FREEPORT — Incumbent Rich DeGrandpre faces one challenger as he seeks his fifth term as town councilor-at-large.
Newcomer Bill Rixon hopes to take DeGrandpre’s seat on the seven-person council.
Two other councilors are also seeking re-election, although they are uncontested: Councilor Sarah Tracy in District 2 and Councilor Kristina Egan in District 3.
DeGrandpre has held been councilor-at-large for 12 years and has lived in Freeport since he was a teenager. He owns R&D Automotive and has a wife and two daughters.
He said he wants to be re-elected because he enjoys helping the community work through different issues.
“I really enjoy the work,” DeGrandpre said. “The politics make me crazy, but I like the work.”
DeGrandpre is one of four members of the Freeport Withdrawal Committee, and said he hasn’t decided if Freeport should withdraw from Regional School Unit 5. He said he’s still waiting to see what the budget will look like for a stand-alone school district.
“I come at this from a financial standpoint,” DeGrandpre said.
He said cost isn’t the most important factor, but that it’s a big aspect. He said he believes finances might prevent Freeport from withdrawing.
“There are a lot of financial reasons why I fear we’ll be stuck at the hip forever,” DeGrandpre said.
He also said that as long as Freeport is still part of the RSU, Durham and Pownal will have more access to Freeport’s “local effort.” DeGrandpre said if the town does withdraw, he wants to be able to help with the changes that will need to be made.
“If Freeport votes to withdraw, we need to amend our charter,” he said.
DeGrandpre said he knows there will be a lot to do and he wants to be on the council so he can help with the process.
“If Freeport does vote to withdraw, it’ll be a lot of work and as a councilor I’ll help with that going forward,” he said.
DeGrandpre said his long experience will be useful. He said part of what makes him a good town councilor is his ability to work through tough issues, whether it be the withdrawal or anything else.
“I’m willing to work hard,” he said. “I regularly have discussions with people who disagree with me because it’s important to hear.”
DeGrandpre said listening is one thing he always does with residents, so that he can more easily address issues.
“The key to the whole thing is I try to listen to everybody,” he said. “It’s all you can do.”
Rixon has lived in Freeport for 30 years and is a retired physics and earth sciences teacher who worked at Greely High School in Cumberland. Although he doesn’t have his own children, his partner has three children.
Rixon is now a tutor in Freeport and has also taught adult education classes in Freeport and Yarmouth. He is new to local politics and said he wants to serve on council because it’s time for change.
“I’m running for Town Council because I bring a new perspective and a new set of eyes,” Rixon said.
Rixon said he appreciates DeGrandpre’s service, but that it’s time for someone else to step in.
“By all accounts (DeGrandpre)’s done a pretty good job, but after 12 years it’s time for a change,” he said.
Rixon said he went to his first council meeting in August, but that this wasn’t due to a lack of prior interest.
“It’s not a sudden interest,” he said. “It was because I was a full-time teacher and that’s pretty absorbing.”
Rixon said he had been going to South Portland City Council meetings during the tar sands debate, and that “seeing democracy in action” made him want to become involved in Freeport.
Rixon also petitioned Freeport councilors to approve the town’s participation in a three-year pilot program for METRO bus service to Portland, which councilors eventually accepted a revised version of.
That prompted DeGrandpre to say he believes Rixon wants to be on the council because he has an agenda, which Rixon denied.
“I’m not a one-issue person by any means,” Rixon said. “That’s not specifically why I’m running.”
Before he can take a stance on the RSU 5 withdrawal, Rixon, like DeGrandpre, said he needs to know more about the financial impact.
“I’m anxious to find out (the finances),” he said, “but I’m reserving any judgment until I can talk with both sides.”
As a former teacher, he said education is very important to him.
“I’m very much in favor of promoting high-quality education, so I’m in favor of what’s best for students and taxpayers,” Rixon said.
Rixon said he also wants to hold the line on property taxes, ensure fiscal responsibility for the town, and evaluate each budget item.
Tracy is a lawyer who has lived in Freeport over 25 years. She represents District 2 and has been on the council since March 2013, when she filled the vacancy left vacant by former Councilor Kate Arno.
Tracy said the issues she’d like to address during her next term will be pedestrian and bicycle safety, and maintaining “the harmonious use of land” between residents and those who work in agriculture.
As for Freeport’s proposed withdrawal from RSU 5, Tracy said she’s still deciding and will be “evaluating the issue up until Election Day.”
“I’m interested in the opportunity to control the school budget, but I’m not willing to do that at all costs,” she said.
Egan has lived in Freeport four years and is a policy director at Envision Maine. She is seeking her second term.
Egan said she’d like to focus on implementing the Freeport Active Living Plan, keep property taxes stable, and help the town become a leader in fighting climate change.
Egan said if Freeport votes to withdraw from RSU 5, the council will have to review the budget and make modifications. She said cost is important to consider when voting on the withdrawal.
“My thoughts are that withdrawal can cost us more and we’ll get less educational opportunities,” she said.