Freeport ballot stocked with unopposed candidates
FREEPORT — The Town Council, Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors and Sewer District Board of Trustees each have two seats up for election on Nov. 5.
Barring successful write-in campaigns, all six seats will go to incumbents who are running unopposed.
The biggest issues facing the Town Council and the School Board trustees are the fate of two high school renovation bonds, worth a total of about $16.3 million, that will appear on the ballot, and the possibility of Freeport withdrawing from the RSU, which also includes Pownal and Durham.
Those two issues are inextricably linked. It was the defeat of a high school renovation bond in June worth $16.8 million that ignited Freeport's withdrawal movement; voters in Freeport favored the bond, while those in Pownal and Durham widely rejected it.
Here's a look at the candidates:
James Hendricks, Town Council
Hendricks, 41, of West Street, is seeking a second term on the Town Council. He has served as chairman for the past year.
Hendricks was born in Rockland and grew up in South Thomaston. He studied sports biology at Springfield College and received a doctor of chiropractic degree from the National College of Chiropractic in Lombard, Ill. He has owned and operated his own practice, Freeport Integrated Health Center, for the past 15 years.
The budget continues to be the biggest issue facing the council, Hendricks said.
"More so this past year and in the years to come because of the decrease in tax revenue sharing from the state of Maine," he said. "As a council, the goal is for the town to continue to provide the same level of services each year that the citizens are accustomed to, but without large increases in taxes."
Hendricks declined to give an opinion on the possibility of Freeport withdrawing from RSU 5, saying the council needs more information about potential costs. He also noted that the decision to withdraw is not the council's to make.
"The decision to withdraw rests solely with the citizens of Freeport," Hendricks said. "What I can say is that I support the idea of providing the children of Freeport with a competitive, quality education in an environment that fosters such and continues to do so in the future. In the end, that is what is most important, regardless of the district's structure."
David Scott Gleeson, Town Council
Gleeson, 44, is seeking his first full term on the council, representing District 1. He was elected in a December 2012 special election and replaced former Councilor Sara Gideon, who resigned when she moved out of the district.
The son of an air force officer, Gleeson was born in Okinawa, Japan, and raised in Cumberland. He has lived in Freeport for nine years. Gleeson studied communications at the University of Southern Maine. He is the owner of North Atlantic Insurance Associates in Windham.
Gleeson said he was proud of the work he did in creating Freeport's quiet zone.
"This was a complex issue that affected a large portion of District 1 when the Downeaster arrived last November," he said. "The quiet zones officially went into effect in mid-September with little or no cost to Freeport taxpayers. We also formed a new train safety committee, that I chair, that will be actively involved in keeping our crossings as safe as possible in the years ahead."
Gleeson said keeping property taxes stable in the face of statewide budget cuts is one of the biggest issues facing Freeport.
In District 1, he said his goal is to maintain healthy economic growth without sacrificing quality of life.
Peter Murray, School Board
Murray, 44, of Redding Lane, is seeking a second full term on the School Board after being appointed in August 2010.
Murray grew up in Portland and studied symbolic systems at Stanford University. He founded the data management and modeling company Quantrix in 2001. Since selling the company three years ago, he has worked as a software and entrepreneurial consultant. Murray serves on the board’s Policy Committee and has three children in the RSU.
“When I came on, the RSU was pretty young,” Murray said. “We’ve had some tough times, some big hurdles to work through financially with bringing the three different districts with different structures together into one. That’s been the heavy lifting of the years I’ve served.”
Murray was one of three board members to vote against putting the high school renovation bonds on the Nov. 5 ballot. He said it was confusing for voters to weigh in on the school renovation in the midst of discussions about Freeport possibly withdrawing from the RSU.
“I felt putting the bond out in this climate was a mistake for the RSU,” Murray said. “Essentially, it would be difficult to get it passed, and we’d be better off holding off for a bit longer.
“I hope we can get through this facility issue that we have and start trying to figure out how we can build a high school that has a perfect capacity,” Murray said. “I want to work hard to do what’s right for the kids in the community as far as public education goes. That’s my deal.”
Valeria Steverlynck, School Board
Steverlynck, 42, of Pine Street, is seeking her first full term on the School Board. She was unanimously appointed to the board last month after Brenda Kielty moved out of the district and resigned.
