Former Falmouth councilor, political newcomer vie for House seat

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FALMOUTH — The election in  House District 44 pits a former town councilor against a carpenter who has never previously run for office.

The seat is open because Democratic Rep. Mary P. Nelson chose not to seek a fourth term. House District 44 covers most of Falmouth, and was formerly House District 112. 

Gregory Payeur

Republican Gregory Payeur, 65, of Falmouth Road, is somewhat of a reluctant candidate.

He said he didn’t want to run for office initially, that at first he would have preferred “a sharp stick” in his eye, but he was approached by several people to campaign for the seat.

“People have to take their turn,” Payeur said. “And that was one of the main things. I’ll take my turn. I’ve done an awful lot of different things I can relate to an awful lot of people, and frankly the people that have been doing it haven’t been doing such a great job.”

Payeur stressed the need for a “grandchild test” when it comes to figuring out if an idea is good in both the short term and the long term.

“Is this piece of legislation, the way it’s written, going to accomplish what we want to accomplish and preserve the future that our grandchildren are going to inherit?” Payeur said. “You have to add that in there, it can’t but just a quick fix.”

He said specific fixes depend on how a particular bill is written. 

“If a bill is written such that it solves a problem today, but causes five times the problems tomorrow, I’m not going to vote for it,” Payeur said. “We’ll have to come up with another solution. It has to be thought through.”

Payeur said he sees himself as a “pretty good down-the-road thinker,” which he sees as a change of pace from current legislators.

“The state ends up in all these financial positions where folks have not used their heads, they have not thought ahead more than 20 minutes about what the ramifications are going to be of what they’re doing,” Payeur said. “I’ve been in business most of my life and I know how to be fiscally responsible. Otherwise I would not be in business.”

Payeur said regulations and taxes on businesses are something that need addressing right away. He said Maine ranks near last in terms of being business friendly, but one bill won’t fix everything.

“Making the state more business friendly means that there will be more jobs, and the best way to eliminate welfare fraud is for everyone to have a job,” Payeur said.

Payeur said Maine is a tough place for businesses, and often the jobs that are available don’t fit with the skill sets of those looking for jobs. He said that is where education comes into play: educating the workforce for those available jobs is “a lot easier than trying to entice billion-dollar companies to come into the state of Maine.”

“If we want to stay 50th, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing,” Payeur said. “But if we actually want our people in the state of Maine to prosper, then we have to do things differently.”

He said there is no “magic bullet” when it comes to making Maine more business friendly.

“It’s going to be a whole lot of decisions, well thought through, that are going to take us out of where we are right now,” Payeur said. 

He said he became interested in local politics in 2010, when he was “whining about the candidates.” He said he was “reeled in slowly” and eventually asked himself “Why is it someone else’s responsibility to provide me with a good candidate?”

Payeur served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He operates two businesses: a high-end custom furniture business, and a wholesale wooden gifts company.

Teresa Pierce

Democrat Teresa Pierce, 51, of Waites Landing Road, is a former three-term town councilor. She served two terms as council chairwoman and one term as chairwoman of the Finance Committee.

She said she wanted to run because she has a “long history of serving in the town.”

“I felt like what I learned about Falmouth I could take up to Augusta and bring back down,” Pierce said. “I also think that we’re at a unique moment in Maine’s history and we need people to go up there, work across party lines, and move the state forward.”

Pierce said her time on the Town Council gave her the ability to work with a lot of different people with different ideas and opinions, to find common ground and make good policy.

Pierce said focusing on education is a top priority, that kids all over the state deserve to have access to top school systems. She said doing this will not only help the students become better educated, but make Maine marketable and create jobs.

The environment is another concern. Pierce said she wants to protect natural resources, but also use them in a “targeted and effective way for tourism and job growth to increase revenue into the state.”

“And jobs are always important,” Pierce said. “I would focus on small businesses, but also the energy field and other avenues that are going to create job growth in new industry. I think we’re uniquely qualified to spearhead some of that in the nation.”

She said at the state level there has been a “divisive nature,” and her time on the Town Council gave her strong collaborative skills.

“There’s always room to find common ground,” Pierce said. “And spending six years on the council really gave me those skills of being to hear everyone’s ideas and move things forward.”

She said during her time on the council, Falmouth was financial stable, efficient and effective while still doing major projects. She said she was particularly proud of the U.S. Route 1 project, which she “shepherded.”

“Now it will be a great addition to our downtown area in Falmouth,” Pierce said. “It’s got natural gas, it’s got storm water (control) and it also has a great sense for the businesses in that community.”

She also noted alternative energy projects at the elementary school, which she said she “spearheaded.”

“The wood-chip boiler saves hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in the school budget that we put right back into education and the kids,” Pierce said.

Pierce said she always takes the “long view” and always looks at “the broader impact of things before voting on something.”

“That ability to do that, take in a lot of information from a lot of people, and then make a vote go forward is one of my strongest skills,” she said. “Anything that comes up before me on the state level, I will use that criteria to analyze what we do to then go ahead and vote. So I’ll give it my full attention and do what I think is best for Falmouth and Maine in order to keep us moving forward.”

Pierce could not seek re-election to the Town Council because of term limits. She has also served as chairwoman of the Metro Coalition, a subcommittee of the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Before she came to Maine, she worked with nonprofits in Boston.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.