Wells Maine election 2022: Five-way race for two seats on Board of Selectmen

2022-06-07 07:17:30 By : Ms. Trista Lou

WELLS, Maine — Five candidates are seeking two seats on the Wells Board of Selectmen during the upcoming town election on Tuesday, June 14.

Incumbent John MacLeod III is facing challenges from fellow candidates Scott DeFelice, Karl Ekstedt, Jonathan Goodine, and David Jutras.

Selectmen Chair Sean Roche has opted not to pursue another term - meaning that the board is certain to have at least one new face come election day.

The polls will be open on June 14 at the Wells Junior High School gymnasium at 1470 Post Road from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Public service: 2018-2021 Wells Sanitary District Trustee 2019-2022; Wells Board of selectman (2021-2022 as vice-chairman)

1. Why do you want to be a member of the Board of Selectmen?

I have chosen to run for re-election for the Wells Board of Selectmen because I have enjoyed serving thus far. I take a great deal of pride in the community and am happy to take an active role in it. As a lifelong resident of Wells, I want to see the same sorts of opportunities that I have enjoyed, growing up and as a young professional, maintained for future generations. I have an interest in seeing the town remain a safe, beautiful, and friendly environment for future generations.

2. What do you see as the top three issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?

Issue number one is addressing ordinances pertaining to lodging facilities, both traditional and Airbnb. We have seen fires recently in New England at various hotels, and it is important we are providing the funding, tools, and support to our code office to carry out crucial life safety inspections as well as compliance with local ordinances governing these businesses. Wells is a resort community, and it is important we maintain integrity surrounding this issue. Recently, the state passed LD2003, a bill meant to address affordable housing and accessory dwelling units. One large issue I think Wells, as well as other vacation destinations, will face will be the utilization of this law outside its original intent by Airbnb’s to produce more short-term rental units. Aside from raising the prospect of life safety issues and potential disturbances to abutting properties, some of the same investment companies that own hotels/resorts are now adding single-family dwellings to their portfolios. This raises a bevy of issues, not the least of which is the fact that they are able to skirt our ordinances governing lodging facilities while essentially operating as a mini lodging facility. This is both potentially detrimental to the town of Wells and unfair to licensed lodging facilities that are competing for the same market.

Issue number two in my mind is aging infrastructure and equipment. We need to make sure that we continue to task our department heads with identifying areas where we will need to invest and working those into a 5–10-year plan. Our departments have done a great job doing this to date. One of the items up for a vote this year is a bond to go towards repairing infrastructure around town. A disturbing trend taking place across the country is deteriorating infrastructure. I would like to see Wells break this trend, and not only rebuild failing items, but come up with a maintenance plan to reduce overall costs to the taxpayers while maintaining valuable public assets.

Issue number 3 is growth and making sure that it is being done both sustainably and sensibly. We need to make sure we are protecting people’s property rights while maintaining the character of the town. The character of Wells is coveted by longtime residents and new residents alike. No one wants to see it ruined. I have had the pleasure of serving as a liaison to our comprehensive plan committee. This has given me the opportunity to be a party to one of the most important documents that will drive how we move forward as a community, in this respect and many others, for the years to come. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know members of our Conservation Committee, in particular Owen Grumling (whom I have a great deal of respect for). They and the town have done a phenomenal job of acquiring land to protect for current and future generations to enjoy. I have tried to support this mission at any opportunity I have had.

3. As a Board of Selectmen member, from whom will you seek advice or input in weighing key decisions?

I have had the pleasure of serving with some very well-seasoned and experienced members on our Board of Selectmen. These members have included long-time selectmen, former and current state legislators, etc. We also have very capable and experienced department heads. In terms of town resources, I have been able to pursue information and insights through these avenues. Having grown up in Wells and currently running a business in Wells, I also have the opportunity of speaking with many people around town on a regular basis (most frequently at my daily coffee stop at Chase’s country store). This has been where the most valuable advice, information, and perspective has come from: the community. The Select Board is here to represent the people that live in this town. It is important that anyone who seeks the role takes the time to talk to and listen to those that live here and act in the community’s best interest.

Occupation: General manager, Elmwood Resort Hotel since 1995; Designated Broker, DeFelice Realty

Education: Mount Wachusett Community College, associate’s degree 1992

Public service: Former Wells Board of Selectmen; Former president & head coach, Wells Ogunquit Youth Football & Cheering Association; Former Vice President, Wells Chamber of Commerce; Wells Rotarian 

1. Why do you want to be a member of the Board of Selectmen?

For many years, my wife Danielle and I have been proud to make Wells our home and have our four children attend an outstanding school system in an amazing community. I would like to express my sincere thanks to outgoing Chairman Sean Roche for his exceptional service to the town, and especially thank both he and Emily for supporting our hospitality industry during some of its darkest days during the pandemic. The town is extremely fortunate to have an outstanding Board of Selectman. They are good and honorable people, and Representative Tim Roche, Vice-Chair John MacLeod, Kathy Chase, and Bob Foley have done a remarkable job in some very trying circumstances over the past couple of years. It would be my honor to join them in service to our community.

2. What do you see as the top three issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?

I have operated the Elmwood Resort Hotel since 1995, and have seen quite a bit of change to the town during that time period. Most of that change has been for the positive, but the situation created by the state of Maine this winter in some of our local hotels has not been one of them. The draw on town resources created by this decision, made without the town’s knowledge, including increased levels of crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, and the likelihood that the town’s name will be sullied in the eyes of our summer guests, simply cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. 

