On the issues: Warren Select Board Candidate Richard ‘Rick’ Butler

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 1:00pm
Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for the Warren 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 June Town Meeting/Elections Resource Page.

Please provide a concise biography of yourself (some of you have already done so, but we would like to see where you grew up, your schooling and professional experience).

I’m 43 years old born in Waterville Maine in 1975. I graduated Lawrence High Scool in 1994. I briefly attended Thomas College before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps.

While in the Marines I served as an Administrative Clerk and then an Administrative Chief. Both of these jobs are equivalent to working in Human Resources.

I left the Marines in 2006 and then started working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at Togus in August Maine. This is where I continue to work now as a Lead Workers Compensation Specialist for the VA New England Healthcare Network.

I moved to Warren in 2013 my wife Shannon. My wife owns Hair By Shannon, a beauty/ hair salon, that’s located in our home.

I have five children: A set of boy/ girl twins who turn 18 this year, and a 13 year old daughter, a 27 year old stepdaughter, and a 13 year old stepson. I also have two wonderful grandchildren who are 2 years old and 3 months old.

As far as my political career I have not served in any positions so far, but in 1993 I did attended Boys State at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. While at Boy State I was elected as a Town Selectman by my peers.

Currently I’m a member of the Warren Days Committee that plans the weekend events that takes place in June.

I’m also a member of the Union Fair Society, the head designer for the Union Fair haunted “Trail of Terror” that takes place during select days in October, and I’m an occasional member of the Midcoast Community Band.

What are the 3 most pressing issues facing Warren today, and how would you like to see them resolved?

The most important issue is finding a permanent Town Manager. This position is vital to running the day-to-day operations of the Town. 

The second issue is the ambulance contract and state reimbursement from ambulance runs to and from the State Prison. I applaud Representative Pluecker for co-sponsoring a bill in Augusta that would increase the reimbursement rate for these ambulance runs.    

The last thing would be to review the town departments to see if there is any possible cost saving methods, for example consolidated purchases with other towns or Knox Country. Many things can be bought in bulk or a discounted price if multiple things are purchased. Could this be a possibility for Warren? I would like to see if its possible. 

 

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

A Selectman can only control the less than 40% of the total tax payer burden outside of the RSU 40 school budget.  Along with the new Town Manager and the Budget Committee I would like to see if there is any cost saving methods we can implement to save some money. 

What qualities would you like to see in your next town manager?

We need a forward thinker. A fresh set of eyes is always a good thing as they may offer a new perspective. We need to realize that Warren, being a small town, may only attract less experienced Town Manager candidates. Thomaston and Rockport are also looking for Town Managers. I don’t know how many people have applied so far as that’s a Human Resources issue and candidates are not privy to that information. I will say it will be up to the Board of Selectman to choose wisely and mold this person into the Town manger that’s best for Warren.  

 

What is your opinion on having a town funded and operated police department?

Thomaston voters are considering disbanding their police force next Tuesday. Thomaston has a smaller population than Warren, so does Rockport. Both of these towns currently have police departments. Then our neighbor Waldoboro, with a large population has a police force. My opinion right now, unless there is ever a question on public safety, we don’t need a police department at this time. The startup cost associated with either constructing a new building or retrofitting an existing building, plus buying equipment to include police cruisers, and hiring personal would put a heavy burden on the tax payer. Having a police force would not decrease our county taxes. Like I said before unless there is a sudden concern for public safety for our residents I don’t see the need for a police department at this time.

How do you see Warren positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?

Many people and business are moving out of the high tax communities like Rockland and Thomaston and moving or considering moving to Warren.  I feel the town is welcoming and ready for people moving into this town. Many small businesses have started in Warren in recent years and more are on the way. We need to look at each application and consider what’s best for the town. 

Is Warren's zoning adequate enough to sustain economic vitality and quality of life?

I think at our current population level that having the Code Enforcement Officer and Planning Board are adequate. This could be looked at in the future if more businesses wants to move into the town and the population grows.

 

Free space for anything else you’d like voters to know about you and your positions on municipal issues!

I would like to address some confusion I may have caused with the voters. Early in the campaign I mentioned the idea of the town possibly having a Mayor instead of the current Chairman of the Selectman Board.

I have viewed M.R.SA. 30 (aka Maine Title 30) and the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) - Municipal Officers Manual and it appears I have used a few terms that have caused confusion and have taken away from my original suggestion.

Mayor is not the correct term to use. Warren uses a Town Meeting-Selectman-Manager government. In this government the term Chairman of the Board is exclusively used. For now on I will use the term Board Chairman and no longer use the term Mayor.

The intent of my plan was to clearly define the powers, and duties of the Board Chairman and the Board of Selectman. Part of the duties of the Board Chairman would involve providing more oversight over the Town Manager. An example of a duty of the Board Chairman would be, along with the Town Manager, to open up, review, and provide a recommendation to the Board of Selectman during the bidding process of a project/ contract. Since the Board Chairman would be working more closely with the Town Manager the Board Chairman would only vote as a tie breaker during votes at the Board of Selectman meetings.

As it states in the MMA Municipal Officers Manual “State law does not discuss the powers and duties of the chair, so each board should either adopt rules which clarify the chair’s role or ask the voters to adopt an ordinance covering the issue”.

The Board Chairman roles and responsibilities can be drafted by the Board of Selectman and/or an appointed committee. If a committee is appointed the draft ordinance would need to be approved by the Board of Selectman before its put up for a final vote. The final ordinance draft would need to be approved by the voters during the Annual Town Meeting.

In the past I said the Board Chairman and the Board of Selectman roles and responsibilities could be done by the use of a charter. Again this was the wrong word to use as what the State of Maine and the MMA define as a charter is different from what I considered the definition of charter. The term I should have used was ordinance.

The good news is the current Board Chairman does work closely, almost daily, with the acting Town Manager as he did with the previous Town Manager. The Town should be fortunate with the dedication of the current Board Chairman. If a new Board Chairman is selected there is no guarantee this person will continue that tradition. This is why I’m suggesting a well defined ordinance be put in place to set these roles and guidelines.

Many, like one of my opponents, says “Why fix it if it’s not broke”. I feel we should be proactive by setting roles and responsibilities for the Board Chairman so there will be no possibility for future confusion or a potential abuse of power.

Again in closing I will no longer use the term Mayor as that’s not applicable to our type of government and I meant to use the term ordinance instead of charter.

Thanks for writing this article to help the voters of Warren make an informed decision.