Election: 3 candidates vie for Topsham selectman seats

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TOPSHAM — No one running for the Board of Selectmen is a stranger to local politics.

Two incumbents and a former candidate are on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Selectmen David Douglass of Foreside Road and Ruth Lyons of Jesse Road are seeking re-election. Douglass was first elected in 2011, and Lyons in 2014.

John Graham of Pleasant Street, who ran unsuccessfully last year against Selectmen Marie Brillant and Bill Thompson, is challenging the incumbents.

David Douglass

Douglass, 44, is married, has two children, and has lived in Topsham since 2001. He was a firefighter-emergency medical technician with the Brunswick Fire Department from 1996-2006, a captain with the Topsham Fire Department from 1998-2004, and has worked in sales and marketing with the Reynolds American tobacco company since 2006.

Douglass served on the Finance Committee from 2002-2011, and was its chairman from 2009-2011. He stepped down when he was elected to the Board of Selectmen.

“I’ve really enjoyed doing what I’m doing,” he said Sept. 29 of his time on that panel. “… I love the challenge of what I call Topsham’s change and the rate of change.”

That challenge is about balancing the future with the past – understanding what has made Topsham a special town and retaining its character, while exploring new services, Douglass said.

“Every time something is asked for, it’s got a price tag, and you’ve got to prioritize that,” he noted.

The impact on Topsham and other municipalities from marijuana legislation being passed at the state level is one issue Douglass expects to tackle in the next three years, as well as the town’s Comprehensive Plan update.

“That’s really going to set a lot of our direction, of what we are looking to tackle and what can we accommodate,” he said.

In looking at what he can offer the town through another term, Douglass said, “I’m very focused on the work that the Board of Selectmen does. Its decision-making process, the experience I have over years now.”

“I certainly have a great working relationship within the Town Hall, he added, “and I understand what they have for wants and needs, and I’m honest and truthful of what can be accomplished and what can’t be.”

John Graham

Graham, 40, is married and has four children. He has sold real estate for nearly 20 years.

He moved to Topsham four years ago from Portland, and grew up in the small community of Weld, the son of a selectman.

Graham is president of the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which seeks to save the 85-year-old structure. He has also served on Topsham’s Historic District Commission since 2014.

Although he finished last in the three-way contest last year, Graham said he was pleased with his showing and prides himself on being a good listener.

While he appreciates the walking and bicycle paths being installed in town, Graham voiced the need to plow Topsham’s sidewalks as often as the streets are addressed.

“Some days it’s four or five days after that they’re coming through and plowing,” he said. “I think one of the important things to do is actually take care of what you have before you start expanding too far.”

Graham expressed support for a bike and pedestrian committee, “to start addressing some of those issues.”

He would also like to see flashing traffic lights in Topsham’s school zones. 

Graham criticized the town’s spending $15,000 to demolish an old fire station in the Lower Village – which has been used as storage since the new station opened in 2007, and has a deteriorating roof – and then another $180,000 to build a 50-by-50-foot steel storage facility in the area of the Public Works Department.

The station “has a leak in the roof that could have been patched,” he said, noting that “there are just better ways to spend the town’s tax dollars.”

Ruth Lyons

Lyons, who said she was of a “mature age,” is married and has two children. She was Topsham’s assistant tax collector and then deputy town clerk before becoming town clerk in 1992. She was named Clerk of the Year in 2013 by the Maine Town & City Clerks Association, retired in 2014 and this week concludes her time as assistant town clerk in Lisbon.

Two years after winning a seat on the Board of Selectmen, Lyons ran for state House District 54, and lost to Rep. Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, by less than 300 votes.

She was president of the state clerks association from 2005-2006, president several times of the Sagadahoc County Clerks Association, and organized several New England clerks conferences.

Lyons also served on the Maine Municipal Association’s Conference Committee in 2015, and has been on the board of directors of the New England Municipal Clerks Institute, from which she graduated in 1994.

She also has chaired the Maine Town & City Clerks scholarship committee, was an executive board member on the Southern Midcoast Chamber of Commerce, and has been treasurer of the Sagadahoc Agricultural and Horticultural Fair Association.

“If clerks need me, I will help them with their elections,” Lyons said Sept. 28.

In running again, Lyons said, “I just feel we have a good board. We work well together; it’s professional. And I feel like we have accomplished things for the town without division. … I want to continue on that path.”

She expressed the importance of Topsham maintaining its tax rate, and avoiding governmental growth, “especially when population has grown by a small percentage over the last 15 years.”

“I think Topsham is a beautiful town, and my love for the people of Topsham still remains the same,” Lyons added.

“I fight for the town, fight for the people, and I’ve had a good record,” she said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.