YARMOUTH — Four candidates will vie for three Town Council seats in a June 10 election, while two School Committee seats and two Water District seats will go uncontested.
Incumbents Randall Bates and Andrew Kittredge and political newcomers Tamson Bickford Hamrock and Robert Waeldner will compete for three Town Council seats. Councilor Leslie Hyde has chosen not to seek a second term.
Philip Jones and incumbent Margaret Groban are candidates for the School Committee, and Irv Felker Jr. and Susan Krauss are seeking re-election as Water District trustees.
In the run-up to the election, all four Town Council candidates stressed the need to spur economic development and diversify the town’s tax base to combat the devaluation of Wyman Station, the oil-fired power plant whose worth has plummeted from $300 million to about $50 million in recent years.
Bates, 46, is seeking a second term on the council. A native of Newport, Rhode Island, he studied political science at Bates College and earned his law degree from the University of Maine. He worked as a criminal defense attorney at Strike, Goodwin & O’Brien in Portland for nearly eight years.
Bates and his wife, Tara, and their two children moved to Yarmouth in 2004. Bates opened his own law firm in the town two years ago. He previously served on the Planning Board, and coaches the local Pat’s Pizza Little League baseball team.
Bates said he is proud of the budgetary work the council did during his first term. The town’s property tax rate is expected to decrease by about 1.5 percent this year, which would mark Yarmouth’s first property tax reduction in decades.
Bates pointed to the council’s hands-on work with the School Committee and the creation of alternative revenue sources, including sewer and transfer station fees, as keys to steadying the tax rate.
“We’ve formulated a plan going forward to stabilize the property tax rate while keeping the quality of life at the same level the people of Yarmouth are used to,” he said.
Bates expressed optimism about the town’s potential to draw more small businesses to Main Street and Route 1 in light of the Planapalooza economic development charrette. He called the present an exciting time for Yarmouth and said his family is proud to call it home.
“We moved here because of education. We’re going to stay here for the community,” Bates said. “We’re all in.”
Kittredge, 35, is also seeking a second term. He was born in Burlington, Vermont, and grew up in Yarmouth. He attended Yarmouth High School and studied engineering at the University of Maine. Kittredge works as a project manager for CPM Constructors. His wife, Beth, also graduated from YHS.
He pointed to the expected property tax decrease as a major accomplishment. Kittredge said if the tax rate goes much higher, it will jeopardize the town’s way of life.
“We need to maintain the diverse workforce we’ve always had, everything from fishermen to doctor and lawyers,” he said. “And the biggest thing is trying to allow a place where kids who graduate from (YHS) can afford to live in Yarmouth after college. We’re starting to go to a point where it’s not affordable for a first-time home buyer with an average-paying job out of college to move back home. One of my goals is to make that available to kids from Yarmouth.”
Kittredge said his commitment to fiscal responsibility, his experience going through the local school system, and his local knowledge make him a strong addition to the Town Council.
“There’s not many people on the council who have this history with the town,” he said. “I think it’s good to stay connected to what’s made Yarmouth what it is today.”
Bickford Hamrock, 56, is seeking a first term on the council. She is the daughter of the late Erving Bickford, who served eight council terms.
Bickford Hamrock attended YHS and majored in English and finance at Simmons College in Boston. She worked for 25 years in international banking, commuting between London and New York, and also lived and worked in Singapore. She helped brand financial giant Citigroup in conjunction with the 1998 merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group.
In 2002, she switched gears and opened Kismet, an art and interior design firm. She returned to Yarmouth three years ago.
Bickford Hamrock lauded the council’s recent efforts to sell underutilized parcels of town land. She said she envisions, for example, developing the Cousin’s Island Fire Station into a market with residential apartments upstairs.
“We have a lot of land in this town and people don’t realize it,” she said.
As a member of the town’s Economic Development Formation Study Committee, Bickford Hamrock helped author a report urging the council to hire a community development director. That position is expected to be filled by year’s end.
While Bickford Hamrock noted the great potential for economic development in Yarmouth, she said it has to be the right fit, without big-box stores.
“It’s not economic development like a Wal-Mart,” she said. “It’s not Falmouth. It’s not Cumberland. It’s Yarmouth. And Yarmouth is really different. We have a community based around a village, and neither one of those towns has that. And it makes a big difference with community values.”
