Penobscot Bay Pilot is posing questions to each candidate running for the Searsport Select Board, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region.
Six candidates are running for two select board seats: Eric Bonney, Steve Bulloch, Richard Desmarais, Joshua McFarlin, Sandra Otis-Anderson and Steve Tanguay.
Please provide a concise biography of yourself.
I’m Steve Tanguay and I’ve been a resident and business owner in the town of Searsport for 28 plus years. I worked as a public school teacher, receiving both State and National awards for developing an experiential model for learning in our schools. I serve as co-chair on the Shellfish committee and have been an active member of the Head of the Bay Business Alliance. I’m in my sixth year serving on the Belfast Area Board of Selectman and served on our town’s Comprehensive Planning Committee.
My wife, Astrig and I are most proud of the work we’ve done to contribute to our region through Searsport Shores Campground, the Makers Guild of Maine and Fiber College. I will bring the ability to work with my hands and my head to serve the town if elected Selectman.
What are Searsport's greatest strengths, and how do you hope to maintain them?
Searsport’s greatest strengths are its people, its culture of independence and the coastline it sits on. We will foster our strength by bringing people together for community events, giving us the opportunity to forge friendships which helps expand our visions of prosperity through a broad vision of success.
We have excellent emergency and town service departments in place. I would help to give a voice to the small business community that is the heart our town. Many of our business owners are not residents but should have a vehicle to be better represented on local town issues. I would make it a standard practice that we ask companies wanting to do business here to become more involved in our community’s financial needs.
I'd like to see us give greater attention to our Maritime Museum, the Ocean School and the current business owners who may be looking to improve or expand their businesses in town. Working to improve what we have is the most cost-efficient approach to economic development.
For economic expansion I hope to tap unused, low cost land space and resources for a new industrial or commercial area that could be used to bring new business to town. We have unique access to the natural gas pipeline, Rt. 1 and a port that is not being capitalized on to the degree it could be. Our proximity to these and other resources can be a big drawing card.
What are Searsport's greatest problems to address?
The greatest challenge we have in Searsport and across the nation is our sense of isolation and disconnect…in spite of our connected digital world. The solution requires finding ways to come together, not just to solve problems, but to celebrate what we love about our community. Let’s bring generations together during our 175th anniversary and celebrate the uniqueness of our little town. Once we have the momentum going Searsport will naturally become the magnet that draws from North, South and West.
Our downtown village area has been neglected and needs our attention. I think of Main Street as our collective front door to the world…we want to be certain that the door is both well maintained and welcoming. Without a vibrant downtown we will not draw the people needed to sustain our schools and level of town services.
One tangible solution is to develop better signage and online information to help people traveling through our town be directed to parking areas and our terrific waterfront with public spaces like Hamilton Wharf, Mosman Park, Sears Island, etc. We have open spaces and assets like no other on the coast and should both maximize and cherish them.
Currently, many driving through main street keep on driving if the first six parking spots on the oceanside are occupied. I know that if we work together a solution can be put into action to get potential visitors to stop and spend time in Searsport. Tourism is the most cost-efficient industry in the State and we need to do a better job tapping into that sector.
As I said before, I want to address the separation and isolation that people feel. it's not unique to Searsport but we can start with our own town. Economic development, cultural and heritage development and recreation are all within our collective reach. I believe we can prosper by working as a region to find our niche in the State’s overall economic realities.
Does Searsport need to adjust zoning to accommodate business growth, housing construction and industry expansion?
Our town’s Comprehensive Planning Committee worked for close to four years gathering resident input and collecting data that tried to accurately address these issues. We should use The Plan as a tool to navigate future growth.
Should Searsport be more receptive to alternative housing proposals, such as emergency shelters and reentry programs?
At this time, I am not well enough informed to make recommendations related to housing and shelter issues. As a business we have been able to support organizations like Habitat for Humanity by giving their volunteer work crews a place to live they worked to expand housing choices in our town. I understand that Searsport has supported the largest growth of low-cost housing options in our region. I would like to be able to say to families/ couples looking to settle and work in our community that we have good housing options for them in Searsport.
What is the importance of local government, and how do you see yourself, as a potential select board member moving forward, in it?
I am a strong supporter of transparency in government and see local government as an instrument for pulling local people together to solve problems in our community. The job of selectman is to actively search for opportunities that will improve our town and support our infrastructure, budgetary and safety concerns.
We've seen enough of a race to the bottom to know that I want a different model for Searsport. Our town is well managed and we are beginning from an enviable position: economic stability, good local government and the sense that we are on the cusp of great things. Let’s now work on diversifying our economic base.
This can be done by attracting people to our town that want to live in and contribute to the community. We need a better branding effort to attract students, workers and young families to settle. We know Searsport is a great place to live, work and raise a family but we need to shout that out to the outside world.
Before we take that step, we’ll need to communicate a plan for building a reliable infrastructure. I have worked with some of our local business leaders to begin to address this issue by creating a well detailed maps of our area. I will work hard to better communicate and align our town’s economic goals and initiatives with the private sector.
I will work with the board on youth-oriented entrepreneurship programs and towards the creation of a manufacturing area in town that has good access and infrastructure built on underutilized land. I’ll use my business experience to manage the budget, negotiate contracts and purchases, think about the big picture and assure that everyone has a voice.
How do you see Searsport fitting into the greater regional economy and culture, and how would you like develop that?
Searsport has a greater chance of success if we can better identify and articulate our own niche and unique natural resources as a region. Our long-term economic success depends on coordinating our vision with our neighboring towns. We are one of the State’s most strategically important assets which we need to capitalize better on at the local level. Continuing to promote our deep water port as a regional transportation hub will encourage more manufacturing, technology and farming in our region.
I support the current efforts being made to improve connecting workers to jobs through high-speed internet service which helps us better compete with our higher-income neighborhoods to the south. Extending broadband is important to the future economic success of households as well as businesses. I will work with our local state representatives to get private investment for expanding broadband service to our region and to secure hotspots in our downtown.
We can create better revenue streams for our town through improved, smart infrastructure choices, which along with public, private and civic partnerships is one of the smartest ways to arrest the growing tax burden on our town.
Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Searsport community?
Searsport Shores Ocean Campground of course! When we can get away we do like to walk to Moose Point State Park, eat Angler’s fish and chips down to the wharf, explore the beach at Sears Island and stop at Tozier’s market.
Free space! Anything else you'd like to say to the voters that we haven’t considered?
My greatest strengths come from my Maine heritage. I work hard, value my community and cherish my family. My character has always been even-keeled and I rarely get angry and almost never give up. In this last third of my life, with my career established, I am ready to offer my energies to better our town through participating in local government. I will work with the select board at finding innovative ways to solve old problems and promote growth with the next generation in mind. I would be proud if you decide to vote for me and extend our conversations.