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Topsham selectman seat up for grabs in special election

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Topsham selectman seat up for grabs in special election

TOPSHAM — Voters on Jan. 15 will decide which of three candidates will replace former Selectman Andrew Mason.

Mason stepped down from the Board of Selectmen after his election in state House District 60 last November. One year remains in his three-year term.

Mason's former opponent for the House seat – Jean Wolkens of Meadow Road – is running to replace him against former Selectman Jim Trusiani of Main Street and Bill Thompson of Arbor Avenue.

Thompson ran unsuccessfully last November against incumbent Selectman Don Russell. The 51-year-old is married and has two daughters; he is an analyst at Bath Iron Works who retired from the U.S. Navy in 2007 after 24 years. He served 11 of those years in commands at Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Thompson is secretary of Topsham's Finance Committee, where he has served since 2009. His term on the committee expires in 2015, but he plans to step down if elected to the Board of Selectmen.

Trusiani served three terms on the Board of Selectmen before being defeated by David Douglass and Ronald Riendeau last November in a three-way race for two board seats. The 52-year-old has lived in Topsham nearly all his life, and he has worked as an equipment operator with Harry C. Crooker & Sons.

Trusiani's public service includes a committee that explored consolidation of School Administrative District 75 with the Lisbon school district. He has chaired the Sagadahoc County Budget Advisory Committee for four years.

Wolkens, 43, is married and has two children. Formerly manager of Panera Bread in Augusta, she is going back to school and is interested in a medical occupation.

She is chairwoman of Topsham's Republican committee, and is a member of the county GOP committee. She is also the music leader and clerk at her church.

Politics start as home, Wolkens said in a recent interview. "In order to make sure that our children ... have a future in Maine, we need to make sure that not just Maine is running appropriately, but that Topsham is as well."

She said she wants to see Topsham grow and increase its tax base, and reduce property taxes, but at the same time maintain something of a small-town feel. She called the school system "great," but said she would like to see it "do even more."

Trusiani expressed concern about a loss of revenue from the state to municipalities. "We're going to get crucified again this year," he said in an interview.

He said he feels the town is currently being run "very well," noting it has tackled some of its big-ticket expenditures – construction of the municipal complex on Main Street, for example – and now has to maintain what it has, and provide services to demanded by residents at Town Meeting.

That will help attract businesses and new residents, Thompson said.

"We just can't get to a point where we're cutting discretionary spending to save 2 or 3 cents on the mil rate," he said. "Obviously we need growth, but we have to be smart on where we spend our money."

With the fiscal 2014 budget season about to start, Thompson said the Finance Committee is trying again to build a flat spending plan.

"I'm already involved through the Finance Committee," he said in an interview, and is committed to doing the job of selectman.

Trusiani also said experience is one of his key attributes. Whoever is elected will soon have to launch into the budget process, he pointed out.

Wolkens said that as a business manager for about 20 years, she gained experience managing people and costs.

"I understand when it's time to spend money, and when it's time not to," she said. "When it's time to increase prices, and when it's time not to, which right now it's definitely time not to."

Polls will be open Tuesday at the Topsham Fairgrounds from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the special election.

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