Finding consensus is goal of new Cape Elizabeth council chairwoman

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Councilor Molly MacAuslan has been chosen as the next Town Council chairwoman.

MacAuslan was nominated at a Nov. 18 workshop by Councilor Caitlin Jordan and unanimously endorsed by the rest of the council. A formal vote will be held at the Dec. 4 Town Council meeting.

“I think this year I was kind of the natural choice, but next year it’ll be interesting,” MacAuslan said.

MacAuslan, who is serving the third year of her first term, said she is very excited about being selected. She said she accepted after her fellow councilors asked if she would be willing to serve.

“Some of them had called me and asked, and I said yes, I’d be enthusiastic about doing it,” she said.

MacAuslan will succeed Councilor Kathy Ray, who has served as chairwoman for the past year.

“You really have to work with other people to get things done,” MacAuslan said. “In democracy we all have a say in the process. It’s really important.”

While everyone on the council has a voice and opinion, MacAuslan said she hopes she can keep most councilors on the same page.

“My goal is always to find as much consensus as possible, but I’m always interested in hearing people’s input,” she said. “I’m a big supporter of the one-town concept. We all have different ideas, but we’re in this together.”

MacAuslan said she wants to hear more from the public as well, and would like to get input on issues from more people.

“To me that’s the most important part of being on the council, meeting people,” she said.

MacAuslan said she has learned a lot from her two years on the council and she wants to use the knowledge she’s gained about public process as she goes forward.

“I have become more and more respectful of public process, but it can be messy,” she said. “It’s kind of fun, but it’s always interesting.”

She said she’s very proud of the work the council has done over the past couple of years on the firing range ordinance and the license for the Spurwink Rod & Gun Club. She said it’s a “prime example of how public process should work.” 

As council chairwoman, MacAuslan said there a few issues she wants to see through, but “no surprises.” She wants to continue working on issues the council has already been working on.

She said she’s looking forward to the Jan. 4 public hearing on the recommendation from the the Solid Waste and Recycling Long Range Planning Committee for a $1.3 million redesign of the Recycling Center. The committee submitted a report to the council in September with recommendations that included using outdoor trash compactors instead of a hopper building.

“I think that is a really, really well-done report with a very practical and reasonable solution, and reasonably priced,” she said.

MacAuslan said she’d like to “see that addressed this year” and have the issue settled at referendum, which is required by town charter for projects costing over $1 million.

MacAuslan said she’d also like to look into revenue options at Fort Williams, but to look at the issue more broadly instead of just focusing on parking fees. Former Councilor Jim Walsh in October recommended parking fees be considered.

“We need to recognize that voters have said a couple of times that they don’t want to charge users,” MacAuslan said.

Cape Elizabeth has put the question of parking fees to voters twice, in 2006 and in 2010; it was defeated both times

MacAuslan said it’s important to consider what residents want when making decisions. She said she plans to do this in the coming year by looking at how cellular service can be improved in town.

“We’ve heard loudly and clearly that we need to deal with that and we will,” she said.

MacAuslan said she knows that while not everyone can be pleased with the outcome of every issue, she will continue trying to make the best decisions she can.

“With 9,000 people (in town) will we always get it right? No,” she said. “My goal is always to do better.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Cape Elizabeth Town Councilor Molly MacAuslan will be the next council chairwoman.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.