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 a three-year term.
Please provide a biography of yourself.
I was born in Downeast Maine and am a proud graduate of the University of Maine at Machias, where I took the long path to my degree working multiple jobs and mostly paying as I went.
My husband and I decided to relocate to the Belfast area for what we saw as more opportunity for young people starting out. We spent several years in Belfast, where I worked as the executive director of Our Town Belfast, working on economic development and historic preservation, and partnering with volunteers and municipal government on events, marketing, and public improvement projects.
Five years ago, we and our newborn son moved to our forever home here in Northport. I now work at Edward Jones Investments in Lincolnville and also serve as a board member with the Waldo County Woodshed and as a member of the Northport Planning Board. I have previously served on the steering committee for Belfast Area Young Professionals and as a board member with the local Chamber of Commerce.
My son started kindergarten at the Edna Drinkwater School this year and my husband is a volunteer firefighter. We are so grateful to be raising our family in this community.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Northport today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
Internet access: Supporting the work of our town broadband committee will be a top priority for me - helping to make connections with leaders and experts, find resources and funding, and to make it fit into our overall budgeting strategy.
Affordability: Really, the most important work of the select board is managing the town budget each year which has a big impact on the property taxes we pay. When we bought our home here five years ago, it was a heck of a deal compared to what was available in nearby towns - and with access to a great public school. Now, we have low inventory, high prices, and quick sales in the real estate market. I’ve served on the town Planning Board since 2018 and seen the types of development that residents and newcomers are interested in for Northport. If our April agenda is any indication, things are getting busier. I’d love to see and support the development of more housing where it makes sense in Northport, especially at prices working families can afford. I will be committed to keeping property taxes in check through careful work on the town budget.
Supporting the safe full reopening of Edna Drinkwater School: Teachers, staff, family and kids have been through a lot since the pandemic hit. Our son started kindergarten this year and we’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have not had any COVID closings (knock on wood) the entire school year. This is such a testament to the care taken by the school and families whose children attend there. Our school is one of Northport’s greatest assets and we must make sure it has all the resources it needs to safely get back to normal.
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?
We were able to buy a home here because the taxes were affordable. I aim to keep it that way. I have experience in managing budgets as director of a nonprofit, having served on committees for many municipal projects (Brownfields and Community Development Block Grants), and now as one of two people running a small financial services business in Lincolnville. I enjoy math, spreadsheets, problem solving, and prioritizing.
You have to invest in the things that have the best impact on the most stakeholders, and to thoughtfully assess and decide where to cut back. You can seek alternate sources of funding and ways of getting things done, like grants and strategic partnerships.
Being bold, practical, analytical, and creative are attributes that will help me manage the town budget, as well as listening to and understanding the needs and priorities of Northport residents. To me, this is the most important work a selectperson does. The budget represents the real work of running a town and should reflect the values of the people who live there.
How do you see Northport positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?
Maine and the Midcoast are growing. Being positioned between Belfast and Camden means more development pressure for Northport. We have a lot of real estate on Route 1 that’s attractive for residential and commercial development. Northport has many subdivisions with available lots and the demand for housing in this area is huge right now.
I think we will see a lot of growth in Northport in the coming years. The question is, will that growth be in keeping with the kind of place we want to be? How do we grow as a town without losing our character? These are important questions for the community to be thinking about now and in the years to come.
Where do you enjoy spending time in the Northport community?
We live near Pound Hill and take walks and bike rides through Temple Heights and to Saturday Cove. We enjoy taking our son to the playgrounds at the school and in Bayside. We like to watch stars and planets from the docks at Bayside or Saturday Cove. A long afternoon on Knights Pond with a picnic and paddleboard can’t be beat.
I think I’m happiest on the front porch or in my own backyard, though, around a fire with friends. Probably the staff at Wentworth would say I like to spend time there as it seems most days we need something from the store!
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?
We have wonderful outdoor spaces to enjoy in Northport. Recreation and conservation go hand in hand but we do have to make sure that those using the beaches and trails here are good stewards. Knights Pond is an example of a place where we’ve had issues in the past. A number of years ago the community was surveyed about how to respond to the problems of excessive trash and unauthorized camping.
My personal experience enjoying the outdoors with my family in Northport has been only positive. An appreciation of those environmental assets seems to be a value shared widely in our community and I hope that as issues arise my neighbors would share their concerns so that they can be addressed.
How will you, as member of the select board, work to expand Northport’s access to broadband?
Supporting the work of the broadband committee any way I can will be one of my top two priorities.
As the role of selectperson is different than that of someone on the committee, I would champion their efforts in the following ways:
Utilize relationships I've built over the years with leaders in Waldo County and throughout the state to seek guidance and resources
Stay apprised of federal and state funding sources that I can hopefully help steer Northport’s way
Take advantage of learning opportunities wherever I can
Look for opportunities to collaborate with selectpersons, city councilors, and broadband committee folks in nearby or similarly positioned towns, and
Do the hard work of figuring out how the investment in broadband fits into our budgeting strategy.
How have you seen Northport impacted by COVID-19, and how would you as a selectman work to put Northport on a path to economic recovery?
We all see the impacts of the pandemic in our community. Economic strain, the pressures of working from home and raising/schooling children (including lack of reliable internet), the pain of not being able to see those you care about, having a loved one get sick or worse, and the overall stress and heightened divisions that have come with it all.
As a selectperson, I can’t create programs to address all of the above but I can utilize the tools we do have:
Smart budgeting so we have the services we need without additional tax burden at a time when it would hurt most
Bringing affordable high speed internet here so we that we can learn and work and do business
Support the safe reopening of the school so kids and teachers can do what they do best and parents can get back to work, and
Lead by example while doing this work: with a collaborative spirit, an appreciation for diverse perspectives, and a focus on finding common ground. We all have some healing to do.
Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.
My aim is to be a good steward of Northport tax dollars, to provide the important services residents depend on through the town office, school, EMS and fire, transfer station, roads, etc, and to be a receptive and respectful representative of my neighbors throughout town.
In a post-pandemic Northport, I can see a broader vision for building community as well. One of the things I’ve heard most frequently here is the feeling of there being “two Northports” divided by Route 1. There are lovely pockets of community in places like Bayside and Beech Hill, but I think we can do more to encourage a broader spirit of neighborliness townwide.
So while we focus on more immediate priorities during this challenging time, I imagine a future in Northport that includes a bandstand or an annual town event or even a public library. And I would love to hear from others what their ideas are for bringing us together when we can finally do so again.
I am a person who works hard and smart and who does my homework. As selectperson, I will be dedicated to keeping Northport an affordable, community-oriented place to live and do business and enjoy the outdoors while providing the future-oriented perspective of a young family committed to this town for many years to come.