Meet the people running for the Old Town City Council
OLD TOWN, Maine — We asked the six people running for four open city council seats this year to share their opinions about why they want to serve on council and what they think are the most important issues facing Old Town currently.
Residents can cast their votes early until Oct. 30 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at Old Town City Hall, or drop off an absentee ballot in the 24-hour drop box outside the building. Absentee ballots will be accepted until 8 p.m. Nov. 3.
What other political offices have you held? If none, what other offices, honors or titles have you earned? Or groups do you belong to (Elks, Rotary, etc?)
Shirley Brissette: I am running for my second term as a councilor for the city of Old Town.
James Mitchell: This is my first run for a political office. After retirement, I volunteered at Northern Lights Hospital for four years, at first in the hospital and for the last two years working with the Hospice program. I have been a docent at the Bog Walk in Bangor’s City Park for the last four years.
Stanley Peterson: I have been on the Old Town City Council for the last nine years. I have also been a member and past president of the Old Town Rotary Club and have also served as a Board of Director for the Old Town-Orono YMCA and have served as president of the Board for multiple years.
David Wight: For the past 22 years, I have been appointed by the sitting Governors of the State of Maine to serve on the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission. I formerly served as President and am the current Vice President of the Old Town-Orono YMCA Board of Directors, serving for eight years. I am a member of the Old Town-Orono YMCA Heritage Club and have served on the Old Town Museum [Board] for the past five years and am a former Rotarian.
What is your career background?
SB: My career background consists of more than 17 years as a legal secretary and 25 years as secretary to both the Old Town Police and Fire Departments.
JM: I was a teacher for most of my life, working with all ages of students from college to elementary. The largest part of my career was spent working for the military school system on bases in Japan, Korea, and Germany.
SP: I was a teacher at Old Town High School for 42 years.
DW: I was a Forest Ranger for the State of Maine for 28 years — 15 of those years as Regional Ranger. I also spent seventeen years with the City of Old Town; 12 years as Director of Public Works.
What made you decide to run for the Old Town City Council?
SB: Running for City Council is my way of honoring the lessons in civics I received from the likes of Mr. McKenzie and the other tremendous teachers at Old Town High School. The teachers at OTHS challenged our class to make a difference in our community, however small it may seem. Once I left the employment of the city, I knew it was my time to get involved.
JM: I have often interacted with the City Council for the years since I returned to Old Town and have always admired the service to the community that is on display. I believe I can bring some fresh insights to Old Town that will be based on the common sense that we need to apply in this rapidly changing world in which we find ourselves now.
SP: When I started, Old Town was going through economic difficulties with the closing of the Mill. I felt that I could and still can contribute to that.
DW: I believe my collective career and civic experiences will be an asset as a member of the City Council. I understand the needs, possess the skills, and have the time and dedication required to serve the community.
What do you feel should be the city councils’ top priority moving forward?
SB: Top priority is difficult given the circumstances of 2020. The investments made at the mill as well as downtown are extremely encouraging. We need to keep that energy going, rebuilding what was once a bustling family friendly downtown area.
JM: We need to prioritize what our essential needs are, and move our diminished resources into areas that are needed by our citizens based on listening to what they have to say.
SP: I think that we need to continue to support the Mill and spend what dollars we have wisely.
DW: Creating a welcoming downtown area while capitalizing on the cIty’s current strengths.
What do you see as the most important issue facing Old Town today and in the future?
SB: Most important issue from my standpoint is continuing to rebuild. I am encouraged to see younger people injecting fresh ideas into the community.
JM: Old Town grew as a community because of its relationship with the river which powered the mills and delivered the trees. That era has ended, and though we are very fortunate to have one mill still functioning, we now have to pivot from that industrial base to rediscover our relationship with the river. Our future growth depends on using the incredible natural resource that is the Penobscot River. We also have a rich history which we should not ignore as we move into the future.
SP: Economic development in the center of Old Town.
DW: New economic development opportunities and working with existing businesses to assure their future growth and stability.
What do you see as your primary goal, if elected?
SB: My primary goal would be getting younger people excited to be living, working, and recreating within this city.
JM: We need to work on developing our technology infrastructure to be able to attract new citizens who are part of the new economy. We are honored to be living next to the Penobscot Nation that has a deep respect for the river as part of their heritage. We need to be able to learn from them as well as to partner with them to incorporate the river into our ongoing development as a city.
SP: To keep taxes as close as we can to a zero increase, while giving Old Town the best services possible with that.
DW: Moving the city forward while also maintaining a sound budget, and keeping taxes under control.
Why should people vote for you?
Brissette did not provide an answer to this question.
JM: People should vote for me because I have shown the ability to listen to others and to support them in their needs. Any decision I make as a city councilor will be based on citizen input. To learn more about why I am running for council, go to https://www.mitchell4oldtown.me.
SP: I have nine years’ experience on the Council and have good business experience which I feel I can put to use for the benefit of the town.
DW: Because of the experience I bring to the table and my commitment to listen and understand the various needs and concerns of its citizens.
Candidates Otis Butler III and Linda McLeod did not return questionnaires in time for this story.