Consensus an issue in Falmouth council election

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

FALMOUTH — The narrative for this year’s Town Council race couldn’t be more simple.

If you’re pleased with the current direction of the Town Council, vote for Caleb Hemphill and incumbent Councilor Chris Orestis, the candidates say. Or, if you’d prefer a different approach, vote for Erin Mancini and Charlie McBrady.

The four candidates are vying for two seats on the council. Orestis is seeking his second term. Chairwoman Teresa Pierce is termed out and is running for the state Legislature in House District 44.

The candidates’ positions revolve around a central question: Why are so many of the council’s votes unanimous, or nearly so?

McBrady contends the prevalence of unanimous votes demonstrates the council is too like-minded; he wants to see a broader diversity of opinion. Hemphill and Orestis contend the votes are the result of months of cooperation and compromise through workshops and several rounds of discussion, and the majority votes serve as testament to a well-reasoned, centrist approach.

Mancini and McBrady have also touted themselves as the business-friendly candidates, but Hemphill and Orestis – a small-business owner and CEO, respectively – say they wear the same mantle.

Caleb Hemphill

Hemphill, 53, of Dunham Pond Lane, is seeking his first elected office, but serves as chairman of the town’s Land Management and Acquisitions Committee. He is also vice president of the Falmouth Land Trust and a volunteer on the Falmouth Conservation Corps. He is a past member of the Conservation Commission, Falmouth Trails Advisory Committee and Open Space Implementation Committee.

Hemphill owns a preservation woodworking business that specializes in restoring historic buildings, including Victoria Mansion in Portland.

Hemphill grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He graduated from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, in 1982 with a degree in biology and environmental science. In 1988, he earned a master’s degree in environmental health from Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

For several years, Hemphill worked as an environmental consultant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at the Department of Environmental Protection, then changed careers in 1996 to become a preservation carpenter.

In 1999, Hemphill moved to Falmouth. He is married, and has two college-age children who attended Falmouth public schools.

Hemphill said he believes the town has struck the right balance between growth and preservation of open space. He supports, for instance, the council’s initiative to to spur economic development in the Route 100 corridor.

“Falmouth is known as a regional leader in conservation of open space and it’s certainly not to the exclusion of development,” he said.

Hemphill said he follows the council’s work closely and has supported its recent work on the Comprehensive Plan, a $283,000 loan to fund the library’s expansion efforts, and a proposed partnership with Wal-Mart to redesign Hat Trick Drive.

“I think they’re doing a good job,” he said. “They have a good relationship with our town manager and staff. They continue to do good work with the schools. They have a good handle on spending. They’re very deliberate about expenditures.”

Hemphill said he has the support of at least six of the sitting councilors, including Pierce, who said Hemphill “would be a strong town councilor.”

“He has been a steadfast volunteer for the town, serving on numerous committees over the years. This experience has given him a keen understanding of the many issues facing the town,” she said. “I think he will approach each issue in a thoughtful and in depth manner, looking at all points of view before making his decision.”

Erin Mancini

Mancini, 31, of Longwoods Road, is a newcomer to both politics and Falmouth, having moved to the town last September. She has never held a publicly elected office. In December, she was appointed to the Long-Range Planning Committee, but the committee has only met three times since she joined.

A recent graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Mancini is devoting her time to volunteering and mothering her two elementary school-age children and a middle school-age stepson. She is a frequent volunteer at Falmouth Elementary School and AARP, where she works one-on-one with seniors trying to find employment, she said.

Mancini grew up in Portland. In 2000, she graduated from Portland High School. Later, she earned a radiology certificate from Southern Maine Community College. In May, she graduated from USM with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences.

Mancini said she has wanted to be involved in town government since she moved here last fall. She has been a frequent viewer of Town Council meetings, too.

Mancini said her top priority is to bring “balance” to the council and provide her perspective as a mother of young children and that of a volunteer.

She also wants to see vacant storefronts on U.S. Route 1 filled, which can be accomplished by making the town more business friendly, she said. She cited a 2012 incident when Orestis urged the council to fine a local business for erecting a sign that violated the town’s size restrictions – an issue that predates Mancini’s residency by a full year.

“It’s not effective to punish businesses for small violations like that,” she said. “Let’s be realistic.”

Mancini said she doubts the council made the right decision to outsource assessing services to Cumberland County, but she stops short of condemning it, preferring a wait-and-see approach. Mancini said it is “hard to say” how she would have voted on the issue.

“It’s really important to have that face-to-face contact,” she said of town department heads. “It really is meaningful to walk in and have somebody face-to-face to answer your questions.”

Mancini also believes the council’s $200,000 contribution to a grassroots effort to purchase half of Clapboard Island was too high a price for public space that presents such challenges for accessibility.

Former Councilor David Libby said he supports Mancini’s bid because she will bring “more balanced approach” to the town.

