Meet the people running for Orono Town Council for March 9 election
ORONO, Maine — Orono Town Council is approaching a big change in this year’s municipal election.
There are nine candidates running for one of four vacant council seats. We asked them to share why they want to serve on council and what they think are the most important issues facing Orono. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Several candidates — Khwala Abu Sheikh Wise and Daniel LaPointe — did not return a questionnaire in time to be included in this story.
Residents can cast their votes in person from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, at the Orono town council chambers. People can also request an absentee ballot from the town office but it must be returned by election day.
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?)
Ashley Case: I am currently serving my second term as secretary for the Orono Dems.
Laura Hoovler Mitchell: I serve on the Orono Veazie Water District Board, have served on the City of Bangor’s Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission, and the Bangor Land Trust Board. I have gone through the Bangor Region Leadership Institute and now run training sessions for that program.
Alyce Lew: I have not held any other political offices. I am a Master Gardener Volunteer of 2019 and work with the Orono Community Garden.
Tom Perry: I have served on the town council for 15 years. Previously, I served on the Orono Planning Board, the Orono Economic Development Corp. and the Orono Library Foundation.
Cheryl Robertson, E.d.D: Incumbent on Orono Town Council, three-year term; I am a board member on the Orono Economic Development Corp. and an alternate for the Legislative Policy Committee for the Orono Town Council.
Anastasia Stanek: I am an advocate for progress in the Orono Environment Committee and the Orono Historical Society. At the University of Maine, I am secretary of the Student Advisory Board and a leader in the Maine Peace Action Committee. I’m also a member of the Rotaract Club, the Wilde Stein Club and Maine People’s Alliance. I have received a President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Girl Scout Gold Award.
Geoff Wingard: I have served on the Camden Conservation Commission in various roles for the past two decades I’ve lived in Orono. I served as a board member and former president of the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and on the board of the Maine Council for the Social Studies. I was on the Orono School Committee-RSU 26 Board of Directors from 2008 to 2011, serving as chairperson for two non-consecutive terms. I have received an ING Unsung Heroes Award.
What is your career background?
AC: I am finishing my Master of Arts in Environmental Public Policy at the University of Maine. Prior to this I was an optician.
LHM: After graduating from Orono High School and UMaine, my career began in Boston and San Francisco working in marketing for commercial real estate and for a digital advertising agency. I returned to Maine to get a masters degree in Ecology and Environmental Science with a concentration in community development. I have worked for United Way of Eastern Maine, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, Starboard Leadership Consulting, and run my own consulting business facilitating groups, planning, and conducting leadership trainings.
AL: I have a Master of Education and work at the University of Maine.
TP: I spent 36 years working in education — 33 as a school administrator in Orono as a building principal and later as superintendent for Orono and Veazie.
CR: I have a doctorate in education and have worked in public education as a teacher, and as an instructor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Maine. More recently, I’ve worked as a Student Success Coach for the Office of International programs.
AS: I previously worked as a Youth Development Professional at the Boys and Girls Club where I was able to gain a better understanding of the struggles of teachers, child care workers and elementary school students. In this past election season, I was heavily involved in campaigns for both the Senate and Maine House of Representatives. I now split my time between working for a small business that helps Mainers lower their carbon footprint and leading a research project at the Orono Police Department.
GW: I began my career in the private sector as a manager for a regional food manufacturer but quickly found a calling in public service. I served as a police officer for a number of years and worked as a teacher for 21 years. Currently, I am the History Department Chair at Bangor High School. My wife and I also own a small property management business and I work part time as an instructor at Husson University.
What made you decide to run for the Orono Town Council?
AC: I decided to run after a conversation with my younger brother, actually. After telling him that I wanted to run he encouraged me to not wait and run now. I deeply believe in a commitment to service especially, to a town that I have such a deep love for.
LHM: My interests and career are focused on engaging groups and communities to achieve goals. I enjoy the municipal process and am so thoroughly proud and impressed with the experience I had growing up here and that my kids are now enjoying, that I want to get involved.
