Two candidates are seeking a seat on the Bristol Parks and Recreation Commission in the only contested election in Bristol this year.
Gordon Benner and Laurie Mahan are vying for the seat, currently held by George Sawtelle. Sawtelle is not seeking re-election.
Bristol residents will determine the outcome of the race at the polls Monday, March 20. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town office.
After a one-year hiatus from the commission, Benner is seeking election for a three-year term.
Benner, of Bristol Mills, was originally appointed to the commission in 2003 by Kris Poland, the town administrator at the time. Prior to his appointment, Benner worked for the parks commission for a couple of years.
Benner sat on the commission for 13 years and served as chairman for nine years. He lost his re-election bid to Clyde Pendleton Sr. last year in a race that was decided by three votes.
During his time on the commission, Benner said a lot of improvements to the parks were made to make it a “nice and friendly” place for visitors to Bristol. One of the improvements was the commission’s purchase of a “beach buggy,” a small vehicle used to transport people who might need assistance getting on and off Pemaquid Beach. The $10,000 purchase was completely funded by donations over two years.
“That was really one of my big highlights,” Benner said.
Some of his favorite additions to the commission were annual events like the chicken barbecue and lobster bake. If elected to the commission, Benner said he would like to revitalize the events, which he said “kind of fizzled out” this past year.
During the town meeting Tuesday, March 21, voters will decide whether to allow the parks commission to create the position of parks and recreation director. Benner said he is “totally against” the creation of the position.
“I think it’s a very unnecessary expense,” Benner said. “It’s been done every year since the parks started without a director, and if you have the proper people in there, there’s no need for a director.”
For more information, visit the Facebook page Gordon Benner for Bristol Parks and Recreation Commissioner.
Enthusiasm and new ideas are two things Mahan hopes to contribute to the Bristol Parks and Recreation Commission if she is elected.
Mahan has owned Harbor Day Care, on Pemaquid Harbor Road, for the past 29 years. Over the years, she has met and developed relationships with Bristol residents of all ages.
“I’m constantly talking to people, and I feel I know what the people want,” Mahan said.
For the past few years, Mahan has volunteered with the town as one of the coordinators of Olde Bristol Days. She was part of the team that created some of the new fundraising events for the celebration, including Wake the Harbor, Rock the Harbor, and the annual dodgeball tournament at Bristol Consolidated School.
The events were “hugely successful,” drawing people of all ages, Mahan said, and she hopes to bring more successful events to the commission.
“We need to have events that get everyone involved: the elderly, the 30-year-olds, the kids,” Mahan said. “We can do that! We just need to know what they want, and you learn that by talking to people.”
Mahan said she enjoys organizing events and would like to help do so on the parks commission.
“I have time to do that during the day, and it’s easy for me to do,” Mahan said. “I would want to do what I can to help in any way.”
While she likes the idea of a director for the parks, Mahan said she would like a little bit more information about the position.
Mahan is married to builder Clifton “Robin” Mahan.
For more information about Mahan, visit the Facebook page Laurie Mahan is running for Parks and Recreation.