- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
TOPSHAM — Selectman Sandra Consolini faces competition from Marie Brillant and Andrew Mason in her bid for a second, three-year term.
Two seats on the board are up for grabs. Selectman Steve Edmondson is not seeking re-election.
There are also two seats open on the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors. Scott McKernan is running for another three-year term while another Topsham resident whose term is expiring, James Cusano, decided not to run again.
With no one else on the ballot, the second School Board seat is open to write-in candidates.
Cusano was appointed in March to fill the unexpired term of Robert Hill.
Brillant, 53, has lived in Maine since 1997 and is a cook at Mt. Ararat Middle School. She is married and has two daughters, both of whom are in college.
This would be Brillant’s first foray on a town board or committee.
“I hear a lot of people complaining about the way things are being done, and I’m hoping maybe I could help, and maybe get the town to get to work for the people,” Brillant said.
The nature of the town’s growth is one issue she said she has heard expressed by her fellow residents. Brillant, who had been a dairy farmer for 16 years, noted the importance of preserving Topsham’s traditional rural aspects while helping it to grow.
“I feel as though I’m a conservative person, but not opposed to looking at growth in a healthy way for the town,” she said.
Consolini, 60, is married and has twin sons. Her work experience has included being a bookkeeper for KB Toys at its home office, a commissions processor at the MassMutual Life Insurance Co. in Massachusetts and a certified nursing assistant.
“I’ve always loved helping people, whether it’s on a personal level (or) a professional level,” Consolini said. “When I did run (for the Board of Selectmen) and I won, I found out I get extreme satisfaction out of helping the citizens; I really do. That’s the reason why I ran again. … I love the damn job.”
She said she feels she has achieved a lot for the town, and there is still more she would like to do.
Among accomplishments, she listed tax increment financing information meetings she initiated, a grant she secured for cabinets to display historical items at the Topsham Municipal Building, and having applicant information for a proposed cell tower in the Heights neighborhood available for the public at the library.
“I ask a lot of questions,” Consolini said. “So much so that I was asked a while back not to ask so many questions, but I still do.”
Along with choosing its selectmen, Topsham voters in November will vote on a referendum question that calls for a ban on new cell towers in the Urban Residential Zone. The companies that wanted to build a tower there sued the town last month to receive permits the Planning Board denied in June.
Consolini said she could not discuss the lawsuit, but said “personally, I don’t think a cell phone tower should be in the midst of a highly densely-populated area.”
Development is another key issue that Consolini said concerns her. She stressed the need to maintain an open dialog between developers, citizens and the Board of Selectmen.
“If we can continue that, that would be the greatest thing,” she said. “Because then people would feel involved.”
Another perpetual concern of Consolini’s is the budget. With less money coming from the state, she said, taxes have gone up, despite recent bare-bones town budgets. “It makes it very hard to explain to people that it’s not the town that in essence is raising your taxes,” she said.
Mason, 44, practices employment law for the Portland firm Reben, Benjamin & March. He is married and has a daughter, and has lived in Maine since 2006.
Law is Mason’s second career; prior to that he was an orientation and mobility specialist who worked with blind and disabled children.
Mason, who serves on the Topsham Development board, said “we’ve got a wonderful staff in town, and a lot of dedicated people working hard on committees, to try to move things forward and make life better in Topsham, but there just seems to be a sense that when things get up to the Board of Selectmen, that things aren’t getting done.
“… It’d be nice to have a change of pace,” he continued, “somebody a little more assertive, somebody with a professional background that can listen to people, help drive discussion, and … be more forward focused than backward focused.”
He said he does not support cell towers being placed in residential districts.
The redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Station annex in Topsham is a key issue for Mason, one he said he addresses through his involvement with Topsham Development. The town must not squander its redevelopment opportunities, he said.
“When I came on the board there had been a study done that showed that Topsham is significantly underutilized in terms of its manufacturing job base, and that we need to grow more of that,” Mason said.
Another issue he noted is Topsham’s approach to quality of life projects.
“To a lot of people, the quality of life has become a four-letter word,” Mason said. “… People don’t seem to recognize how quality of life interacts with growing jobs. It’s beyond just a pretty park for the people who happen to live there. It actually helps make it a focus for recruitment for businesses that want to come there.”
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.