Steverlynck grew up in Argentina, on a farm outside of Buenos Aires. She received a bachelor's degree in visual art from Brown University and studied sculpture and installation art in a master's program at the University of Wisconsin.
She previously taught art in the Boston public school system and at L'Ecole Francaise du Maine in South Freeport. She works as an oyster grower with leases in Casco Bay and Sheepscot River, and has three school-aged children.
Steverlynck voted against putting the high school renovation bonds on the ballot, citing concerns that all the recent talk of withdrawal could cause them to fail.
"I was thinking strictly what is the best time to make this a successful vote for the bond," she said.
Steverlynck said it was too early to determine whether withdrawal would be best for Freeport.
"I haven't seen enough of the numbers, to be honest, to see whether it makes any sense or not for Freeport to withdraw," Steverlynck said. "So I'm not taking any positions on the withdrawal right now. I'm hoping the consultants that were hired by the Freeport Town Council will be able to arrive at (an accurate projection)."
Those consultants, Jack Turcotte and Charles Lawson, said at a council meeting earlier this month that their report's figures – which suggested that withdrawing would cost Freeport an additional $4 million annually – failed to reflect a variety of savings the town could see as the result of a withdrawal.
"Whether Freeport stays in the RSU or leaves, the high school needs a new building, or a very remodeled building," Steverlynck said. "It's in rough shape. And same for the (athletic) fields, the fields are in horrible condition."
Steverlynck, who sits on the Student Wellness Committee, said student health and nutrition will also be a major focus of for her.
"I'm interested in creating more opportunities for students to exercise on a regular basis and learn what good nutrition is," she said. "How to take care of their bodies so they will have long and healthy lives without all the ails of obesity and diabetes we're dealing with as a nation."
Thomas Hudak, Sewer District
Hudak, 67, of Park Street, is seeking a second term as a Sewer District trustee.
A native of Skowhegan, Hudak grew up in Waterville and has lived in Freeport since 1972. He holds a degree in geology from Ricker College and works as a custodian at Freeport Middle School. He has previously worked as a bus driver and owned a painting business, and a bed and breakfast.
“I know all the trades,” Hudak said. “Plumbing, electrical, contracting, the mechanical end. My understanding of systems is a valuable asset to what we do.”
In describing the work of the Sewer District, he pointed to the trustees’ accomplishments over the past three years.
“We’ve had zero carbon footprint by going geothermal, and that’s saving us about $30,000 a year,” he said. “We’ve captured the effluence that comes off the digesting tanks and methane gas and created our own heat and air conditioning.
“And we’ve cleaned up Harraseeket Harbor,” he said. “Now we have zero turbidity going in there. For the first time in decades, that whole clam flat area has been opened up to the commercial clam digging industry, which has really opened up a good source of revenue for the community and the state.”
Hudak said he is hopeful the University of Maine will select Freeport’s sewer system for a project that turns dehydrated fecal matter, known as cake, into diesel fuel for the U.S. military. If the university chooses Freeport, the town could save $79,000, its annual cost for shipping cake out of the system, Hudak said.
Garrett Simmons, Sewer District
Simmons, 49, of Litchfield Road, is seeking a second term as a Sewer District trustee.
A native of Salem, Mass., Simmons grew up in Maine and attended Freeport High School. He studied welding at the Central Maine Vocational Technical Institute. Today he owns S&S Seafood, a wholesale shellfish business in Freeport.
He said his investment in Freeport's waters inspired him to get involved with the Sewer District.
"I was concerned that the aging plant, which was built in 1978, was not able to effectively maintain the water quality that we needed for our shellfish industry and health of the bay here in Freeport," Simmons said. "The challenge is doing that without bearing the ratepayers with huge monthly bills."
The Sewer District is in the midst of a $900,000 project to improve its centrifuge, which will reduce the cost of sludge removal, Simmons said. After that, the trustees will shift its focus to line maintenance.
"I'm looking forward to serving this term," Simmons said. "I've learned a lot since I've been on the board already. It's been enlightening. It's great to be part of something that's helping the community."
The polls will be open Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Freeport High School gymnasium, 30 Holbrook St. Absentee ballots are available at the town clerk’s office, 30 Main St. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 31 at 6 p.m.