Harpswell Board of Selectmen candidates appeal to voters

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HARPWELL — Three candidates hope to win the Board of Selectmen seat being vacated by Selectman Jim Henderson.

Rick Daniel and C. Matthew Rich have previously run for the board; Ellen Shillinglaw is a first-time candidate. Voting will take place at the March 9 Town Meeting.

Daniel, who ran against Selectman Alison Hawkes in 2011, has been living in Harpswell for 24 years with his wife and runs a carpentry business. He also serves on the town’s Budget Advisory Committee and works for Harpswell Neck Fire and Rescue as a rescue driver and EMT.

“I just feel with my background and experience, my proven ability to work well with others to get the job done, I feel I can bring a lot to being an effective selectman for the town,” Daniel said.

Rich, a lawyer in private practice who most recently ran against board Chairwoman Elinor Multer in 2012, has been living in Harpswell since 2002.

If elected, he said he would focus on improving the town’s governance and try to expand the Board of Selectmen to five members, with geographical representation by three members and two at-large members.

“The last 10 years have kind of shown me that a three-person select board is at its limit, because (past and current selectmen) will tell you that it wears them out,” Rich said. “It’s the breadth of it … the span of control they have to exert is too vast for the three of them.”

Shillinglaw has lived in Harpswell for a year and a half, but she said she has 30 years of public service as legislative assistant to former U.S. Sen. William V. Roth Jr., R-Delaware; director of the Office of Legislation and Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, and associate administrator for communications for the Health Care Financing Administration.

She currently works with the Town Lands Committee and the Board of Appeals.

“I think that the thing I want people to know about me is that even though I haven’t been here a long time, I’ve gotten really involved very quickly, understand the issues,” Shillinglaw said. “… I made it a business to learn this stuff because I want to be involved with the community and I need to understand these things. It’s how my mind works.”

The candidates expressed support for certain articles on the Town Warrant, including borrowing money to secure public access at Robinhood Beach.

“I think (the selectmen are) doing a good job in being supportive of the (beach access) group,” Daniel said, “and being on the Budget Advisory Committee, we suggested to put up the $220,000 towards the purchase of easement if they’re successful in gaining one.”

The three candidates also agree the Board of Selectmen should have the authority to lease the former West Harpswell School building for up to three years to a planned charter school.

Regarding economic development, the candidates concentrated on the undeveloped land the town owns at Mitchell Field.

To encourage future development, Daniel proposed more boat races, boat shows and other events at Mitchell Field to better advertise the land. He said if the town were to rehabilitate the pier, a decision he supports, it would be a prime location for something like an old naval vessel that people could visit. 

“These are all things to create events, to create awareness and accessibility for people to see the potential of whats there and for Harpswell to effectively become its own advertiser,” Daniel said.

All three candidates said when the town considers business proposals for Mitchell Field, there should be more communication and participation with the public to factor in the final decision.

“Mitchel Field is a huge issue and this town cannot afford to have that property not be a revenue generator,” Shillinglaw said.

As a result of the town rejecting four business proposals for Mitchell Field so far, she said the town needs to address a possible perception that it may not be business friendly.

Rich suggested earmarking a small percentage of tax revenue the town collects from small businesses and allocating it to the Harpswell Business Association for marketing purposes.

Daniel said the town has to consider its aging population in future development decisions. He said he would support looking into starting a bus service for seniors, teenagers and others who can’t drive.

On marine resource matters, the candidates agreed that conserving the resource should be a town priority.

“I think we should be deeply involved in it. It provides the livelihood for a lot of clammers and fishermen,” Daniel said. “But the decisions must be well thought out, well researched before decisions are made.”

“Clamming is part of our heritage,” Rich said. “I’m willing to put manpower into it. … I’d seek grant money to help the biology of it.”

Shillinglaw said “nobody can protect the water like we can, so we have to be excellent stewards of the water, excellent stewards of the land that abuts the water, and take care of our fragile but critically important asset.”

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.

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Rick DanielC. Matthew RichEllen Shillinglaw