AL: I moved here to Maine in 2012 not knowing really anyone in the state. A combination of people from the University and the town helped welcome me to this place and into the community. I would love to give back to a community that continues to give me so much.
TP: I want to give back to the community that has been a wonderful place to live and work.
CR: What made me decide the first time, was the reason I’ve chosen to serve another term. The town of Orono is an intergenerational and diverse combination of people and history. Understanding how it all fits together as both a resident and a council member creates a unique perspective, and one that builds community and relationship.
AS: Representation is important and I am running to ensure that the students at the University of Maine have a voice in their local government. Students are about one third of the population of Orono. We should be involved in the policies that are being created here. Moreover, there are no limits to what we students can contribute to the town of Orono and it is my goal to facilitate that positive impact.
GW: The Orono community has meant so much to me and my family, so I feel it is my responsibility to continue to participate in community affairs and to help our town prosper. I saw a chance to serve in a new way. I think this election is an opportunity to bring new voices into our community conversations.
What do you feel should be the council’s top priority moving forward?
AC: Obviously, the town’s top priority should be COVID-19 relief and assistance for vulnerable populations in getting vaccinated. I’m most interested in ensuring that Orono maintains its status as an environmental leader in Maine, providing affordable housing for families and older people, and encouraging the entrepreneurial nature of Orono residents.
LHM: Supporting businesses coming out of this pandemic (outdoor space for business activity, shared marketing, etc.) and rehabilitation of housing and neighborhoods.
AL: Without question, the councils’ top priority moving forward should be seeing how we can best help in COVID-19 relief and recovery. I would ideally love for the town to help coordinate mobile vaccine clinics for folks who are housebound and seeking vaccination and help facilitate various minimal risk outside/modified activities for folks to do as it becomes warmer.
TP: I see three top priorities — continuing to implement the recommendations of the town’s comprehensive plan, assuring financial stability and continuing to make Orono a supportive and attractive community for all residents.
CR: The coronavirus presents many obstacles for a town and I believe the balance of safety and economics, working with limited funds and sometimes unforeseen challenges, involves a responsibility a town government must also navigate fiscally and has to be a top priority in order to move forward.
AS: The council’s top priority should be listening to what the members of our community want for Orono and acting based on their input. I believe it is every councilor’s responsibility to represent and prioritize the interests of our community members, especially since they are the reason the councilors hold their positions.
GW: The council must first and foremost listen to the community. Frequent two-way communication is essential and all regions of the town and all communities within our town should have their voices heard.
What do you see as the most important issue facing Orono today and in the future?
AC: Absolutely affordable housing. We should be working hard to encourage young families to move here. We already have such a great community. More families should be able to choose Orono.
LHM: Quality, accessible housing for families and the growth of this demographic in the community for fiscal sustainability, educational success, and quality of life.
AL: Community engagement and homeownership are two long-term issues in Orono. We should focus on ways to attract new businesses and people to move here and help relieve the high tax burden on property owners. This, coupled with creating more affordable housing, could help make Orono more economically stable and a more accessible community for single professionals and young families.
TP: Maintaining the high quality services the community expects with the finite community resources.
CR: My most important issue facing Orono in the future is the impacts of climate change on our infrastructure, economy, water, air and land. Guided by Maine’s Climate Action plan, and with environmental experts in our community, I am working to draft a strategic plan to find and fund opportunities that will allow for a “greener” municipality, with a goal to decrease greenhouse gasses and to mitigate the many challenges that more and more climate events create on our roads and buildings.
AS: The most important issue facing Orono today and in the future is our need to make holistic progress. This includes the social, environmental, and economic health of the town. We must take an active role in all three to see the change so many are advocating for (myself included). As we move forward, it is also important that we honor the history of Orono and the land it is built on.
