has “had a hard time making people feel part of the process” and would like to tackle issues in a collaborative way, leaving room for “constructive engagement.”

When it comes to budgeting, Trickett said he would like to “engage the public at every phase, so they can feel comfortable they’re getting excellent public services at good value.”

Trickett said “Falmouth is a wonderful place to live and I’m thrilled with the schools, so I don’t want to change things in any drastic way. I’m not agenda driven.”

Even so, he said, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to decision making and the processes used to assess large development projects.

Trickett also said a lack of communication has led to a loss of confidence in and distrust of town leaders. “It’s hard to restore credibility once it’s lost,” he said.

Big issues, he said, include the state of town roads, managing growth and communicating better. The latter, he said, requires councilors to be “better equipped and better informed in advance” so that they can answer resident questions.

He also said decisions need be evidence-based and that “we have to run the numbers to understand the impact.” Once that’s done, Trickett said, town leaders are better able to justify their rationale for making a particular decision.

Trickett said it’s up to town staff to make sure councilors are well informed and ready for debate.

When it comes to better communication, Trickett said it would be important to check in with the public regularly to find out want they want. “As a town we should really be asking what do you want more often,” he said.

That way, town leaders can be open to ideas, while being able to readily identify community values.

But, he said, developers also bear some responsibility to ensure they have broad-based support before pitching a big project.

“As long as Portland continues to do well, there will be pressure on Falmouth and we can’t just shut it down,” he said. “We have to engage in a constructive way and manage the changes that come along.”

Trickett said voters should support him because he has “a unique understanding and the most direct expertise” on many of the concerns raised by residents over the past year.

And, he said, “I’ve demonstrated my commitment and shown that I’m willing to do the work.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Jim Chaousis

Age: 42

Address: 3 Christopher Lane

Occupation: Operations manager for W.D. Matthews Machinery Co.

Political/civic experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Town Council in 2018; former city manager in Rockland and former town manager for Boothbay and Livermore Falls.

Social media: jimchaousisforfalmouthmaine.com

Janice de Lima

Age: 61

Address: 22 Entwood Road

Occupation: Banker

Political/civic experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Town Council in 1994; served on the Falmouth Economic Improvement Committee, volunteer at Holy Martyrs church, member of the New Ventures advisory council, member of the loan committee at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, member of the Avesta Housing board and member of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition.

Social media: janicedelima.com

Tommy Johnson

Age: 47

Address: 67 Underwood Road

Occupation: Director of membership and events at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce

Political/civic experience: Past president of the Falmouth Land Trust, member of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Falmouth Elementary and member of Foreside Community Church.

Social media: facebook.com/thomas.johnson.1232

Valentine Sheldon

Age: 50

Address: 169 Foreside Road

Occupation: Independent television producer and editor

Political/civic experience: None

Social media: facebook.com/ValentineSheldonforFalmouthTownCouncil

Jay Trickett

Age: 37

Occupation: Attorney

Address: 15 Shady Lane

Political/civic experience: Member of the Falmouth Board of Zoning Appeals, member of the Route 1 North Committee, and Little League coach

Social media: facebook.com/Trickett2019

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