Rancourt's Scarborough council tenure coming to a close
SCARBOROUGH — Town Councilor Carol Rancourt spent Wednesday afternoon explaining the details of Medicare plans at a workshop in Falmouth.
That's one of her roles at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, and the intricate details far surpass the details she has mastered while serving in town government.
“I should tell everyone before they run, learn Medicare and nothing will ever seem hard again,” she joked.
This year, Rancourt, 63, did not run for office for the first time in 18 years. She will leave the Town Council on Nov. 28 when Councilor-elect Ed Blaise is sworn into office for the next three years.
Rancourt, 63, is leaving because local terms limits prohibit candidates from seeking more than three consecutive terms of office. Before serving nine years on the council and as its chairman, she served three terms on the Board of Education.
"I was actually glad not to be running in a campaign where there were so many signs everywhere,” she said about staying on the sidelines this fall as incumbent Councilor Jessica Holbrook and Blaise won three-year terms and Kate St. Clair won a two-year term opened by the resignation of Councilor Karen D'Andrea.
The Scarborough native (with the stipulation she was born in a hospital in Portland) said she was raised on the idea of serving as a way of giving back to her community.
"You have to have an interest in making a difference for your community, or whatever constituency that you serve. That's how I see it, you have something to offer," Rancourt said.
What Rancourt has offered over the years is a sense of community, an open mind, attention to detail and a willingness to express herself, according to veteran School Board member Jackie Perry and Town Manager Tom Hall.
Perry was already on the School Board when Rancourt was first elected, and Hall replaced Town Manager Ron Owens four years ago.
“She's a realist," Perry said. "She brings the bottom line down to what do we really need in this town."
Hall said he looked to Rancourt for help as he settled into his role in Scarborough, the third town he has managed.
"I sensed fairly early on that she has those unique cultural and historical perspectives," he said.
Rancourt served on the School Board and Town Council as the town grew from about 12,500 residents in 1990 to the 2010 U.S. Census count of almost 19,000. Perry recalled meeting her as she volunteered on committees working to renovate and expand local schools, and said Rancourt has always tried to balance demands of growth with the concerns of longtime residents.
The balance is not easy in a 55-square-mile town comprised of very distinct geographic areas, where elections for local offices are run town-wide without party affiliations.
"It is a challenge to balance every area and get them the attention they need," Rancourt said. "It could be as simple as where school buses run, or how often roads get plowed, or more complex, like where a bike path or new park is going."
Rancourt said she considers recent measures banning smoking on beaches and municipal properties, and governing the use of pesticides on local properties, as "meaningful," and said passage of an ordinance allowing fireworks was a disappointment because it has been flaunted too often.
Not everyone agrees with Rancourt's stands and opinions, including current Town Council Chairman Ron Ahlquist. But he said being on the opposite sides of issues, especially on spending, does not indicate a lack of respect for her service.
"We never hitched horses on (spending), so to so peak," Ahlquist said. "I appreciate her willingness and dedication to serve the town, and I always had a high level of respect for her dad and her brother. We have always had a relationship where if we disagreed, it was on to the next issue."
The continued lack of long-range planning or implementing established plans and studies frustrates Rancourt. At the heart of the issue is Route 1 and continued inaction on the Oak Hill area at the confluence of Route 114 and Black Point Road.
“From day one, the biggest thing I have heard is traffic on Route 1 is a gift and a curse," she said. "It runs through town and it does divide the town.”
Councilors have established a new committee to look at making the intersection and area more pedestrian friendly, while a 2006 study of the area has never been implemented.
"It was extremely frustrating to me that we have not acted, it was a major fault of our council that we did not push to implement it," she said.
Rancourt also warned that councilors and planners need to prepare for a population increase of older residents.
"This change in population is not going to wait for us,” she said.
Rancourt is also not swearing off a return to elected office and said she will stay active on local committees.
"It all depends on if I get bored,” she said.