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Cape Elizabeth Town Council election lures 7 candidates for 4 seats

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Cape Elizabeth Town Council election lures 7 candidates for 4 seats

CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters will elect four town councilors on Nov. 3 and have seven candidates to choose from.

There are three, three-year terms to fill, plus the final year of a vacated three-term to finish. Town Council Chairman Jim Rowe and Councilors David Backer and Sara Lennon are completing three-year terms, but only Lennon is seeking re-election.

Two residents are vying for Councilor Paul McKenney's seat, who will resign in December. Competing for his unexpired term are Frank J. Governali of Old Ocean House Road and Michael S. Jordan of Richmond Terrace.

Five residents are competing for the three, three-year seats: Incumbent Lennon of Cranbrook Drive; Kim Monaghan-Derrig of Russett Lane; Jessica L. Sullivan of Cranbrook Drive; James T. Walsh of Rock Crest Drive, and Shore Road resident Christopher M. Straw.

Frank J. Governali

Governali, 54, is married and has three children. He received a bachelor's degree in history from Dartmouth College and a Master of Business Administration in finance from New York University.

He is a retired partner and managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Co., and worked as a securities analyst on Wall Street for 20 years.

He is the vice president of the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation and has been endorsed by Citizen Advocates for Public Education, a group of residents formed to support school spending when the switch was made to referendum voting.

Governali has been a resident for 16 years. He said he is running for the council seat so he can use his 25 years of financial experience and analysis to find ways to cut costs, seek new forms of revenue sources and control tax increases.

"Given the inevitable situation, I think it is important we approach the financial issues in an analytical, logical and non-ideological manner," Governali said.

He said residents did a great job planning the future of the Thomas Memorial Library, but now is not the time to spend money on a new structure. He also said the town needs to focus on issues that are critical and time sensitive and if the decision is made to move ahead with library plans, funds should come from outside sourcing.

"The two most important issues to me are the excellence of our schools and the rural character of the town," Governali said.

He said the schools have an obligation to find new ways to come up with money, and the solution will require an "out-of-the-box approach."

Governali said a pay-per-bag trash collection would save nearly $880,000 in trash and recycling fees, promote recycling and bring revenue to the town.

"We are wasting money, and it is not necessary," he said.

If elected, Governali said, he would like to address the public hearing process so councilors could respond to resident's concerns more openly, and hear public opinion weeks before council decisions are made.

"Town council decisions are often rigid and not responsive to the resident's opinions," he said. "I would like to change the process so that residents will be heard and therefore, become more involved."

Michael S. Jordan

Jordan, 55, owns Jordan's Lawn & Garden Center, is married and has one child who attends Holy Cross School in South Portland. He received his associate's degree in law enforcement from Southern Maine Community College and served on the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department for 35 years. He retired as the deputy chief.

As a lifelong resident of Cape Elizabeth, he said he wants to serve on the Town Council because it is time for someone familiar with the history of the town to make decisions.

He said he is against rebuilding Thomas Memorial Library because it is not financially practical at this time unless the funds can be raised from a private source. He said there are structural improvements that need to be made, but the town cannot afford to reconstruct the whole building.

Jordan said while the construction of a Shore Road Pathway is a good idea, it should be on both sides of the road to accommodate walkers, runners and bicycle riders.

Jordan supports education, but said he believes anything other than salaries, benefits and tools for teaching should be funded by those who utilize the activity, such as field trips, sports and extra-curricular activities.

"I can bring my business sense to the council, and I am used to dealing with tough issues," he said. "I have persevered in a tough economy, and can help find alternative ways to meet the needs of the public."

He said even though taxes may have to go up, as part of the council he can help find better ways to maintain services with new ideas.

Sara Lennon

Lennon, 50, is the only incumbent running for the Town Council. She is married, has three children and has lived in Cape Elizabeth for 10 years. She received her bachelor's degree in English from Wesleyan University and her master's degree in English at the University of Virgina.

She has been endorsed by CAPE and by Cape For All, a group that urges fiscal prudence for town budgets and opposed recent school budget increases. She has also participated in CEEF, and contributes graphic design services for the group.

Lennon said now is not the time to undergo an expensive rebuilding of the Thomas Memorial Library. She said she wants to wait until the recession is over, then address it again.

She said she is excited about the Shore Road Pathway project, and believes it is an important step in maintaining the health and fitness of residents. She also said it will encourage residents to drive less and is ultimately a greener approach to travel.

Lennon said education funding can be divisive. "The worst thing we can do is chose sides and close down the spirit of compromise," she said. "Education funding needs to come from a variety of sources – cuts and revenue building."

Her three-pronged approach to funding the schools includes the creation of a committee to address creative ways to raise money, an open and honest discussion about taxes, and an active revitalization of the downtown area.

"We have no commercial base and our revenues have remained flat while the excise tax is decreasing," she said. "We have to decide openly what is appropriate to come from property taxes and what is too much."

She said she wants to be re-elected because she believes she can make a difference and the work has been worthwhile.

"I am in the middle of working on the town center pedestrian safety issues, the alternative energy and the ordinance committees," she said. "These are my pet projects and I would like to see them through."

Kim Monaghan-Derrig

Monaghan-Derrig, 50, is married, has one child and is currently attending the University of Southern Maine for her master's degree in public policy and management at the Muskie School of Public Service.