Maine recently enacted LD 2003 into law which will permit accessory dwelling units to be built in areas zoned for single-family housing. The aim of the new law is to provide additional housing for those who live and work in the community, and it really would be very nice if our kids could actually afford to live in the town where they grew up. Having said that, there are holes in the state’s plan and if we’re not careful these properties could easily be converted into more “Airbnb” rentals, which would exacerbate the problem.  The town will need to take a hard look at the way this new law is implemented. In addition, with all the recent building, it is important that we continue to support the town’s outstanding conservation program to provide open space for the future.

Last month Town Manager Larissa Crockett informed the Board of Selectmen that she would be moving on to greener pastures, and we thank her for her service to the community. It is of utmost importance that we find the right person to fill this vital role to help guide the town into the future.

3. As a Board of Selectmen member, from whom will you seek advice or input in weighing key decisions?

It’s important to enter into any issue with an open mind, to weigh the pros and cons of a matter, and listen to those who will be most impacted by the decision. I consider myself pretty lucky to have made Wells my home for my entire adult life, and during that time I’ve been able to get to know quite a few members of the community. I value their opinions and would not hesitate to reach out to discuss a matter. My wife Danielle is my rock, and I would certainly lean on her as well. In the end, a member of the Selectboard must simply do what is right for the people of the town of Wells.   

Address: 11 Millbrooke Farm Drive, Wells, Maine 

Education: Agawam High School, Suffield Academy, Bryant University, 

Western N.E. College; B.S.L.E.

Public service: 12 years on Board of Selectmen; 11 years combined on: Budget Committee, Charter Review Committee, Recycle Committee, Waste Management Advisory Council

1. Why do you want to be a member of the Board of Selectmen?

Having served for 12 years as a Selectman on the Board, then taking last year off, I feel compelled to continue to be a voice of the people to whom the board serves.

2. What do you see as the top three issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?

Roads and bridges, lodging and public safety.

​I plan to work with department heads and our many very capable volunteers, who bring with them skills and expertise to help me put together a workable plan. The plan addressing these issues will be put forth for the board to review and will be whatever is in the best interest of the entire town.

3. As a Board of Selectmen member, from whom will you seek advice or input in weighing key decisions?

I will be seeking advice and input from the taxpayers, citizens in business, department heads and the town manager. In addition, I believe public hearings also allow us to get more valuable input from the general public.

Public service: Wells Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee (CPIC), Wells Planning Board, Maine Army National Guard (Retired)

1. Why do you want to be a member of the Board of Selectmen?

To continue to serve my community and ensure the people of Wells have a voice on the board. To allow members of the community their time to speak when holding public hearings. To ensure that we adhere to the charter as well as all codes. To make sure we give the voters a right to choose what happens to the town. Work with the other members of the board to continue to improve the town for all to enjoy.

2. What do you see as the top three issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?

Safety of the community. With the recent housing of the homeless in short-term accommodations not intended for long-term use. We saw an increase in crime rate which put undue strain on emergency services and disrupted the peaceful way of life everyone expects to enjoy in Wells. The increased need for service with the ever-expanding year-round population. Wells is a great place to live and offers our residents with many options for both part-time and full-time work. With that comes the ever-increasing need for emergency response personnel, i.e.; Police, Fire and Rescue. I would also include our Public Works department who is continuously feeling the increased need for more personnel. 

We are a Seacoast community with beaches and a working harbor that requires constant care. From Dredging to replacing seawalls and making improvements to better serve the year-round as well as seasonal residents and vacationers. We need to ensure that these projects continue on schedule so as not to incur a financial burden on the taxpayers. I am in favor of looking for grants and donations that aid in keeping the town functioning as well as looking its best. There is one such project that I feel needs more attention which is not along the coastline. That is the Eastern Trail, a project that currently runs along our westerly roadways. You may have seen the signs when traveling on Chick Crossing Road, Meetinghouse Road or Bragdon Road. These are roads without paved shoulders that are seeing higher and higher numbers of vehicles on them. The trail which the town planner is working on the design for would be an off-road trail from Kennebunk to North Berwick via Unitil's right of way (old railroad bed). This trail would provide for safe riding of bicycles, hiking, running, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Projects like these are what the town needs to grow and prosper.

Sustainability is another concern of mine. We have several farms in town which provide an essential service to the town. From fresh produce like corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins to that gallon of milk you realized you forgot. I know I like my corn on the cob with my BBQ in late summer. Without the large tracts of land that they have we wouldn't have those things at a reasonable price. I appreciate those willing to put their land into conservation or into tree farm status, and yes those lands will be harvested from time to time but that only creates a healthier forest over time. I was raised on a farm and have worked in manufacturing and building material wholesale and retail. With all relying on sustainable practices to be successful.  

3. As a Board of Selectmen member, from whom will you seek advice or input in weighing key decisions?

 When it comes to making key decisions as a member of the Selectboard. I will rely on input from other members of the board, members of the community and staff members of the town. I am open to suggestions from anyone and will use sound judgment and fairness in my decisions. We may not always see eye to eye, but I do believe in treating each other with respect. I am a firm believer in earning respect, not demanding it. 

Editor’s note: Candidate David Jutras did not respond to the questionnaire.