Brunswick Town Council election draws 6 candidates for 3 seats
BRUNSWICK — Voters will elect three town councilors – and choose between two sitting councilors – when they go to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 3.
The District 3 contest is familiar. Council Chairwoman Hallie Daughtry, seeking a third term, is challenged by Suzan Wilson, who has made two consecutive unsuccessful runs for Daughtry's seat.
Jason Bergquist, a Planning Board member who had a strong showing last year in state Senate District 10, is running against John Perreault, a local builder and developer, in District 4.
Karen Klatt, the current District 4 councilor, is facing incumbent Councilor Joanne King for the at-large seat.
The same districts are up for grabs on the School Board. However, those races are uncontested. Incumbents are at-large representative Michelle Small and Corrine Perreault in District 4; newcomer James Corey, of Glover Street, is running unopposed in District 3.
Polls open at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 3 at Perryman Village Community Center (District 1), Brunswick Junior High School (Districts 2 and 7), Brunswick High School (District 3), the Municipal Meeting Facility, also known as the Recreation Center, on Federal Street (District 4), Pejepscot Terrace (District 5) and the former Brunswick School Department offices on Union Street (District 6).
Candidates for Town Council addressed a variety of topics, including the council's role in mitigating the effects of the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station, economic development and budget issues.
King, 51, is seeking her fifth term on the council.
King's youngest daughter is now in high school, but she was in third grade when King was first elected to the at-large seat. Since then King was elected council chairwoman for two years and remains the only sitting councilor who served on the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority, the organization that helped draft the reuse plan for BNAS.
King said base closure drove her to seek a fifth term.
"I really gave it a lot of thought this time," King said. "For one, it's a three-year term. ... But why I finally decided to run was because I think the challenges of the town in base closure will be very serious. I think my institutional knowledge and understanding of the redevelopment process will be beneficial to the council."
Over the last several years, King has pushed hard for the council to meet base closure with economic development, citing the need for jobs and increasing the commercial tax base. In the past her push for some projects has cost her politically, most notably a failed attempt to build a Walgreens store at the corner of Stanwood and Pleasant streets.
King says that experience has taught her a valuable lesson.
"As much as I believe in (economic development), I know there are only certain things that are acceptable to the majority of residents," she said. "That's why the council this year has really focused on infill development and the downtown. I'll call it maturity. Today I'll go to (Brunswick Economic Development Corp.) meetings and just tell them, 'No way, there's no support for this kind of thing. We've been there, done that.' "
"If you want to get something done, you have to find something that everyone can support," she added.
King said she believes most of the council can rally behind several initiatives, including regionalization with neighboring communities and bringing Amtrak Downeaster service to Maine Street Station.
King, who heads the council's Efficiency Committee, said the council will likely face some difficult decisions at budget time. King spearheaded the committee's recent recommendation to leave vacant the assistant town manager's position. She said the council would likely be forced to make similar decisions to save money next year.
King is in favor of a new police station. The town is currently searching for a location for the facility, which would replace the Police Department's current subterranean headquarters on Federal Street. The town has considered renovating old buildings, but appears to be leaning toward new construction.
"I think we've studied that issue to death," King said. "I really think we need to build something that will serve them for a long time. ... We have to get away from Band-Aids and have some civic pride."
Most important, she said, is finding a way to preserve "what everyone loves about the town" during difficult economic times made worse by base closure.
"I'm really concerned how me move forward and are able to maintain all the things that matter to people here," she said.
King and her family own Brunswick Taxi.
Klatt, 49, is in the last year of a two-year term in District 4. She said she decided to run for the at-large seat because she heard from, and connected with, residents outside of her district.
"I've been responsive to the people in District 4," she said. "I was very open and I found that a lot of people out of the district were calling me to help them. In way, it feels like I'm already representing them."
Klatt's decision to challenge King reveals much about her style. She consistently challenges town expenditures on economic development projects like Maine Street Station, and she has successfully lobbied for more government transparency, such as making council agendas and backup materials available to the public five days before scheduled meetings.
