Brunswick council opts not to add candidates for base agency board

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BRUNSWICK — With the window closing for recommendations to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority board of directors, the Town Council on Monday turned down a chance to add to its list of favorites.

The council’s list of recommendations is a short one. On Dec. 7, it voted unanimously to urge the reappointment of Gary Brown, a current MRRA board member and the town’s top executive.

Although Brown’s reappointment by Gov. John Baldacci is uncertain, he has received endorsements from the council, MRRA Chairman Art Mayo, Bowdoin College and a local newspaper.

Brown’s supporters argue his qualifications and Brunswick’s stake in the redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station make him a logical choice to sit on the MRRA board.

However, according to the governor’s deputy chief of staff, David Farmer, issues have been raised about potential conflicts between Brown’s duties as a MRRA trustee and his employment by the town. 

That conflict was initially pointed out by state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick. However, Gerzofsky, who advises the governor on MRRA nominations, has since refused to comment on Brown’s reappointment.

On Monday, two councilors recommended adding to the council’s list of endorsements. Councilor Ben Tucker, initially raised the issue; he was supported by Chairwoman Hallie Daughtry.

Tucker asked the council to consider six Brunswick residents, each of whom had applied for MRRA seats through the governor’s office.

But the majority of councilors were reluctant to add to the list, arguing that they didn’t have enough time to conduct due diligence on the candidates.

“I think it’s entirely inappropriate to present a slate of names without any background,” Councilor Joanne King said.

Councilor David Watson agreed, saying “arbitrarily listing names” would be “reckless.”

Vice chairman Benet Pols said that he didn’t recognize some of the applicants.

“I’m hesitant to do a slate and I don’t think we have time to vet this in this meeting,” Pols said.

The list included Newell Augur, a former town councilor and Augusta lobbyist; Steve Weems, president of the Brunswick Economic Development Corp.; Sande Updegraph, the director of the Freeport Economic Development Corp., and Amanda Similien, a former employee in the town’s office of Economic and Community Development.

The lack of support among councilors prompted Tucker and Daughtry to withdraw their motion. Tucker, acting independent of the council, endorsed Similien in a letter to Baldacci. 

It’s unclear if the council will have another opportunity to make recommendations for what could be five vacancies on the MRRA board.

Farmer said last week that Baldacci was expected to announce his appointments in January.

The next Town Council meeting is Jan. 4.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or [email protected]