On June 14, voters in Camden will elect two candidates to serve on the Camden Select Board. There are two open seats this June, one is a three-year term. Thomas Hedstrom is running against incumbent Marc Ratner for that seat.
The other seat is a two-year position, and Robert Lawson is running against Stephanie French for that seat.
Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region. Here, Candidate Thomas Hedstrom discusses his position on various topics.
Please provide a brief biography of yourself and explain why you decided to seek a seat on the Select Board.
The town of Camden has many important upcoming decisions. I have the leadership skills and experience to guide us through these next three years.
I grew up in central New Hampshire and served in the U.S. Army before I moved to Camden over 18 years ago. I am a licensed Master Electrician in three states, including Maine. I am the owner and president of Hedstrom Electric.
I hold a bachelor of science degree from the University of New Hampshire, and I am a former U.S. Army Officer and Ranger.
I serve on the Camden Dam Committee.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Camden today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
- Select Board Leadership.
The Select Board needs to do a better job of listening to and respecting citizen input. The hierarchy should be: Citizens at the top as the electorate and taxpayers; the Select Board taking that citizen interest and input to guide the town administration; the town administration creating and putting policy into place. Camden has lost that sequence, but it can be corrected with the right leadership.
- Sustainable growth.
Camden will vote on a new ordinance in June to allow larger structures on smaller lots in some areas of town. This ordinance should be voted down, and reconsidered, with broader public input and amended measures, to keep it more in line with Camden's comprehensive plan, before it is brought to vote again.
- Public Safety.
Has the town government succeeded in it's most important job, public safety, these past few years? A wholesale audit of public safety should be done. This should include:
How our laws are enforced, including whether or not our town leaders and enforcement officials take complaints seriously and perform professionally.
How our codes are enforced, including who is responsible for upholding our codes and how our town inspects and follows through on the laws as they are written.
How our EMS services are provided, including who should be responsible for EMS services, and what the associated costs are.
Assessments of sidewalk, crosswalk, and traffic intersection safety. We should emphasize new and better sidewalks.
Consideration of alternative methods to promote public safety including prevention, intervention, counciling, and other progressive and pre-emptive measures.
3) How will you protect the Camden taxpayer as you govern a municipal budget, and juggle various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year?
The Select Board needs to give the town administration direction, with guidance from the citizenry, on creating town budgets. This direction should include what is expected in budget reports before they are received. If proper guidance is given, and clear expectations are set, the budgeting process can become easier and more predictable for town leaders and citizens, alike. Good leadership can really help us here.
How important are municipal volunteer committees to a town’s governance?
Municipal volunteer committees are extremely important to the Town of Camden, and should be re-emphasised by the Select Board, the town manager, and the town administration. Citizens with interest and expertise are our best resources.
How do you see Camden positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?
Camden has an extra special natural beauty, even for the beautiful coast of Maine. Because of this, Camden has a strong tourism and summer resident-based economy. We should embrace and encourage those economic things that we do well, for our residents and our visitors. We should also remember and preserve our economic heritage, so we do not lose many of the things that we love about our town. The Town of Camden should create an environment where our businesses can be successful with both a traditional economy and a forward-thinking economy in mind.
What is your opinion on the current impasse between Camden and Rockport over Rockport’s use of the Camden sewer system and Camden’s demand for payment from Rockport?
The wastewater agreement should be closely monitored by the Select Board, with regular input from the wastewater department head. The Select Board should exercise leadership, by working directly with our counterparts in Rockport, to maintain the viability of our wastewater treatment system. Good leadership can solve this problem.
What is your opinion of the Megunticook River restoration project and goals?
I believe we can improve our natural watershed, the Megunticook River, and keep the traditional beauty of our downtown area. On this issue, we should get all the stakeholders together and identify what the most important aspects are for each. I believe they will have more in common than they realize, and that we will find some common, acceptable solution. I believe the residents of Camden have the ability to listen to each other and thoughtfully consider others' opinions to find common ground.
Camden has a lack of workforce housing, as articulated by the current Select Board. Do you agree, and if so, what remedies would you suggest?
Every city or town that is a commercial hub has workers commuting there every morning. Camden is not unique in that regard. Affordable housing should always be considered and encouraged, but not at the expense of thoughtful development and planning. Every development agenda, including affordable housing, should be considered on its own merits.
What would you like to see for the future of the Tannery Park on Washington Street.
The tannery property should be a town park for several reasons:
- With the increasing cost of real estate, the Town of Camden will almost certainly never again have a 3+ acre parcel within the sidewalk district available for public use.
- When the schools are in session, there is no playground in Camden for preschool age children.
- Public access for fishing and other activities on Megunticook River.
- The Farmer's Market and other activities that benefit Camden's residents and guests.
- Imagine picnics, pavilions, public gardens, swing sets, tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, softball fields, etc. in the middle of town. The possibilities are exciting.
Camden has been governed by a five-member select board for decades (it once was a three-person board) but in recent years has informally discussed moving to a city council form of government. What is your opinion having a select board vs. a council form of government?
A five-member select board can still work in Camden, so long as the members of the board listen to their constituents and take public input into policy making.
In 2013, Camden voters approved a $2 million bond to complement a $4.5 million private fundraising effort to fund a redevelopment project at the Camden Snow Bowl, including the construction of a new lodge. To date, a new lodge has not been constructed. Should a new lodge be built?
I believe a new lodge should be built at the Snow Bowl. A new design process should be started with functionality and value as the two most important factors.
Where is your favorite place in Camden?
I enjoy many places in Camden, but the Megunticook River trails across the street from my residence are my favorite.
Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.
If elected to the Select Board, I will work hard to listen to our citizens, carefully consider what they have to say, and bring their concerns and ideas to the full Select Board and town administration.