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Bath City Council: 4 candidates compete for 2 seats

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Bath City Council: 4 candidates compete for 2 seats

BATH — Four residents are running for two seats on the City Council, while a third seat and two School Board positions are uncontested in the November election.

Councilor Kyle Rogers, who is also running for state House District 62, is being challenged for his Ward 3 seat by Planning Board member Carolyn Lockwood. Incumbent Councilor Bernard Wyman must defeat Fran Simmler to earn another term representing Ward 4.

Councilor Sean Paulhus is uncontested for re-election in Ward 2.

Ward 4

Lockwood, 45, of High Street, is director of the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services for the Maine Department of Labor, where she works to get people with disabilities employed in their communities for competitive wages.

She has been on the Planning Board since last year, and was also on it three years ago before stepping down to become Bath's community development coordinator. If elected to the City Council, she said she plans to step down from the Planning Board.

Lockwood, who also worked at Bath Iron Works as a designer, is also completing her term as president of Sagadahoc Preservation. Her community involvements have also included Help-A-Kid, the Cosmopolitan Club, the Tsugaru Japanese Exchange Group and the Tourism and Recognition Committees. She has also served on the Main Street Bath board, and its economic restructuring, promotions and design committees.

She called Main Street Bath a "vital economic driver" for the community, and an organization the City must continue to support and engage in collaboration.

"I really feel in the last year or so that the council has gotten ... not as collaborative" as she remembers it being, Lockwood said, noting that the council is elected not to argue about points, but "to collaborate about how to do the best for the city as a whole."

Rogers, 49, of Court Street, is married and works as a real estate agent. He retired after two decades in the U.S. Navy, and has served on the City Council for six years.

He is seeking another three-year term on the council in addition to a seat in the Legislature, and if elected to both offices said he expects to serve in both capacities.

Rogers has been president of the Merrymeeting Board of Realtors, and he has served in a citizen capacity on the Bath Economic Development Committee for six years.

He expressed confidence that he would have time to be a real estate agent, councilor and state representative. He estimated that the council consumes about 10 hours a week, and noted that fellow Councilor Paulhus is in Augusta as sergeant-at-arms when the Senate is in session, and able to be back in Bath for City Council meetings.

"I've got it," he said. "Believe me, I've contemplated the whole thing."

Lockwood expressed less confidence. Juggling the two elected positions would be a lot of work, she noted. "It's legal; other people do it," she said, "but I think the city would be better served by having someone else in the council position."

Rogers said he feels the council is getting better at how it spends the city's money. "Over the last year, we've had some good leadership, and I think that we're heading in the right direction," he said. "... I expect to keep looking, and keep trying to save the taxpayer money."

Lockwood noted that "there are ways, rather than hacking and cutting a budget, to look at efficiencies. Obviously we want to save the taxpayers money; my personal property taxes have gone up literally exponentially since I moved here."

She pointed out that Bath has "excellent" services that other communities lack.

"Providing the services is the most important part," she said. "How you can do it as efficiently as possible, you have to get into the weeds a little bit."

While it would be good to decrease taxes, "I don't think I would do that at the expense of services," she said.

Looking ahead, Lockwood said, the City Council should focus on working with Regional School Unit 1, and getting more input on the school budget, working collaboratively with the district's communities.

Rogers said the council should focus on economic development. He said a use must also be found for the Huse School building, which has been vacated by the school district, as well as the former nunnery on Sheridan Road, which one group has proposed be used for transient housing. Decisions must also be made on whether the city landfill will continue to be expanded.

Experience makes him the best candidate for the job, Rogers said: "I've been there for six years, and I know for a fact that I can continue to do the job ... I will continue to keep an eye on the taxpayers' money as much as possible."

Rogers added that "I don't always agree with what's going on, and I'm not afraid to voice my opinion. In that respect, I think people find it a little refreshing."

Lockwood noted her experience as Bath's community development coordinator gave her a unique perspective on how the city runs, and "I worked with every department. ... I'm a collaborator, a facilitator, I make things happen."

Ward 5

Simmler, 48, of Centre Street, is married and has four children. He works as a network engineer with Burgess Computer in Bath, and is a warrant officer the Maine Army National Guard's 521st Troop Command in Bangor.

This is Simmler's first foray into politics. He is active in his church, which runs a youth program called Awana, where his title is Awana commander.

Wyman, 74, of Chestnut Street, is married and has four sons, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He worked at Bath Iron Works for 36 years, starting as a probationary shipfitter and retiring as senior production planner.

Wyman is serving his 18th year on the council, and has been chairman seven of those years. His service includes being council representative to the Bath Water District, as well as time on the Bath Housing Authority, the Bath Housing Development Corp., and the city's finance committee. He also helped to start the Bath Recognition Committee.

Concerning the City Council's spending, Simmler said he thinks it has done well in some ways, but he is not completely satisfied. Looking at past meeting minutes, he noted that it looks like some contract awards go to the same entities, "so I kind of question how in-depth the bidding process is. ... It's not a criticism, I just question."

Wyman said the council has been doing "a good job" with its spending, particularly with receiving grants. With more than half its money going to the school district, and about 15 percent to the county, Wyman said, "we don't have much to spend."

Simmler pointed out that "directly or indirectly, town budgets have been impacted by the infusion of stimulus money.  The maintenance of the programs and people hired using stimulus money will have to be soberly reviewed in light of the fact that stimulus monies will most likely run out."

Looking ahead, Wyman said, he would like the city to dispose of some of the vacated buildings it owns, like the Huse School and nunnery.

"I've pretty much enjoyed the benefits of my community, living here in Bath, and (I'm at) the stage of my life where my kids are just about grown," Simmler said, noting that he feels it is a good time to become involved in his local government, which he called "probably the most important government where it directly impacts people."

Wyman noted his vast experience on the council. "I know all the ground rules, I've been through the budget sessions for the last 18 years," he said. "... I enjoy being on the council; I (would) hate to give it up. ... I'm a city councilor 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Ward 2

Paulhus, 26, of Middle Street, is sergeant-at-arms at the state Senate. He was elected to fill a vacant council seat in 2008, and is running for his second full term.

He is the council's vice chairman.

"I think I've done a pretty good job representing my ward," Paulhus said. "I like working on the council, and I think the council and the city are moving in a good direction, and I want to continue doing that."

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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