Pownal voters face choice for filling RSU 5 vacancy

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POWNAL — Two candidates are running to fill a one-year vacancy on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors.

Erica Giddinge and Paul Benjamin Schulz are vying to finish the final year of a three-year term vacated by Naomi Ledbetter, who resigned in March.

Two uncontested seats on the Board of Selectmen will also be on the ballot – one for a three-year term and the other to complete the remaining year in the three-year term of Chairman Tim Giddinge, Erica Giddinge’s husband, who announced last month that he’ll step down from the post effective June 30.

Selectman Jon Morris is seeking re-election and another three-year term on the board, while Shawn Bennett hopes to complete Giddinge’s term.

Duane Snow will be the only candidate on the ballot for a three-year term on the Cemetery Commission.

Voting will take place June 12 at Mallett Hall, 429 Hallowell Road.

Giddinge

Giddinge, 40, is manager of When Pigs Fly bakery in Freeport and has lived in Pownal for 23 years. Her two children are in RSU 5 – one in middle school and the other in high school. 

This is Giddinge’s first time running for an elected seat, but she said she’s dedicated herself to the town in other ways, such as chairing the Pownal Elementary School’s Playground Improvement Committee and assisting in organizing the First Parish Congregational Church’s Ida Snow Christmas Show and Halloween events at Bradbury Mountain State Park.

In 2013, when they owned the North Pownal General Store, Erica and Tim Giddinge helped create a still-active Facebook page called A Pownal Page to inform residents of Pownal happenings. 

Giddinge said she’s running for a seat on the board because she thinks “everyone should do some sort of community service and be involved with their school system.”

“(Naomi Ledbetter’s resignation) has left an open opportunity,” she added. 

When asked why she thinks she’d make a good addition to the board, Giddinge said she is a “good representative of Pownal.”

“I hear a lot of people’s concerns in conversation when I’m working at (When Pigs Fly),” she said. “As far as having someone who represents the true majority in Pownal, I think I fit the bill.”

While she said she’d have no agenda if elected, Giddinge said she thinks there’s a “communication issue between the School Committee and community members” that she’d like to help improve. 

“We just need someone who can explain why things, such as the tax rate, are the way they are,” she said. “I’d just like to help represent Pownal and get information across.”

She noted that a one-year term wouldn’t be long enough to have too much of an impact on the district, other than working on “communication and explanation.”

If elected, Giddinge said she would consider running for a full three-year term at the end of the one-year term.

“It would depend on how this year goes and who else wants to run,” she said. “I believe everyone should take a turn … I would encourage other people to as well.”

Schulz

Schulz, 47, has lived in Pownal since 2009. He owns his own computer consulting business, Schulz Precision Builders. In 2016, he ran as a Republican to represent District 48 in the House of Representatives, but was defeated by Democrat Sara Gideon of Freeport. 

In town, he’s volunteered for the Boy Scouts and the School Department, and coaches football. He also is a volunteer for Cumberland’s Aging in Place program. 

Schulz said he decided to run because “Pownal certainly needs a voice in the school district.” He added that he has three children in local schools, so how it is directed is something that is very “near and dear” to him. 

As far as challenges facing the district, Schulz said one that stands out to him is efficiency, such as the district’s per-pupil expenditures, which he said are not reflected in test scores. 

“We need to be as efficient with tax dollars as possible … (and) make sure that everyone is being as efficient as possible with the resources that we’ve been given,” he said. “… Obviously, there are efficiencies that can be created with … looking at and evaluating teachers and administrative staff.”

This is what Schulz said he does daily in his consulting business. 

“I look at efficiencies and companies and try to make suggestions for them about how they can be more efficient with what they have,” he added. “So I have experience with that as well as my own kids being in the school.”

Schulz said he would absolutely run for a three-year term if the opportunity arises. 

“The schools should be a reflection of the values of the community,” he added. “I would certainly want to have the voice of the people and be able to convey that to the School Board.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Schulz

Giddinge 

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