On the issues: Lincolnville Select Board Candidate Stephen Hand

Mon, 06/13/2022 - 7:00pm

    On June 14, voters in Lincolnville will elect one of two candidates competing for one three-year term on the Lincolnville Select Board. 

    Stephen Hand is running against incumbent Jordan Barnett-Parker for the 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 Stephen Hand discusses his position on various topics.

    Please provide a biography of yourself and explain why you decided to seek a seat on the Select Board?

    To use a phrase that a friend of mine used years ago, "I have the juice for it". At that time, we were discussing youth hockey and being willing to serve on the board of the Maine Coast Skaters Association. Having the juice is about more than just having the energy. Having the juice requires passion and the ability to invest the time required.  Today, I have the juice to hopefully serve as a member of the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen.

    I grew up in Rockport, attending Camden Rockport High School, and then proceeded to the University of Maine where I met my wife Amy. After graduating in 1989, we married and moved to Lincolnville.  In the late 1990s, we moved back to Rockport to provide options for my mom, while also raising two boys, who are now part of the local workforce.  We kept and rented our house next to the Lincolnville Central School, selling it last year to our last tenant and moved back into the Nickerson Farm, which we purchased in 2017.

    For many years I ran Know Technology, the IT company I founded in Camden in 1998 and successfully sold in 2013.  Before and after Know Technology, I worked for various technology-focused companies around the country, including my current employer, Tilson, where I work as the Director of IT & Systems Security.  My wife and I also run Nickerson Farm, an organic blueberry farm right here in Lincolnville.

    Over the past 33 years, I have always identified at least one business, community, conference, state, town, or youth organization that I can invest my time and experience into, including the Lincolnville Comprehensive Plan Committee, Lincolnville Central School Board, Maine Technology Institute, Pop!Tech, Maine Coast Skaters Association, Midcoast Dance Club, and currently the Lincolnville Broadband and Budget Committees.

    My goal is to leverage my years of business and community experience to help this town retain the character that makes it Lincolnville, while also thriving in our ever-changing world.

    What are the three most pressing issues facing Lincolnville today, and how would you like to see them resolved?

    There are many pressing issues, so I will narrow the list down to three based on the issues that affect the greatest number of Lincolnville residents.  Interestingly, while I have been out talking to folks around town, the same three topics have been part of most discussions.

    • Taxes/Spending – Taxes and the associated spending that our tax dollars provide for is the #1 topic by far as I have chatted with folks.  The prime issue is that people want to see the town's money spent wisely and want to maintain a tax burden that is tolerable, especially for those on fixed incomes.  The solution isn’t new, and it revolves around communications and finding ways to involve more people.

    • Broadband – Access to broadband internet service is the core to sustainability and growth in today’s rural communities, including Lincolnville.  While much of the town has access to fiber internet, it is costly for the service provided.  Our Broadband Committee is working hard to come up with recommendations for the town to consider.
    • Roads – as the population of the town and the associated number of premises (year-round and seasonal) has grown, development on various dirt town roads has increased significantly.  Combined with warmer winters that provide for more freeze/thaw events, the mud season on the dirt roads, washouts on the sides of paved roads, potholes, etc… is taking a toll on vehicles.  A focus on continuous improvement for the maintenance and construction of our roads is critical to keep our existing good roads from deteriorating while also improving the worst roads.

    How will you protect the Lincolnville taxpayer as you shape and govern a municipal budget, and juggle various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year?

    I will protect the Lincolnville taxpayer by focusing on three basic tidbits I learned from my first boss back in the 1980s.  Lehman Oxton was in his late 80s himself when I first started working for him and amongst many other bits of wisdom that he shared, three have stuck with me:

    1) You will learn more by listening to those you disagree with:

    2) Seek Compromise; and

    3) Spend money wisely. 

    My pledge to the residents of Lincolnville is that I will listen to all, that I will seek compromise as needed, and that I will put spending your money wisely above all.  It is a simple formula that has served me well and I believe it will help me serve the people of Lincolnville well.

    Housing is at a premium for most middle class working families, and like most other places in the country, Lincolnville has few homes or land parcels left for families who want to put down roots in town. What should Lincolnville do to encourage alleviate housing pressures? Adjust zoning to encourage housing density? Allow accessory dwellings on residential lots? Encourage affordable housing?

    Housing affordability is an incredibly tough question that is facing a large portion of our residents, including those just out of school, young and established families, and those on fixed incomes.

    Our boys are both in their 20s and directly facing the affordability situation throughout our area.  In my opinion, the typical approach to affordable housing over the past couple of decades has not worked in the long term. Many of the houses that were built as affordable housing are no longer affordable themselves and rural communities that have invested heavily in creating affordable housing have typically become less affordable.

    There are some specific approaches we can consider to promote affordable housing which will require patience and a willingness to think outside of the box.   The process starts with the creation of a housing roadmap for Lincolnville as affordable housing will not happen without a plan.  That plan starts with an inventory of the housing in town today and in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan process, we can define our goals and identify solutions or specific programs that will help create affordable housing options.  In the meantime, we must spend our taxpayer’s money wisely, maintaining a reasonable tax burden for those living here today.

