2017-09-22 / Community News

Six candidates vie for three council seats

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

While the candidates for school board are new to the local politics scene, most of the candidates for the town council have years of prior town council experience.

All three of the incumbents, Shawn Babine, Peter Hayes and Kate St. Clair are running for reelection and are being challenged by former councilors Tim Downs and Jean-Marie Caterina. Ben Howard, a 2011 Scarborough High School graduate, is running for election for the first time.

Tim Downs, who most recently served on the shellfish and harbor advisory committees, spent several years on the council in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“I served two terms on the council. I’ve been away (from it) for 15 years. There’s a lot going on in town I wanted to be involved with than just on the committee level,” Downs said.

Caterina, who served from 2013-2016 is looking to return to the council after a year away after choosing to run for state office last election rather than another three-year term.

“I feel I can bring my energy and experience back to the council,” said Caterina, who serves on the board of assessment review, senior program advisory board, Scarborough Economic Development Corporation vision committee. “I feel I had a very successful initial three-year term. I chose to run for state senate instead of a second term, but the more experience we have on the council the better.”

Her goals, if returned to the council, include minimizing property tax increases through prudent spending, maintaining quality education in the schools and supporting seniors through the property tax rebate program and increased programming and activities.

Although he doesn’t have council experience, Howard has been following the action of the council closely for the last year and feels he is ready to make a bigger impact on town governance than just simply as a member of the public.

“The interest really sparked from last year’s election and sitting there and realizing if I wanted to see change, I have to get involved. That’s when I started attending council meetings,” said Howard, who earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of New Hampshire. “I decided I can do more for the town if I could sit on the council. Those three minute speeches are wonderful, but I do a far amount of research and to get the council to consider what I found in that short amount of time is extremely hard to do.

While in college, Howard spent a year on the student council and as a student as Scarborough High School was a member of the speech and debate team.

Babine, who has served as the council’s chairman this year and was finance chairman for two years before that. Babine’s local political experience started in 1999 when he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the board of education. He was elected, however, six months later in 2000 and served until 2002 when he earned a spot on the town council. Babine served on the council until 2007 when he resigned to take a vice president job with TD Bank.

He returned to the council in 2009 and served until 2011 when he stepped down again to become the CEO of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He has been serving on the council for a third tenure since 2014.

“I feel even after these 15 to 18 years, I still have more to give. Really significant progress started three years ago around long term planning, comprehensive planning and fiscal responsibility and financial planning,” Babine said.

Babine would like to stay on the council to continue that work.

“I think we’ve made some significant changes and I’d like to see it through the end,” he said.

He would like to see the public safety building get passed at the November election, so the town can turn its focus and begin examining other facility needs, such as a community center, expanded library or new or renovated schools.

Hayes, a councilor since 2014 and chairman of the council’s finance committee, said there is still a number of things he would like to accomplish while on the council centering around better communication to and from the council and financial planning.

“I am pretty concerned how divided this town is and how divisive we’ve become,” he said.

This year Hayes and his fellow councilors St. Clair and Katy Foley have started listening sessions in which the public can come address issues with the trio. That is work he would like to continue, if reelected.

“It’s about how can we get to a place where we can have civil and respectful conversations and find the middle ground,” he said.

St. Clair, the council’s vice chairman, also mentioned the feedback roundtable listening sessions, held every six weeks in the council chambers, as a reason for running for re-election.

“I heard from a lot of people that told me they finally feel like they are being heard. That’s what drove me to run again. I feel like for the first time I am able to do and be the councilor I want to be,” St. Clair said.

St. Clair said it takes time to achieve the difference you set out to make when you begin your public service tenure.

“It takes time to really get your feet wet and understand the process and figure out what you what to be and what you want to do,” she said. “I feel like I am making a difference. It may be a small difference, but I am not quite ready to let that go.”

Aside from focusing on bettering communications to and from the council, Hayes would like to use his accounting and finance background to help the council undergo more long term financial planning.

“The town has an opportunity, if not an obligation, for longer financial planning and look at how the decisions we make today impact our tax rate tomorrow,” Hayes said.

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Scarborough High School. Also on the ballot will be a race between Rebel Douglas, Hillory Durgin, Leanna Kazilionis and Christie McNally for two seats on the Scarborough Board of Education and between incumbents Charles Andreson, Jason Greenleaf and Robert McSorley and challenger Judith Cavalero for three seats on the Scarborough Sanitary District Board of Trustees.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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