GW: Orono must address its major issue which is how to make the town more than just a bedroom community by attracting families and providing more opportunities for in-town work. We must focus on embracing the principles of the 20-minute City and 15-minute neighborhood, which hold that essential goods and services must be accessible within Orono.
What do you see as your primary goal, if elected?
AC: I believe my primary goal is to represent the needs and interests of the people of Orono. More than any other single issue, I think it’s important to listen to people, even those I might not agree with.
LHM: Implementing policy and approaches that: expand access to quality housing for families, maintain fiscal sustainability, increase community engagement, and bolster economic growth. The comprehensive plan implementation is an avenue for this.
AL: My primary goal is to help make the local government more accessible. While the nature of some discussions may have some topic-specific jargon/context, I would ideally like our meetings and published material to be more user-friendly. The metric that comes to mind is whether a student at Orono High could find and cite town-managed data and easily follow council proceedings (live or recorded). We are better when the folks who elected us can speak their minds about their concerns or points of excitement and hold us accountable as elected officials.
TP: Maintaining quality services in a fiscally responsible manner.
CR: To continue the work that has already started, to build community awareness, and to find ways to keep the community connected to the town officials, policies, and events so we are all “in the loop.”
AS: If elected, my primary goal would be to better utilize the tools and resources at our disposal to meet the needs of the community. For example, we have thousands of brilliant students in our town who are looking to gain experience in their chosen fields. Orono has many opportunities for growth that could be facilitated with additional manpower. Therefore, it would be mutually beneficial to increase the student involvement within the town.
GW: If elected, I hope to concentrate on supporting efforts to make life in Orono economically and socially sustainable by providing opportunities for innovative businesses to prosper and opportunities for families to find quality affordable housing. These issues are interrelated and the town council must be intentional as it addresses each concern with the understanding that impacts on one aspect of development have consequences on others.
Why should people vote for you?
AC: People should vote for me if they believe affordable housing, environmental policy and collaborative policymaking are important to them. There is currently only one grade-school-aged parent on the Town Council. I hope to bring a younger perspective, a passion for the environment, and a policy background to the Orono Town Council.
LHM: I have a long history with and passion for the wonderful community of Orono. I want to see Orono grow as a place for families to raise their children, offer great programs for youth, families, and seniors, be a welcoming and inclusive community, grow local businesses, and be a sustainable, walkable and outdoor recreation community for years to come. Please share your Orono story, concerns and questions with me at Mitchell4Orono@gmail.com
AL: My personal and professional style is community-oriented, direct, and solutions-based which is how I plan to serve as a town councilor. I am not opposed to making decisions when needed, but seek out group input and consensus for what needs to be done. That group input does include townsfolk. Please send me a message on my campaign Facebook page. I want to hear what you are concerned about, excited about, and hopeful about when it comes to our local community.
TP: I have lived in Orono for 50 years and served on the council for 15 years. I will bring experience, institutional knowledge and a commitment to the community.
CR: I am hoping that people vote for whomever they believe is the best person to represent their concerns as residents in the municipality, and I would like to be one of those people. I feel like I understand better the nature of this responsibility and what I bring to Council is a perspective that is centered around building community and respecting our environment. It is who I am as a person, and who I am as an elected member of a decision-making team.
AS: People should vote for me because a town with diverse issues needs a diverse council in order to find resolutions. I am a University of Maine Honors Student who is in the LGBTQIA+ community, with the skillset, experience and established relationships needed to be an effective councillor. If elected, I recognize that I would be an employee of the people in Orono. As such, I am prepared to be at their disposal as we work side by side to drive progress for the town. For more information about me and my campaign, visit my website at www.anastasiastanek.com.
GW: I am committed to helping Orono prosper and public service has been a hallmark of my life in Orono. I have served on local boards, the School Committee, and as a community volunteer and coach. Professionally my life has also been devoted to public service as a teacher and a police officer. Finally, I have a listening ear. I welcome hearing your thoughts and opinions on the issues facing Orono.