elections 2017

Three running for two seats on Woolwich select board

Posted:  Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 7:45am

Woolwich voters will decide between two incumbents and one newcomer for two, three-year terms on the select board. Polls at Woolwich Central School on Nequasset Road will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 7.

The candidates as listed on the ballot are James Gabor, Allison Helper and Jason Shaw. Gabor, the challenger, is a retired U.S. Naval veteran. The two-term incumbents are Hepler, a professor of history at the University of Maine at Farmington and Shaw, general manager and treasurer of Jack A. Shaw & Sons, Inc., a general contractor/excavator on Walker Road.

Absentee ballots are available at the town office during business hours: Monday and Tuesday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 3:30 pm, or by calling the town office or visiting maine.gov. New voters can register at the town office or at the polls with proper ID and proof of residency.

Gabor, of Ferry Road, is seeking to become a new face on the board, one offering a different perspective on the many issues facing the town. He’s presently an alternate member on the Planning Board and a Monument Committee member. He’s lived with his family in Woolwich since 1992.

He said change can be a welcome addition to any community’s governing board. If voters choose him Nov. 7, he promises to bring a “fresh perspective and new energy” to the select board.

Gabor offered a long list of his qualifications. He served 24 years in the U.S. Navy as a commander and pilot, was stationed at Brunswick Naval Air Station, owned a small business and was a civilian deputy for the Naval Operational Experimentation Program based at Norfolk, Virginia. He said his career experiences taught him the “importance of being a good listener,” understanding the importance of “fair and proper government administration” and the “application of necessary regulations.

“I have good communication skills and will fairly represent all the people, young and old alike. I also have optimism and a positive attitude towards what can be accomplished as the community grows and faces new challenges in the coming years. I’m accustomed to working as a contributing member of a team, working towards the same goals. I can follow when needed, or lead when given the opportunity.

“I hope to be a different voice on the Select Board that will look at the future needs of our community and help organize and plan for this growth,” continued Gabor, adding, he can devote the time required for a selectman’s duties and responsibilities.

“I enjoy working with people and within the government; serving as a member of the Select Board would be a challenge and an honor,” he added.

Hepler has served two consecutive select board terms and has represented the board on the Special Events and Communications Committees.

“I’ve enjoyed my two terms. It hasn’t always been easy but it’s been a very rewarding and positive experience.

“I didn’t run with an agenda in mind, I ran initially because I wanted to give something back to my community. I’ve lived in Woolwich over 30 years. I couldn’t think of living anywhere else.”

Hepler and her husband Rob Stevens live on Montsweag Road. “We like that we live in a close-knit community that continues to carry on many time-honored traditions. We still hold an annual town meeting and continue to honor our town’s veterans with programs on both Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Woolwich also has the annual Alewives Run in the spring.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is having helped start the Woolwich Newsletter. It comes out three times a year and is entirely produced in-house. The idea was to promote better communication. We’ve also added a Facebook page,” she added.

If re-elected, Hepler said she hopes to do more for Woolwich’s senior citizens. “Like many other Maine communities, our population is growing older; we have more people here living on fixed incomes.

“My goal, is to create a list of area resources available to our elderly residents they can contact for things like heating assistance, help in preparing their tax returns, transportation needs, home care and more. We could put links to these agencies on the town’s website and Facebook page, and include them in the newsletter,” she said.

“I take the job of a select board member very seriously. It’s a big responsibility balancing the various needs of the town. If re-elected, I’ll continue to be responsive to residents and be mindful of the financial implications on taxpayers.”

Shaw sums up his political philosophy in one sentence: “Spend the town’s money like it’s your own. There are things we want, the things we need, and what we can afford as a community. As a member of the Select Board you’ve got to always be mindful of the burden town expenditures have on the taxpayers.

“The current Select Board shares that same belief, we’ve worked hard to hold the line on property taxes and been successful at doing so the last few years. We’ve kept a close eye on town spending and still been able to maintain town services including curbside trash and recycling pickup.

Shaw said the next board will face some significant financial challenges. “If the Morse High School referendum passes, and I think it will, it’s going to have a significant impact on our property taxes. Going forward as a community we’re going to need to watch our spending even closer. There’s the financial responsibility of maintaining our emergency services, the maintenance of the elementary school, the town office and the upkeep of our roads and bridges.

“Woolwich is located between the city of Bath and Wiscasset and unfortunately there’s very limited growth potential here. Like other towns, our community’s population is getting older with more people on fixed incomes. Everybody takes a hit when property taxes go up but it’s the folks on fixed incomes who are hit the hardest.”

Shaw is a proponent of volunteerism. He said it helps reduce costs. “We have a very dedicated core of community volunteers; they serve on a dozen different committees including the planning board, fish commission, water district, fire and ambulance. Others volunteer at the school. These folks put in hundreds of unpaid hours, it helps save the town money and their service is greatly appreciated by the community.”