"I want my constituents to know that I have the willingness to research the issues in depth," she said. "I want them to know that I'm going to ask questions."
Klatt said she's received positive feedback "for speaking up and speaking out." However, her willingness to take up causes has drawn criticism from residents and councilors alike. She was censured by the council earlier this year for her post-meeting confrontation with a local developer, and she continues to lobby on behalf of a former resident engaged in a feud on Merryman Lane, a conflict that previously drew the town into a lawsuit.
"I've had my time when things were a little difficult," Klatt said. "But what brings me back are the citizens that tell me to hang in there. They like what I do."
"That's the biggest thing for me," she added. "Engaging the citizens is so important to me, to listen to them, to make them feel like they're part of the decisions."
Klatt tries to hold monthly constituent meetings. That practice, she said, helps her get a sense of what's on residents' minds.
Going forward, Klatt said she'll continue to push for fiscal responsibility and staying accountable to taxpayers. She cited the council's recent emergency expenditure of $55,000 for new meeting space as an example of how the town government sometimes puts its needs before those of residents.
"I just had this meeting with neighbors on Nancy Drive, where people have sump pumps in their basements because of water runoff from the street," Klatt said. "(Town staff) told them they needed to wait until the next (Capital Improvement Program) to get it fixed. Then we just did this emergency allocation so the council could have a nice desk. It just doesn't seem right to me."
Klatt is married and lives on Moody Road. She has an education in accounting, and recently re-entered the workforce as a seasonal employee at L.L. Bean.
Daughtry, 64, is seeking a third term on the council.
Her current term, during which she served as the council chairwoman, has perhaps been her most challenging. Earlier this year, Daughtry drew sharp criticism from members of the business community and several councilors for failing to prevent an entanglement between a councilor and a local developer, even though the confrontation took place after a meeting had adjourned.
Her leadership was also questioned during a town manager hiring process that some residents said was tainted by the council's questionable use of executive session.
Despite those setbacks, Daughtry said she's committed to helping the council deal with difficult budget decisions, finishing Maine Street Station, supporting downtown businesses and attracting new businesses so "our kids can come home and work here."
Although Daughtry opposed past projects such as a business park and the Walgreens proposal, she considers herself pro-development.
"My criteria is that (development) has to be planned and it has to be consistent with our Comprehensive Plan," she said. "It has to enhance our sense of place. I am firmly in support of economic development. That is a priority."
Daughtry said she also considers herself a budget hawk, even though she's been known to budge from previous no-increase directives. The latter wasn't the case this year, however, when the council adopted a flat budget.
"We need to continue with that trend," she said.
Daughtry said she laments the town's lack of control in shaping the redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station, but she supports more communication with the base redevelopment authority.
Meanwhile, she said, the council needs to focus on revitalizing and "branding" its downtown to attract new visitors and businesses. The majority of Brunswick's downtown businesses close before 8 p.m., and she said she wants to change that.
"We have to appeal to all ages," she said.
Daughtry recently retired from L.L. Bean.
Wilson, 56, chairs the town's Marine Resources Committee and coordinates the Longfellow Days "Poets in Schools" program.
She previously served on the Gateway One steering committee, which is drafting and implementing changes to the Route 1 corridor. Wilson has also worked in international traffic management, military and commercial logistics. She also owned a small arts and publishing business in Bath.
This will be Wilson's third try for the District 3 seat, and third challenge of Daughtry in particular. She said she's running again because she can bring an analytical, goal-oriented skill set to the council.
"I'm not particularly ideological," she said. "And I'm not partisan politically."
Wilson said she's not running on a specific issue.
"I'm all about infrastructure and getting things done," she said. "It's sometimes frustrating to see the Town Council getting involved in one-issue controversies. I'm more interested in making the town work, and I think I bring some skills to help do that."
Wilson described herself as "open-minded", but "decisive."