Waeldner, 49, is seeking a first council term. A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, he studied chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame and earned a law degree at Boston University. After working for two years as a compliance director in the athletic office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he moved to Yarmouth in 1998 and took an in-house legal job at Idexx Laboratories.
Today, he operates his own law practice in Yarmouth and works mainly with software and biotech companies. Waeldner has been a member of the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce for seven years. He serves as a vice president on the Yarmouth Little League board.
“I don’t have any specific agenda regarding taxes or anything like that. I just take a thoughtful approach and balance the various interests and try to make an informed and educated decision about whatever issues might come up,” Waeldner said. “The town has to be prudent about its finances and balance the needs of the community, whether it be the schools or the elderly or environmental concerns, versus the revenue we have and future revenue.”
Compared to his fellow candidates – a couple of incumbents, the daughter of a town icon – Waeldner is a bit of a wild card. But he’s no stranger to Yarmouth.
“I wasn’t born and raised here, but I’ve lived here since 1998. I’ve been actively involved in the community since then. I mentor within the Yarmouth schools. I was involved with Yarmouth Rotary before my kids got older,” he said. “I see this as another way I can contribute to the community. I live here, I work here. I’m active in the community, and I want to maintain that going forward.”
Groban, 57, is seeking her second term on the School Committee. She grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and studied political science at Barnard College in Manhattan. Groban studied law at Fordham University and has worked as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice for the past 30 years. She and her husband, Larry Fischman, moved from New York to Yarmouth in 1996.
Groban chaired the committee that helped select Andrew Dolloff as Yarmouth’s next superintendent of schools. After having three superintendents in the past two years, Groban is looking forward to having stability at the top.
“I’m very much looking forward to working with a permanent superintendent,” she said. “He’s a terrific guy, and I think he’ll be fabulous for our school district. It’s exciting, and I don’t want to leave while someone’s transitioning.”
Groban said the committee will soon turn to the development of a new strategic plan.
“I hope we can get a fresh look at our curriculum and how our district operates and improve as best we can without spending too much money,” she said.
Jones, 53, ran unsuccessfully for the School Committee in 2011. He grew up in London and moved to the U.S. as a teenager to attend Syracuse University, where he studied business. Jones worked for 16 years at a publishing company in New York.
He and his wife moved to Yarmouth six years ago. They have two children in the school system. Jones is vice president of the Merrill Memorial Library board of trustees and assistant coach of his son’s club soccer team. He is also writing a novel.
Jones called the absence of new programs in this year’s proposed school budget disturbing. He said he hopes to help the School Committee find ways to keep budget increases low without sacrificing education.
“This is unsustainable in the long run. The quality of the school is going to deteriorate if we’re not careful,” Jones said. “I think we need people who are smart and committed and care about this to try and come up with some answers. There aren’t any easy solutions. But I felt obliged, personally, (to run). If I don’t volunteer to help, then at some point I abdicate the right to complain.”
Felker, 71, is a 24-year veteran of the Water District board. He grew up in Casco and moved to Yarmouth in 1965. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine and a master’s from Gorham State Teachers College, now part of the University of Southern Maine. He taught middle school math and science in Yarmouth for 27 years. Felker helped found the town’s rescue unit. He serves on the production team that records Yarmouth’s municipal meetings.
Felker said the trustees have focused on sustainability in recent years.
“We have a a Water District that’s 100 years old, and we want to make sure that it’s going to go another hundred years,” he said. “We moved into a new green building two years ago. We’re replacing some water mains. We’ve made plans to find additional wells. We’re always looking to the future to find ways to be efficient and keep good, quality water at a reasonable price.”
Krauss, 71, is seeking a second term on the Water District board. She was born in England split her time growing up between Old Orchard Beach and Delray Beach, Florida. She studied economics at George Washington University. After serving two stints in the Peace Corps in Peru, she went to graduate school for water resource economics at Colorado State University. She has taught at Falmouth Middle School for the past 20 years and previously worked as an environmental economist for E.C. Jordan.
Krauss said the board has improved its effort to make the public more aware of the Water District and its mission.
“We have a website now and some very nice brochures,” Krauss said. “We work at making sure the quality of water stays high and upgrading the system little by little.”
The polls will be open June 10 from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Amvets Hall, 148 North Road. Absentee ballots are available at the town clerk’s office, 200 Main St.
Tamson Bickford Hamrock
Irv Felker Jr.