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Chebeague Island: 4 candidates vie for 2 selectmen seats

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Chebeague Island: 4 candidates vie for 2 selectmen seats

CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — The town's first contested secret-ballot election has attracted four candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen.

On the School Board, meanwhile, incumbent Carol White is uncontested for one of two open seats. Jerry Wiles decided not to seek re-election to the other seat, and no one else filed papers to run, so the board could appoint someone to fill the second seat if a write-in candidate does not emerge.

Election Day is June 11.

In the Board of Selectmen election, incumbent Selectman Mark Dyer shares the ballot with his sister, Susan Campbell, as well as Nelson Stevens (better known by his middle name of David) and Peter Pellerin. Selectman Mary Holt is not seeking re-election.

All the candidates agree that Chebeague Island has managed successfully on its own, despite some growing pains, since seceding from Cumberland in 2007, and that the town controls its spending relatively well.

Campbell, 56, of Meetinghouse Lane, is married and has one child. She works in the ambulance billing service department at Freeport Fire and Rescue, and was Chebeague's first town clerk, from July 2007 through May 2012. She then worked at the Dropping Springs lobster co-op in Portland.

She said she has lived on Chebeague all her life.

"(Chebeague) is home to me; I'm an islander," Campbell said, with knowledge of the town and its residents.

"All the training that I have (had) through being the town clerk, and (the Maine Municipal Association), the classes that we all have to attend," will be useful to the town, she added.

Campbell was involved with the Cemetery Committee while serving as clerk, but did not actually serve on the panel.

Campbell said she does not feel she is running against her brother or any other particular candidate.

Dyer said that just because one member of a family is running for an office, it does not mean another member of that family cannot run, too.

Dyer, 52, of North Road, is married and has two children. He is a contractor and carpenter who works on the island, where he has spent most of his life.

"I enjoy the ongoing work of being a representative for the town," he said. "I pay attention to the finances and the issues. ... I know the operating budget very well, and I know the capital improvement budget fairly well."

He said he cares about what happens on the island, and that he enjoys hearing input from the public.

"I just think I put my heart and soul into it," Dyer said.

Dyer started on the Board of Selectmen when Chebeague Island became a town, and was chairman during part of that time. He stepped down without an official explanation in October 2011.

An anonymous letter afterward claimed Dyer resigned after a town employee discovered him inside the Town Garage, where a door had been pried open. Dyer has declined to discuss the incident.

After chairing the Road Committee while he was off the board, Dyer ran uncontested last June to complete the remainder of former Selectman John Martin's term.

"I just enjoy the work," he said.

Dyer served on the Chebeague Transportation Co. board of directors from 1996 to 2005, was a secession representative during the process of separating from Cumberland, and then a member of the transition committee that prepared Chebeague to be a town.

Pellerin, 44, of North Road, is married and expecting his second child. He is a propane technician who moved to Chebeague in 2009. His business, known as Island Services, will soon be called Island Energy.

He has run the business for 2 1/2 years, and said he hopes to expand it to islands beyond Chebeague. Prior to that he was an operations manager with UPS and ran his own contracting business. He recently graduated from from the Island Sustainability Through Leadership and Entrepreneurship Initiative training program.

"We decided to live here on Chebeague, and make this our home, and if I don't get involved, I'll feel remiss that I didn't do my part for my children," said Pellerin, who is president of Chebeague's Recreation Center.

Stevens, 65, of South Road, is married and has two children. Prior to retirement he worked at the Chebeague Island Boat Yard, ran a mechanical garage on the island and was in service management. He has lived full-time on the island for five years, and before that was a lifelong visitor. He is also a lieutenant in the Fire Department.

"I feel as though the selectmen need to spend more time thinking ... strategically instead of getting mired down in day-to-day (concerns)," Stevens said, calling himself "a good consensus-builder."

Stevens is chairman of both the Coastal Waters Commission and the Board of Adjustments and Appeals. He was one of the island's five secession representatives, along with Dyer.

"We made it; we actually did it, which I think was quite an accomplishment," he said.

Independence

With Chebeague approaching its sixth anniversary of independence on July 1, Stevens said the town has done well on its own.

"There have been a lot of bumps in the road," he said, "(although) I expected that it wasn't going to be a piece of cake. But we've managed to do it, and I think it was a good thing to do."

Pellerin said he thinks the town has done well so far, praising the work of the people who have helped it become established.

"What I see is a lot of ... passionate, intelligent people doing what they think is right, and I'm just proud to be involved," he said.

Dyer also said Chebeague has done well on its own.

"Our taxes haven't really jumped; they've stayed pretty even over the ... almost six years that we've been away from Cumberland," he said. "We're paying down our debt service. ... We're putting money away for capital reserves."

He also praised the way the Chebeague Island School is run, and how it prepares students going to the mainland in later grades, calling that feat a big success story.

Running the town can be "a tremendous amount of work," Dyer said, "and the stress can come out, but that's the way things go when you do things for yourself."

"There are always going to be growing pains," Campbell said. "It's in every town; you talk to even the big ones."

She added that "we're always going to have struggles, because we're a small community. But I think that we've done very well for ourselves."

Spending

Dyer noted that on the operation side of the budget, many departments have trimmed expenses since the town was formed. Solid waste is one key example, he said.

"I think our spending overall is not bad," he said. "You can always say, no matter what town, (that) you can do better, but I think we're doing OK."

Stevens said "(the town has) done a good job at pretty much what they were when we seceded. ... Hopefully we continue to do that. But we also have to do what the community expects of us, and there are going to be things that we need to spend money on."

Pellerin said he thinks "the town is spending enough, and we shouldn't be spending any more than we do right now."

"I understand we have quite a (secession debt payment) responsibility to Cumberland," as part of becoming a town, he said.

Campbell said the town has watched its spending "very carefully. ... I think that's one of the things that we've probably done best, is to hold the taxes. We've had a couple small increases, but they're minute compared to some of the other towns."

She noted the importance of watching what the economy is doing, and not letting taxes "get away from us, but (to) have the services island residents require ... it's their money. We just need to know that we've got enough to take care of what they need, and not overdo it."

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