Camden Select Board Candidate Mary Beth Leone Thomas on, ‘why I am running’

Sun, 04/30/2023 - 3:45pm

Who am I and why I am running. I am currently on the Budget Committee for the town of Camden. I have witnessed the pattern of accepting every proposed increase by the town office representing an over 8% increase in overall operating expenses. 

I believe we must stop this pattern.

Many towns across the state have decided to keep their town budget the same as the previous year. 

I am weary of the perception that Camden is a town of wealthy citizens in which ongoing increases are the norm. 

The problem I have experienced is a lack of feedback, discussion, or consideration of reducing or even maintaining the current rate of spending. 

Although our town employees are well paid in accordance with other municipalities across the State, the select board approved an 8% cost of living raise across the board, despite the suggestion that the raise be approved only for the lower paid employees at the bottom of the pay scale, who needed it the most. 

There is a pattern of approving every budget increase every time, and with no discussion.  There appear to be no checks or balances, nor critical feedback. I have consistently been the only budget committee member who does not agree to every request, and I am outvoted every time. Something is wrong with this picture.

I have happily lived in Camden, Maine, for many years.

I have watched this town grow and change in many ways… some good, some not so great. 

I have seen the house I built for about $200,000 22 years ago increase dramatically in value, along with heightened property taxes that accompany this valuation. 

I want to do something about the ever-increasing property taxes in Camden, instead of just shrugging and accepting the inevitable. I want to be part of a select board that actually offers  new ways of looking at town concerns and issues.

I propose that the town should consider, over a period of up to 15 years, the gradual transition to a Public Safety Office, with dual trained law enforcement/fire safety professionals. This model is highly successful in other municipalities and especially cost effective for small towns. 

I am a retired professional who previously was the Director of Behavioral Health at Seaport Community Health Center in Belfast, as well as a therapist in private practice in Camden, where I offered individual, family, and couples counseling. 

I have a lifetime of experience of listening carefully to others and providing helpful feedback.  

I would welcome the opportunity to work with community members to support an engaged and constructive select board. 

Mary Beth Leone Thomas lives in Camden and is seeking a seat on the Camden Select Board at annual town meeting June 13.