Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for the open seat on the Northport Select Board providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their positions on issues. Breanna Pinkham Bebb and Ann Frenning Kossuth are each vying for the seat that will be for a three-year term.
Please provide a biography of yourself.
Although raised in Massachusetts, I spent short weekends, long weekends, school and summer vacations at our home on Beech Hill in Northport. My parents originally built the house in 1965 as a retirement place to be near my mother’s Midcoast roots, and they moved here full-time in 1990.
I enjoyed my time in Maine so much that I decided to go to college at Bates. I majored in English, played rugby, and got trampled by the various UMaine teams we faced.
After college I worked in a variety of roles in publishing and academia, and met my husband, James, when we worked at Merriam-Webster. James and I have been married for 17 years. We have a 14-year-old-daughter, Lucy. She attends 9th grade at Islesboro Central School, where I have been working as a permanent substitute this year.
I have experience in nature education from my work founding and running a forest camp for young children. I value public education so highly that in Massachusetts, I founded a nonprofit to serve as a private fund to supplement the school’s public education budget.
We moved to my parents’ former home last summer to make this beloved community our own. If it were not for our internet connection, none of us could have worked or studied here. So, when we found out that Northport was seeking to create a Broadband Internet Committee, I joined. I was elected chair, and we meet every week. We are making steady strides towards a plan to bring affordable Broadband to all. When I found out there was an open spot on the Select Board, I ran, not only because I have a strong sense of the community but also I have the experience to serve Northport well.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Northport today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
Internet: As I mentioned, access to the internet has made it possible for my own family to work and study here in Northport. From my work on the Broadband Internet Committee it is clear not everyone has access to fast Internet, or at all. I would like to see this issue resolved in as timely, efficient, and fair a manner as possible. I am working hard with our talented team members to come up with a plan to bring fast, affordable Internet to our community, like any other utility.
Smart Growth and Development: The 1970 U.S. Census for Northport listed a population of 755. By the 2010 Census the population had more than doubled. Today, access to the internet will make Northport more attractive than it ever has been to home-buyers. We need to plan for that if we are going to preserve Northport’s character. When Northport updates its 2000 Comprehensive Plan, we will need to include preserving open space, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas. We will also need to make our development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective.
Volunteer Opportunities: I was raised by two highly committed volunteers, and I soon became one myself. Both my parents were very active in organizations like Literacy Volunteers of America - Waldo County Chapter, the Waldo County Community Fund, and more. I think this spirit of volunteering is a value most Mainers share. What I would like to see implemented in Northport is a simple structure that taps into our existing volunteer opportunities (Northport Food Pantry, Waldo County Wood Shed, etc.) to make sure that folks who need these services are connected with the folks working hard to supply them.
How will you protect the Northport taxpayer as you shape and govern a municipal budget, and juggle various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year?
In general, I believe the way things currently run in Northport are just fine. The Select Board and town administration do a superb job preparing and adhering to the budget every year. The town works hard to keep our roads in shape and have the transfer station operate smoothly. I would respect those who have been doing this work much longer than I have, and I would confer with them should any new municipal interests arise.
How do you see Northport positioned in the larger, regional Midcoast economy?
One thing which makes us unique in the Midcoast is that we have limited views of Penobscot Bay from Route One. Thus, there are not many quaint places to stop and enjoy the ocean view while eating a lobster roll — and there never have been.
While these stopping points might form the backbone of tourist trade in such neighboring communities as Lincolnville and Belfast, we have a different economy. I see Northport positioned as a Midcoast town that acts more like an inland community, with our epic Bayside and Saturday Cove views of Penobscot Bay to be found only off the beaten path.
Where do you enjoy spending time in the Northport community?
In the winter I enjoy spending time in front of the fireplace with our tabby Maine coon cat. In the summer I enjoy spending time with my family at Knight’s Pond. In addition to swimming we enjoy hiking the trails on each side of the pond and discovering the unique plant life in the bog area between Knight’s and Pitcher Ponds. We also love gathering rocks, shells, and wild botanical edibles along the shore of Saturday Cove, including goose tongue greens and sea spinach.
As the Midcoast continues to grow its outdoor and recreational economy, more people and visitors will be boating on lakes and ponds, hiking, and biking. How do you hope to balance demand with environmental protection?
Through smart growth and development planning I believe we will be able to work collectively to preserve Northport’s character. When Northport updates its Comprehensive Plan our community will need to include preserving open space, natural beauty, and key environmental areas. More importantly, we must encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions to be fair and balance the outdoor economy with our precious land that attracts people to it.
How will you as a member of the select board work to expand Northport’s access to broadband?
As chair and charter member of the new Northport Broadband Internet Committee (NBIC), I have been meeting weekly with a top-notch team of talented and concerned citizens to bring together a plan for fast, fair, affordable Internet for all. We have met with the new, regional Midcoast Internet Coalition, various ISPs, and other communities to learn from them about our different options.
If elected, I will be in a unique position to leverage my knowledge from the NBIC to inform town-wide decision-making.
How have you seen Northport impacted by COVID-19, and how would you as a Selectman work to put Northport back on a path to economic recovery?
COVID-19’s impact on Northport hit close to home. When nearby Tall Pines lost 13 residents early on, it made me think of my father’s own end-of-life care there, contrasted with the sudden anguish of my Northport neighbors who lost their loved ones suddenly.
This unprecedented worldwide plague has been undiscriminating, and Northport is not the only community impacted. As a Selectman, I would focus on continuing the fight for better Internet service so our residents might be able to work and study safely at home. We cannot hope to recover economically until we all pull through this together.
Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.
I love Northport. I am proud to carry on long-standing friendships that go far beyond Beech Hill Road. When we first started to settle into our family home at the beginning of the pandemic, one of my neighbors was working on a friendly “heart sign” project. These cheerful red hearts on a white background have served as a “nonpolitical symbol of neighborly love” in a challenging time. Three of us neighbors set up a Facebook page to communicate the project, and today the “Northport Neighborhood Beech Hill Road Group” has more than 70 members. Like the heart signs, the Northport group members represent Beech Hill Road, Saturday Cove, and beyond.
It is a friendly community, we look out for each others’ stray animals, bobcats on the prowl, power outages, and more. To that end I have a proven ability to bring people together in support of a common cause. To me it is important to care about what others bring to the table, and respect their experiences. For example, our Northport Broadband Internet Committee provides bios of its members, because I wanted to showcase our team’s amazing talent while also providing transparency.
I believe together we will accomplish great things for Northport, and I look forward to serving this community to the best of my abilities as Selectman. Thank you.