She is the former director of convention sales for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Portland and previously was the marketing director and Web editor of CommonDreams.org, a daily Internet news service. She also worked as an office manager and legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. Thomas Andrews, D-Maine. She received her bachelor's degree in journalism and communications from the University of Maine and another bachelor's degree in ballet and dance from the Boston Conservatory of Music.

Monaghan-Derrig has been endorsed by CAPE, and said her interest in public service prompted her to run for office.

"I am interested in the political aspect of the community and support the vision of responsible growth," she said.

Monaghan-Derrig said she read the Thomas Memorial Library Study Committee's report, toured the facility and decided to support the clean slate approach. She said the new facility will anchor the community and lend to the feel of a revitalized town center.

She also favors the Shore Road Pathway, but said public grants and private funding will be needed to support its construction. She said the path will become an alternative way to travel around town, and will provide a pedestrian-friendly route to the town center.

With the budget already tight and problems looming, Monaghan-Derrig said her graduate work has shown her ways for municipalities to find creative solutions to budget reductions.

"We have to take both Fort Williams and Goddard Mansion seriously," she said. "We can generate funds through these areas and create potential revenue that is out there and needing to be tapped. We can create a visitor center at Goddard Mansion and have space for weddings, receptions, music and jazz festivals there."

She said services should be cut to face the upcoming budget cycle, but instead of raising taxes, councilors should actively find ways to generate revenues.

"We have to curtail frivolous spending and openly discuss what we are spending and what is a necessary," she said.

Monaghan-Derrig said she will be able to represent the working middle-class population in Cape as well as young families and older generations.

"I am running for the right reasons," she said. "I enjoy public service and love this community."

Chris Straw 

Straw, 33, is an attorney who practices intellectual property litigation for Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr in Boston.

He is married, has two young children and a third on the way. He moved from Portland about a year ago and has never run for office before.

Straw attended the University of California at Davis and received a bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering. He received his law degree from New York University. He said he has contributed financially to CEEF, but has not been involved in any event or on the board.

He said he is not in favor of the recommendation by the Thomas Memorial Library Study Committee because the "proposal suffers from a series of glaring errors." According to Straw, the decision to reconstruct the library should not be made by the council, but by the residents at referendum.

Similarly, Straw said the Shore Road Pathway decision should have been made by the residents in a referendum. He said he is against the pathway because of the cost, the materials and safety issues.

With two-plus children under the age of 4, Straw said he has a vested interest in keeping the schools at a top performing level for the next two decades. He said the School Board and Town Council need to work together to maintain efficient schools without increasing the funding.

"What we need is transparency of every item in the budget, we need to change the funding formula, and we need a local reassessment of property values," he said. "We have to adequately fund our schools because we owe it to our children's future."

Straw said if elected, he would strive to bring transparency, open government and respect to the voters. He will address residents comments and questions at public hearings instead of ignoring their concerns, and will let citizens have a say in their government.

"I will also bring an unbiased opinion to the council with no pre-existing ties to special interest groups in town," he said. "I just want what is right for the town and will represent those who feel as though they are not represented."

Jessica Sullivan

Sullivan, 55, is married, a homemaker, physical therapist and part-time medical practice manager. She has two grown children and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Boston University in physical therapy. She said she "thinks she was endorsed by Cape For All," but isn't sure. 

She is the former chairwoman of the town Republican Committee, ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature in 2008 and is a member of the Thomas Memorial Library board of trustees. 

Even though she is on the library board, she said given the current recession, funding for a new library is a major concern.

"If there is any forward movement, it has to come from private funding," she said. "There are many problems with the current structure, but it may have to wait."

Sullivan said she is against the Shore Road Pathway because it will destroy Shore Road.

"This path will not improve safety and there are many other places in Cape to run, walk and bike," she said. "I do not want to spend town funds on this project."

She said supports strong public schools, but both the Town Council and School Board must act responsibly to maintain their budgets.

"In a time when we are all trying to be fiscally responsible, we will have to identify efficiencies as best as we can," she said. "I just hope the School Board is planning a long-term solution already."

Sullivan said she is running because she is a fifth generation resident of a farming family and can bring perspective to the council.

"I have a historical perspective and will provide a balance to the Town Council," she said. "Plus, I like to be careful about spending money."

James Walsh

Walsh, 60, of Rock Crest Drive, is a broker and Realtor at Weichert Realtors-Waterglen Group of Portland. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in education and government, and his master's from Boston College in administration and supervision. He also has a master's of business administration from Suffolk University.

Walsh is married and has four children in the Cape school system. He said he was involved in CEEF several years ago, but is no longer. He has been endorsed by both CAPE and Cape For All.  

He ran unsuccessfully against Penny Jordan for council seat last year and has served on several town boards and committees.

Walsh said he is running for the council again as a way to offer his energy and skills to the town.

He said he cannot support a new library now given the financial hardships the town will face in the future.

He is in favor of the Shore Road Pathway, but is against the council using $110,000 for permitting.

"If this is going to happen, it should be done privately," he said.

Walsh said he supports schools and will ask the tough questions. He said he will strive to create more of a dialog between the School Board and the Town Council and will hold people accountable.

"I expect them to do the same of me," he said.

He said as a way to face budget shortfalls, the town could charge buses to enter Fort Williams as a source of revenue. He said the municipality has been run efficiently, but a long-range plan is necessary for the future.

He said his experience in education and business will help the council in an extremely difficult time.

"I understand budgets and federal government and know we need a long-term plan," Walsh said.

Absentee voting is available now, and polls will be open Tuesday, Nov. 3, at Cape Elizabeth High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net