UPDATE: Pock wins South Portland council seat by 2 votes; Carter won't seek recount
SOUTH PORTLAND — Newly elected District 1 City Councilor Michael Pock on Wednesday said he expects there will be a lot to learn in a short period of time after he takes office next week.
“I'm the new boy on the block, I have to sit back and watch," Pock said after he defeated three other candidates Tuesday in the race for the seat formerly held by Tom Coward.
A light turnout of 608 voters produced a razor-thin margin of victory for Pock over School Board Chairman Rick Carter, 180-178.
Carter on Wednesday said he will not seek a recount.
"I spoke to (City Clerk) Sue Mooney; she indicated they count twice. With vote counts so low, I have full faith they got it accurately," Carter said.
Trailing Pock and Carter were Energy and Recycling Committee member Robert C. Foster III, with 139 votes, and Planning Board member Rob Schreiber, with 111.
This was the first campaign for elected office for Pock, 66. While he joked about a lack of name recognition during a March 5 candidate forum at City Hall, he said his work as a carpenter and handyman gave him a beneficial level of familiarity.
“I ran into a lot of customers," he said about spending Election Day at the Community Center, where polls were open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
District 1 covers the northeast section of the city, including Willard Square and Ferry Village, but the election was open to all city voters. Coward resigned last Dec. 31 after winning election as a Cumberland County commissioner. His uncompleted term runs through November 2014.
The district traditionally supports Democrats in legislative races, and Pock is treasurer of the city Republican Committee. City Council elections are nonpartisan, but Pock said he knew at least five registered Democrats who gave him their support.
Pock enters the council at the advent of budget season, with City Manager Jim Gailey ready to introduce his fiscal year 2014 municipal budget at the March 18 council meeting.
In prior estimates, Gailey said meeting current and upcoming spending obligations requires a 2.87 percent increase in property taxes. The estimates were made without accounting for possible reductions in outside revenues, including state revenue sharing.
School Superintendent Suzanne Godin introduced her budget Monday night at a School Board meeting, seeking either a nearly 1.8 percent "needs-based" property tax increase or a spending plan with a 0.6 percent property tax increase sought by the City Council.
After workshops, the School Board will vote on its budget April 1 and present it to the City Council April 3.
Pock campaigned as an opponent of any property tax increase, asserting the city and school budgets can be offset by existing surpluses.
“I'm going to try (to hold the line on taxes)," Pock said, noting there will be six other councilors voting on the budgets. "I'm not going in to say I will change the whole world.”