“Erin seems to be more mindful and more conservative with funds,” Libby said. “She volunteers for AARP, so she knows better than anybody what the elderly are going through with these unbelievably burdensome property taxes.”

Libby said he has known Mancini for about six months, since she approached him for help with her campaign. Based on what he’s seen, both Mancini and McBrady would bring “common sense” to the council, he said.

“Right now, Russ Anderson is the only one on the council with a smidgen of common sense,” Libby said.

Charlie McBrady

McBrady, 46, of Foreside Road, is also a political newcomer. He is business development director for Zachau Construction in Freeport. He is also president of the board at the Morrison Center, a Scarborough school serving children and adults with profound developmental disabilities.

McBrady, a lifelong Falmouth resident, joked that his most recent elected position was as class president at Falmouth High School, where he held the title for four years, ending with graduation in 1986.

McBrady went on to study public administration at the University of Southern Maine and has worked in the construction industry for 24 years, he said. He serves on the board of the Associated Builders and Contractors and several other construction and real estate trade groups.

He has three children, two of whom attend Falmouth public schools.

Now he’d like to bring balance to the Town Council, McBrady said, because the current councilors are too like-minded.

“The more diverse the council is, the stronger the town will be,” he said.

McBrady said the council is spending money unnecessarily. Like Mancini, McBrady cited a $200,000 donation to Friends of Clapboard Island as an example of overspending. McBrady said he’s in favor of preserving the northern half of the island for public use, but the town’s contribution was too high, given that it’s only accessible by boat.

“I think I’d bring a different opinion or a diverse look to the council,” he said. “It’d be great if the citizens that pay their taxes here felt that there was some fiscal responsibility.”

McBrady also said he’d like to make Falmouth more business friendly, and also cited Orestis’ 2012 criticism of TideSmart owner Steve Woods for an over-large business sign.

McBrady describes himself as approachable, open-minded and non-partisan, adding that he has support from voters of all stripes in Falmouth.

Sam Rudman, a longtime friend and chairman of the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, said McBrady is open-minded and deeply invested in Falmouth.

“He’s a homegrown boy. He’s always been very interested with what the town is doing. He’s a businessman,” Rudman said. “He’s a very measured, considered thinker. He’s not ideological.”

Chris Orestis

Orestis, 48, of Winn Road, is chief executive officer of Life Care Funding, a company he founded in 2007 that helps senior citizens convert life insurance policies into long-term care.

Born in Lewiston, Orestis graduated from Lewiston High School in 1984. In 1989 he graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in communications and political science.

Orestis is married, and has four sons who attend Falmouth public schools. He is a frequent coach of youth sports.

Orestis said Falmouth is a business-friendly town, party because it is run like a business.

“I believe Falmouth is the best run town in the state of Maine. It is fiscally responsible. Its budget process is transparent, inclusive, hyper-sensitive to raising taxes,” he said. “Every line item in the budget is scrutinized, analyzed. We go over everything two, three, four times.”

Orestis acknowledged that largely unanimous outcomes of council votes can give the appearance of like-mindedness, but argues that unanimity is the result of compromise.

“That’s by design,” he said. 

Orestis said the council was different three years ago when he began his first term. Back then, the council was ideologically divided, he said, but over the course of his term the council has shifted toward the center.

“It’s a more moderate, centrist point of view,” he said. “There’s a real respect among everyone on the council. We work hard to get consensus to try to arrive at unanimous votes as often as possible.”

A self-described “Blue Dog Democrat,” Orestis said voters should be wary of candidates who want to shake up the council and upset the centrist approach.

“You don’t want someone who’s going to be disruptive for the sake of being disruptive,” he said.

Orestis said he is proud of his recent work to reduce the town’s spending on high-profile projects. When the council was considering whether to donate $300,000 to the Clapboard Island effort, Orestis suggested amending the amount to $200,000. Orestis also raised the idea of loaning $283,000 to the library’s expansion effort, instead of an outright donation, he said.  

Former councilor John Brautigam said he supports Orestis’ re-election bid.

“Chris’ moderate political views are in step with the people of Falmouth,” Brautigam said. “He has actively supported Falmouth schools, open spaces and sensible growth policies. And he has the business instincts to make sure we get the most value out of every taxpayer dollar.”

Election Day is June 10.

Ben McCanna can be reached at bmccanna@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

Sidebar Elements


Caleb Hemphill

Erin Mancini

Charlie McBrady

Chris Orestis

Falmouth School Board candidates unopposed

FALMOUTH — Three candidates are running unopposed for three seats on the School Board.

Incumbent Lucy Tucker is seeking another term. She is joined on the ballot by newcomers Joshua Barrett and Danielle Tracy.

Board member Analiese Larson is termed out after serving six years. Fellow board member Jan Andrews, who was eligible for another term, is not seeking re-election.

— Ben McCanna

0