"I'm not shy about sticking up for something," she said.
Wilson rejected being pinned down on certain issues, such as the town's role in BNAS redevelopment, but she had strong feelings about the budget and town infrastructure. She said the council should be more involved early in the budget process and that it should send clear directives and priorities to town staff.
"You can't pretend you're interested (in fiscal responsibility) if you're not willing to prioritize your wants and needs," she said. "You have to be forced to understand what is critical and necessary."
One of Wilson's priorities, she said, would be addressing the town's infrastructure, such as roads and facilities.
"Our infrastructure is severely lacking for the kind of town we are," she said.
Wilson said she could support new construction of a police station, but would first leave it to the Police Department to characterize its "wants and needs."
Wilson lives on Bunaganuc Landing Road. She is married to Daniel McLaughlin.
Bergquist, 39, is making his second run at public office in the last year. In 2008 he ran unsuccessfully in state Senate District 10 as a Green Independent candidate.
Bergquist, the manufacturing manager at Grow-Tech in Lisbon Falls, has served on the Planning Board since March. He said his campaign for Town Council has been in his sights for some time.
"I'm strongly committed to the town," he said. "I love living in Brunswick and raising my kids here. ... Given the number of crucial decisions that are being made right now, I'm compelled to contribute."
Bergquist said he's particularly concerned about the decisions being made at Brunswick Naval Air Station. While the council has little authority to alter those decisions, Bergquist said he believes it's important that the town's voice is heard.
"I think dialog between the council and the (Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority) is essential," he said. "I think MRRA has to have a comfort level with the council."
Bergquist said he also wants to ensure that decisions made about the town-owned building on Industry Road and Maine Street Station stay "above board."
He said the council is being tasked in a way that's unprecedented, but he's optimistic about Brunswick's future.
"If the base is handled correctly, the town has the potential to explode," he said. "We have to be advocates for the town. We want the right kind of business, responsible business."
Bergquist said it's also important to bring the Downeaster to Maine Street Station. His potential constituents in District 4 also have concerns about roads and infrastructure.
If he's elected, Bergquist said he'll be committed to constituent outreach.
"My goal is to hold regular meetings, to let people come forward and talk," he said. "I've loved the door-to-door aspect of campaigning."
Bergquist said he believes his work experience has prepared him for the analytical work on the council.
"I do blue-collar work during the day," he said. "At night I want to be able represent working people, too."
Perreault, 44, is the owner of Perreault & Daughters Construction. He is an associate member of the town's Zoning Board of Appeals. His wife, Corrine, serves on the School Board.
Perreault said there are a lot of reasons why he decided to make his first run for elected office.
"I don't have any personal agendas," he said. "I think I might be able to help the town. There's been a lack of common decency by some on the council. Some have been more driven by personal motives than the benefit of the town."
Perreault acknowledged that his background in development might drive his stance on future economic development issues, but he said he's in favor of "responsible economic development."
"If something fits, then that's where it belongs," he said. "I'm not interested in putting a huge (commercial property) in a residential area, but I'm in favor of economic development."
"I'm in favor of economic growth in Brunswick," he added. "The town's needs, especially in the next three to five years, are going to be huge. We need to boost our economic growth to offset the lost taxes to base closure."
Perreault said he's in favor of infill, or in-town, development. He also supports using tax breaks to lure new business.
Perreault acknowledged that the town will face a tough budget outlook. If he's elected, he acknowledged he might also be asked to cut school programs his wife favors on the School Board.
"People don't want to see money wasted," he said. "I truly believe that we need to stay within a 2 percent tax increase. We need to be realistic. But if we can somehow hold that budget line, I would like that, too."
Overall, Perreault said he believes he can help the council become more effective.
"I think I can help bring a more efficient and unified Town Council," he said. "There's been a lot of negativity, and it's a shame that the council is represented to be broken up into two (voting blocks)."
Perreault lives on Hacker Road.