NORTH YARMOUTH — With nine-year Selectman Paul Napolitano not seeking re-election, two political newcomers are hoping to take his place.
The race between Harold Stoddard of Smithwood Drive and Keith Thompson of Bryn Lane is the town’s only contested election on June 9.
No one submitted nomination papers for two open Budget Committee seats. Richard Baston of Walnut Hill Road and Stephen Gorden of Heather Loch are uncontested in their re-election bids for, respectively, Cemetery Commission and Yarmouth Water District trustee.
Thompson, 65, is a retired aviator who is chairman of the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust in South Portland, according to his website, nyaffairs.org. He is married and has lived in North Yarmouth for 17 years.
Stoddard, also 65, is a retired Portland firefighter and current deputy chief of the North Yarmouth Fire-Rescue Department. He is a widower with three children, he has lived in town since 1973.
A key issue in the election is the town’s scheduled November vote on a proposal to redevelop North Yarmouth Memorial School as a municipal and community campus. If approved, the town would sell the existing Town Hall for housing or commercial development, and a municipal sewer system would be created to help facilitate new development.
Other options the Board of Selectmen has considered include rebuilding the Town Hall, or instead expanding it as a municipal campus.
Many people expressed concerns about the proposal at public hearings, convincing the Board of Selectmen to twice postpone the vote.
Stoddard said that while he is “OK” with the selectmen’s decision, “the public should have decided which one was brought forward, and which one we were going to pursue, and how much we wanted to change the flavor of the town.”
“I just think that the community should have had a much (greater) participation in the final decision,” he said.
Thompson said as long as the work can be done within the confines of the proposed budget, “I think it’s doable, and I’m interested in seeing (the school’s) gym preserved for the community.”
Based on the results so far of a survey he posted on his website, he said he believes most residents would accept the gym and kitchen area in the school as fulfilling a requirement to replace Wescustogo Hall, the longtime community gathering space destroyed by fire in 2013.
“I think the support is there for (the proposal),” Thompson said. “There are just a lot of people, especially the downstream people, who are concerned about what happens if the sewer system fails.”
The Board of Selectmen plan is to have an engineering study conducted on such a system.
Another issue that rocked the town in the past six months is Town Manager Rosemary Roy’s firing last December of Bill Young, the former deputy chief of Emergency Medical Services; the other paramedic, Jeff Toorish, resigned the same day in protest.
Both men have claimed town officials violated their civil rights. Young in January filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, and filed notice last month that he intends to sue town officials unless a settlement is reached.
Thompson, whose wife is an emergency medical technician, said in an email April 24 that until Young’s firing, he had not paid much attention to North Yarmouth politics for most of his time in town.
“They’ve kind of allowed themselves to get backed into corners that they really didn’t need to,” Thompson said of the selectmen, adding that the situation “could have, and should have, been resolved fairly quickly, and it wasn’t. And it was allowed to fester until now it’s on the verge of legal action.”
Stoddard said the firefighter controversy brought “too much emotion in the room” from members of the public criticizing Young’s firing, and questioning the circumstances behind it.
“That was a tough spot,” Stoddard said. “It was a very difficult situation. I would like to have seen (the board) have answers for the public; rather than say ‘no, we can’t talk about that,’ say ‘let me get back to you with the right way to do this.'”
Stoddard said he wants to “represent what the majority of the people want, and I know there are some decisions coming down the road about changing the town. And I just want to make sure that the people who are already here get a chance to have their opinion heard, and change it in a direction that we all want to go in.”
Thompson said he does his homework, and that since beginning his campaign he has attended regular and special Board of Selectmen meetings, and meetings of other town panels.
“I need to know what the committees are struggling with, what their issues are, how they’re handling it,” he said. “And right now I feel fairly confident that for somebody who’s not actually on the board, I’ve got a pretty good handle on the issues,” Thompson said. “… Because I’m retired, I’ve got the time, and I will put in the time, to do the job.”
NORTH YARMOUTH — Former Selectman Jeanne Chadbourne announced in an email Monday that she is a write-in candidate for the Board of Selectmen.
Chadbourne said issues like how to replace Wescustogo Hall, the closing of the town’s only school, and the firefighter controversy convinced her to run after she missed the deadline to get on the June 9 ballot.
“These events really set our town on its heels,” Chadbourne said. “We need forward motion to get out from under the present negative aura in which we are working. Folks get real tired treading water and going nowhere.”
Chadbourne, 76, taught fourth through sixth grades in School Administrative District 51 for 28 years before retiring in the mid-1990s. She served two terms on both the Board of Selectmen and SAD 51 Board of Directors in the 1990s and 2000s, and was named North Yarmouth’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 2011.
She has also directed functions at the North Yarmouth Congregational Church Fellowship Hall, has been a church trustee, and has served on the church stewardship committee. Her activities have also included organizing Cumberland-North Yarmouth Lions Club dinners each month, serving on the Parks and Recreation Committee, and volunteering at the Mabel I. Wilson School. Chadbourne was also involved in the effort to build a sidewalk along Route 9.
“I would like to do whatever is necessary to move things along,” she said in an interview Monday. “… I think that we could be moving considerably faster than we are.”
Chadbourne expressed her support for the fire-rescue department as “a critical part of our town structure,” but expressed disappointment at what she called the “mystery and innuendo” surrounding the firefighter situation.
Concerning the village development option going before voters in November, she said she supports the idea of a municipal campus at the school, but said she has to learn more about the proposed sewer system. Chadbourne said she also wants to see Wescustogo Hall rebuilt on its original footprint, as opposed to having the school gym serve as the building’s replacement.
The gym is “a great space for community use … but it’s not Wescustogo,” she said.
Chadbourne said she would bring “a new energy” to the Board of Selectmen, adding that “I’m not any better than the other people that are on the board. I love my town, and I think I could bring a new energy to it that hasn’t been there for a while.”
— Alex Lear