News Analysis: Elections bring new perspectives to Bath, Topsham boards

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BATH — Neither the victorious challengers nor the defeated incumbents sensed any unusual amount of voter dissatisfaction in last week’s Bath City Council and Topsham Board of Selectmen elections.

Meadow Rue Merrill narrowly defeated two-term incumbent Bath Ward 1 City Councilor James Omo, 218-210.

“I really do feel like people took a chance on someone like myself who hasn’t had a lot of political experience, or representative experience, in this city,” she said Monday. “I think, perhaps, that that was based on their optimism that bringing change to this council would shake things up a little bit, and bring some fresh ideas to these issues that the council has been struggling with … .

“It was more a leap of faith on their part,” she said, “that having someone new in that seat would allow for some progress.”

David Douglass Jr., who challenged incumbent Selectmen Ronald Riendeau and James Trusiani for one of two seats in Topsham, won with 1,823 votes. Riendeau won the second seat with 1,754 and Trusiani, who received 1,697 votes, failed to be re-elected.

Trusiani noted that he had been elected three times to the board, but never with a large majority.

Douglass has been a member and chairman of the Topsham Finance Committee, and is expected to resign from the panel. He said last week that he thought being on the committee helped get him elected to the Board of Selectmen.

Another advantage, he suggested, was being able to “articulate and talk though directions maybe that we want to go or explore” at a candidates forum last month.

He said he went up against Trusiani and Riendeau’s combined 21 years of experience, and that he brings a different perspective.

“Jimmy and Ron took us through a really strong growth period, and it happened really fast … things were good, things were hopping,” Douglass said. “But it’s a lot more (of a) difficult time now, and their experiences, when growth was happening and it was good, I don’t know if it really comes into play that much any longer, if you look at it financially.

“We’re in a different economy, we’ve got to start looking at what’s important to the citizens, and what tough decisions may have to be made,” he said.

Douglass said it is also important that the selectmen articulate to residents what every decision means, and that the board establish goals at the beginning of the budget season.

Speculating on reasons behind his re-election, Riendeau said, “I must be doing something right, at least I hope I’m doing something right. In the last four terms I’ve been there, I’ve represented the people fairly, and I think they just must be satisfied with what I’ve been doing, or I wouldn’t have gotten the fifth term.”

Riendeau said he does not expect a major change in the board’s dynamic.

“If we change, I don’t think it’s going to be because we’ve got a new member,” he said. “It’s just because we’re changing as a unit, as a board.”

David Sinclair, who won an uncontested second three-year on the Bath City Council, addressed that issue, too.

“I think the dynamic of the council changes any time we have a new person on it,” he said last week, “whether it’s due to simple attrition, where a councilor decides not to run again, or in this case, where an incumbent is voted out.

“It’s always a collection of nine individuals who each are going to bring their own perspectives, and figuring out how best to work with each individual becomes an annual task for the council to undertake and hopefully succeed at.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.