Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for the Thomaston Select Board, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region. The candidate responses are posted as they are returned, and are collected on the Pilot’s Elections Resource Page.
Thomaston voters will head to the polls in a special election Tuesday, Aug. 27, to elect a replacement for Beverly St. Clair, who resigned from her select board seat June 12.
Candidates running are Zel Bowman-Laberge, Charles Frattini and Diane Giese.
The election will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Hall. The term will fill the Select Board vacancy expiring 2021.
Please provide a concise biography of yourself.
I have been a full-time resident of Thomaston since 2014. I bought my house here in December 2012 as a get-away and realized I wanted to stay full time by 2014. I had previously lived in Cambridge MA where among other ventures had a restaurant for nearly 20 years. When I moved to Portsmouth I eventually moved into the non-profit sector and was a grants and business manager for a social service agency and then executive director of a large non-profit food pantry. I graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a BA, have two married sons and two grandsons. I am now librarian in Thomaston having begun my relationship with the library by helping to create a summer activities and food program for community children with the hope that some of the 60% of children who receive free and reduced lunches when school is in session would not suffer food insufficiency during the summer. I love Thomaston, the plethora of interesting and talented folks here and dote on my senior dogs.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Thomaston today and how would you like to see them resolved?
Insufficient communication with townspeople, lagging technology prowess and failure to move towards changes that would make Thomaston more desirable for residents and businesses. It seems to me that there is a hesitancy to make changes that would benefit both long-time residents who have always loved this sweet town and to encourage new people to come and re-energize our heritage. This means, to me, clear and transparent communication via newsletters, a comprehensive and easy to navigate website and other social media as well as strong efforts to reach out and embrace the numbers of residents who do not use computers as communication devices. We need, I believe, outstanding and affordable internet connections for all, mailings for those who prefer paper notifications. I think we need to look into our software choices for town business and upgrade if needed to facilitate electronic services. I think townspeople should be encouraged to either come to information meetings and/or to get thorough reports of meetings via both electronically and traditional mail if they do not attend. I believe this is a moment when great ideas could be implemented in Thomaston without failing to honor its deep and valuable history.
How will you protect the Thomaston taxpayer as you shape and govern a municipal budget and juggle various interests that request municipal funding through the year?
Again I believe we need to be more rigorous with our communication to all. There is a core group of residents who are vigilant attending meetings but there are many more who don't attend. I don't know if many feel unimportant, overwhelmed or apathetic, but I think an effort to reach out more would be helpful. The budget can be inscrutable and could, I think, be rendered more clearly to many if an effort is made. Not all expenses are bad, some open avenues for greater revenues down the line and the possibility of a more vibrant town. However, I think when spending money is discussed it is too often demonized without an explanation of what and where it might benefit the town, possibly bringing in more residents and more attractive businesses. No one wants higher taxes but we need to be mindful of moving in a direction that makes Thomaston a desirable place to live and work and knowing that being a choice destination could enhance our revenue stream.
What is your vision for the Watts Block?
When I first visited the Midcoast I rented a house in Warren for a vacation and drove through Thomaston to Rockland......and then through Thomaston to Warren. I saw the lovely buildings but found no compelling reason to stop. Watts Block, developed with an eye to serve Thomaston residents and interest visitors — destination, attractive and useful businesses, would be a direction I support. I would preserve the Watts Hall theater but not be enthusiastic about Thomaston being a landlord to other sections of the Watts Hall Block. I think we need quality retail options and more reasons to stop and explore Thomaston.
What is your opinion of the Municipal Facility Relocation proposal to the Lura Libby campus?
I went and did a walk-through months ago and saw some of the plans for relocating various town entities. It seems to make sense to me, but I don't know enough to have specific opinions. I need to learn more. Off the cuff, I think it makes sense to increase the size of the town offices, to allow the police department more adequate space, to increase and make the food pantry more accessible and to have some of the building for recreational programs. I think there might be other opportunities for rentals as well. I do like the idea that it would render the Watts Block available for commercial develpment.
How do you see Thomaston positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?
I think we do not celebrate our role enough....the use of natural resources and the importance of the Town Landing. We need to become more sophisticated with technology and encourage more business in Thomaston downtown and in "greater" Thomaston. We are fortunate to have Dragon and the Prison Store; to have some of the east end developed without spoiling the ambience of the central town....but I am not sure how we are considered within the regional Midcoast . I think we have to work to be more vibrant both where commercial development could happen and where the quaint beauty of our downtown would be preserved but enhanced to offer more for both residents and visitors.
Is Thomaston's zoning adequate enough to sustain economic vitality and quality of life?
I think we have to be protective of our heritage and the beauty of our town. I love the openness of the Green but think perhaps we could save much of the green space and still develop businesses along Rt. 1. A "tithe barn"/ Faneuil hall structure with co-op spaces (similar to the co-op in Belfast) with artisans, greengrocers, fishmongers, bakeries, cafes, etc. could perhaps be a positive destination shopping area along Rt. 1 without harming the ambience for our town. I hope more businesses will opt to develop on our eastern boundaries as well.
What qualities would you like to see in your next town manager?
I hope our new town manager has technical savvy, energy, communication skills, humor, an open door policy, transparency and a willingness to consider improvements such as electronic banking, an HSA program (health savings account) for employees. I hope there will be a evaluation policy installed for employees. This is an opportunity for a burst of new energy and ideas.
Free space for anything else you’d like voters to know about you and your positions on municipal issues!
(Note: The candidate did not submit anything to appear in the free space section.)