Falmouth councilors face 2 challengers; School Board races uncontested
FALMOUTH — Four candidates are vying for a pair of Town Council seats in June's municipal elections.
But only two candidates, Andrew Kinley and Rachel Reed, are running in an uncontested race for two open seats on the School Board.
Formerly a professor at Fordham University in New York, Kinley, 38, of Longwoods Road, is self-employed as a computer consultant. He is married and has three children, two in Falmouth schools and one in preschool.
Reed, 47, of Hunter's Way, is a comptroller and treasurer of a commercial construction company. She is married and has two children, both attending Falmouth Middle School.
In the council race, incumbent Councilors Will Armitage and Joe Wrobleski are being challenged by former Councilor Fred Chase and small business owner Mark Soule.
The municipal election will be held Tuesday, June 9, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Falmouth High School gymnasium. Absentee ballots are available at the town clerk's office.
Armitage, 42, of Brook Road, is this year's council chairman. He said he's running for a second term because he has "enjoyed being part of the process and contributing to the community." He said there is still a lot of work to be done on issues that are important to the town and he wants to continue to be a part of that.
Born and raised in Maine, Armitage has lived in Falmouth for 14 years, is married and has two children in the school system.
He said his education and work credentials, coupled with his service on the council and his desire to include the public, have provided him with the experience to make him a logical choice for the next three years. His "balanced approach to discussions and a thoughtful decision-making process," Armitage said, are his greatest contributions to the council.
During his three years on the council, Armitage said, he has supported open space acquisitions, the schools and striking a balance among the many demands on the community's resources, while making his decisions in the best interest of the community as a whole.
Armitage cited five areas that he considers to be the biggest issues the town is facing: the balance between development and preserving the community's rural character, the Harborfront Committee's report and possible improvements, workforce housing, the facilities' discussion and the planning process for the Route 1 corridor and Route 100.
Looking ahead to the natural resources protection ordinance, which will be before the council this summer, Armitage said he supports protecting environmentally sensitive areas of town, but not with an ordinance that's retroactive or that harms property owners.
Armitage said the council must continue to balance budgetary needs and the needs of the school system to maintain the quality of public education in Falmouth.
"I think people should vote for me because I don't have a personal agenda," he said. "I have been open to a collaborative, inclusive discussion about what's in the best interest of the community."
Chase, 71, of Stagecoach Road, said he has been a resident of Falmouth for "longer than he can remember." He is a retired builder who met his wife of 53 years in the one-room Falmouth schoolhouse they both attended. He has four children and eight grandchildren.
Chase said he's running for council because there is a "lack of interest in town affairs." He said he would also like to see the town hire fewer consultants and use instead recruit more volunteers.
Chase, who was Falmouth's 2000 Citizen of the Year, served one term on the council in 1970. He said he's running again because he's "very concerned about what's going on in the economy."
Chase has served on several town building committees, was chairman of the ordinance committee and worked on the 2008 water quality program for Greater Portland Council of Governments. In addition to his council and community experience, his business dealings with people have prepared him to be a councilor, he said.
The economy is the biggest issue Falmouth is facing, Chase said. While the town has been protected from the recession, he said, "we have to be prepared."
Chase said he does not agree with the location for the proposed workforce housing because it's an expensive site to build on and is "very depressing." He also advised caution when proceeding with tax increment financing with the developer.
He said the natural resources ordinance is the hot-button issue for many residents, himself included. While Chase said he has always promoted the protection of wetland zoning, he said the current proposal "goes way too far" and that the town should rely on the state ordinance.
"A 750-foot setback from vernal pools controls 41 acres of land," he said. "Anybody that owns any land in Falmouth should make an appearance at the next public hearing on the proposed (natural resources) amendments."
Chase, who classified himself as "a conservationist and a landowner," said people should vote for him because of his knowledge of the town and because he's "not connected to anybody."
"I can be outspoken, and the interest of the people of Falmouth is uppermost in my mind," he said.
After observing how few people in Falmouth participate in local affairs, Soule, 38, of Johnson Road, said he decided to run for council to become more involved in the decision-making process.
A lifelong resident of Falmouth, he is a single father with one child and is a repair technician with his own small business. He also works part-time for a generator installation service.
He became a member of the Falmouth Community Facilities Planning Committee more than a year ago, and has also been involved in Falmouth football and as a Cub Scout leader.
Soule said the economy the toughest issue Falmouth will face in the next few years, and planning will be important – how to manage the town's money by asking what is best for Falmouth as a whole. After meeting educational, infrastructure and public safety needs, the town must prioritize demands on its funds, he said.
Soule said he is skeptical of the workforce housing proposal.
"I think it's a valid idea; I just don't know if that's the direction we should take with Falmouth," he said. "From what I've seen, I'm not sure that's the best solution for our town or if it's money the town should invest."
He also said there will soon be important decisions to be made about another big issue: disposition of the Lunt Road schools property. The town must decide what should be done with the buildings and land, he said, and must consider a possible private/public venture.
Soule said residents should consider him for councilor because of his "lifetime experience in the town." He said he would always consider ideas from everybody and would push for open discussions on what is in the best interest of the town. And he promised to "get out, listen to people, bring that to the table and really look at what's the best solution."
"I've watched the town – some things have worked; some don't over time," he said. "I'm not opposed to spending, but it must be well thought out."
Council Vice Chairman Wrobleski, 45, of Ledgewood Drive, is married and has two children, both in Falmouth schools. An attorney, he has lived in Falmouth since 1992.
Wrobleski said he witnessed the positives of "change and stability" during his first three years on the council, with improvements like curbside recycling and a successful transition to a new town manager.
He said his accomplishments include helping ensure the new public safety building was Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified, assisting in the reorganization of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, creating a Long-Range Planning Committee, redrafting council rules and the natural resource protection ordinance, and redeveloping the Falmouth Shopping Center.
According to Wrobleski, the biggest issues Falmouth faces are budgetary matters, the reuse of the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school buildings and the continuing redevelopment of the Falmouth Shopping Center.
With the cuts the school made to stay within budget this year, further state curtailments could severely impact the School Department in future years, he said, requiring councilors and School Board members to work together creatively. In repurposing the school buildings, Wrobleski said, the council must be careful to balance needs for a useful facility with the need to keep spending down and debt low.
He added that he supports the public process to gain ideas for the buildings' reuse.
Wrobleski said he also wants to make sure the remainder of the Falmouth Shopping Center is redeveloped, with tenants found for the vacant storefronts. This, along with a clear vision for Route 1, would ensure a vital commercial area, he said, that could also be more pedestrian-friendly.
"My combination of legal training and background in land use policy ... (with) experience that spans budgetary matters and improvements to natural resources and school funding are invaluable as we move forward," Wrobleski said.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.