    The May 25 municipal vote of 70 to 78 that defeated a measure for an oceanfront pier moratorium, indicates a split electorate. What do you think that vote represented, and what is your opinion on such a proposed referendum?

    I do not believe the moratorium vote indicates a split electorate as the Yes and No votes were focused on different issues.  The votes in favor of the moratorium were focused on stopping or at a minimum slowing down the potential for a large pier that a landowner is considering just south of the ferry terminal. 

    The votes in opposition to the moratorium were focused on the significantly flawed moratorium ordinance that the citizen’s petition provided. 

    I support the option that Maine law provides us for citizen’s petitions and commend the effort of the group that brought the pier moratorium forward with 180-plus signatures.  As I stated at the special town meeting, the vote was not about a pier but was about protecting the town from the ambiguity in the proposed document and I believe that the result was in the best interest of all Lincolnville residents. 

    Lincolnville’s population has increased slightly over the past decade, up 7 percent, to 2,312. Do you think the town has kept up with all that accompanies growth — traffic, increased focus on zoning, municipal planning and expenses, etc.?

    This question makes me think of the Bon Jovi tune “The More Things Change” the more they stay the same. 

    A lot has changed in the past decade and even more has changed since I first moved to Lincolnville in 1989.  For the most part, I feel that the things that have needed to change have, and most importantly the town has not lost the character that makes it Lincolnville.  Thirty years ago a friend was riding with me from the farm into the center and during that short 3-mile drive, every person we met waved. 

    My friend asked if I knew everyone to which I answered – no, this is Lincolnville and why I love living here.  Not as many people wave today, but most still do. 

    What Lincolnville does need to do is update its Comprehensive Plan.  I served as Chair of the first Lincolnville Comprehensive Plan Committee back in the early 1990s and want to see the recently reformed Comprehensive Plan Committee, work diligently to get input from as many residents as possible to carefully update our plan.  A solid plan is the basis for our ordinances, protects the town, and helps the town potentially qualify for various grants.

    How would you like to see broadband expanded and managed in town?

    I have spent my entire career in the tech industry, with portions directly linked to providing broadband Internet access to local communities.  Currently, I am a member of the Lincolnville Broadband Committee and previously served on the Rockport Broadband Committee.

    To start, it is important for all to understand that access to broadband internet is not just nice to have, it is a requirement for many aspects of our lives including education, business, telemedicine, and more. 

    Next, we need to look at the unique situation Lincolnville finds itself in, with fiber internet service available to 75-plus percent of the town, but the bandwidth options provided at the current pricing are not in line with the current growth of rural fiber to the home solutions.  As a result of having fiber currently covering most of the town, Lincolnville is unlikely to receive significant grant funding to provide a solution.  Optimally, it would be great to achieve a public/private partnership between the town and Lincolnville Telephone (Tidewater), to bring a minimum of 100 Mbps symmetric service to all premises in town at nationally established competitive pricing.  If that is not possible, the town needs to consider options for building out a fiber to the home public utility. 

    Do you think Select Board members should be limited with the number of terms they serve?

    I am not a proponent of term limits for Lincolnville Select Board members.  The will of the voter at the polls can easily address replacing any Select Board member that is not properly serving the people.  As an example, look at this year’s municipal ballot with 8 positions open and a total of 3 candidates running for 2 positions.  The need is to motivate residents to serve the town on committees and the Select Board.  The solution is not term limits.    

     Does the town have enough public access spots to its ponds and oceanfront? If not, what is needed to provide more access to shorelines and the water? 

    I believe that Lincolnville has the perfect mix of access and limited access to its ponds and oceanfront with one exception.  Some of our ponds have lots of motorboat traffic and others are limited to primarily those that have camps or homes on the shore.  Those that like to canoe, kayak, or paddleboard can typically find access without an issue.

    The exception I noted is the need for additional parking options at Lincolnville Beach and Norton’s Pond.  At Norton’s Pond, there is often the need for additional parking for those with boat trailers and cars with canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.  At Lincolnville Beach, the issue is how to provide parking for those working on Islesboro without impacting those looking to enjoy the beach. 

    Where is your favorite place in Lincolnville?

    There are many gorgeous spots in town with my favorite place being the Nickerson Farm, which is where my wife Amy and I call home.  Amy’s great grandfather Joe Nickerson purchased the farm in 1921 and it has been in the family ever since.  We lived at the farm from 1989 to 1992 and joked when we moved out that maybe we could purchase the farm someday, with someday becoming reality in 2017. 

    We have fields, trails, blueberries, a forest, a bog, lots of wild animals, a pond, and an awesome old farmhouse with tons of character.  For those wondering where the Nickerson Farm is, it is across from Western Auto on the Beach Road.

    Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit. 

    I welcome anyone to check out the content I have been putting on my candidate Facebook page.   I also welcome any resident to reach out to talk with me about any question or issue they may want to discuss.  hand.steve@gmail.com or 207.930.0825