By Abigail W. Adams
Edgecomb voters will decide two contested elections when they take to the polls Friday, May 15. Two contenders turned in nomination papers to challenge the incumbent candidates for the positions of tax collector and selectman.
Incumbent Selectman Stuart Smith is being challenged by former budget committee and school committee member Mike Smith.
Deb Boucher, Edgecomb’s tax collector for the last six years, is being challenged by Karen Potter, a member of Edgecomb’s budget committee.
Claudia Coffin is running unopposed for reelection as town clerk and treasurer. Jack French and Patricia Jeremiah are running unopposed for reelection to the planning board. Thomas Abello is running unopposed for reelection to the school board. Scott Griffin is running unopposed for reelection as road commissioner.
Deb Boucher has served as Edgecomb Tax Collector for six years. A native of Plymouth, Mass, Boucher moved to Maine in 2001.
Boucher, also a quilter and owner of Tea Rose Quilting, began her service as tax collector when computers were rarely used in the Edgecomb Town Office and tax payments were recorded manually.
Boucher has had an active role in upgrading the town office and automating the system used to issue tax bills and record tax payments.
One year ago, the town office switched to TRIO financial software for tax collection, Boucher said. Boucher named adding Rapid Renewal to TRIO, which would allow people to renew registrations on-line, as one of her major goals.
It is a request Boucher has made for well over two years, she said. However, due to Edgecomb’s financial situation, the additional software needed to provide Rapid Renewal has not been included in the budget.
The position of tax collector requires intensive training, Boucher said, with the Registry of Motor Vehicles not allowing new tax collectors to issue license plates until basic training is complete. “There’s a long learning curve in this position,” Boucher said. “There’s a lot to know and a lot to remember.”
Two years ago, Boucher became a certified tax collector through the Maine Municipal Tax Collectors’ and Treasurers’ Association. The certification requires at least three years of service as tax collector, in addition to completion of a series of trainings.
For Boucher, the most difficult aspect of the job is sending out notices of pending tax liens to individuals falling behind on their property taxes. The difficulty in notifying people they may face foreclosure, however, is offset by the town’s policy of developing payment plans and working with people to help them keep their property.
“My goal is to help people out so it doesn’t go as far as foreclosure,” Boucher said. Working with the residents of Edgecomb is a highlight of the position, Boucher said, and the reason she wants to continue in her role.
Karen Potter, a native of upstate New Hampshire, moved to Edgecomb with her husband in 2001. A veteran of the Coast Guard, Potter served for approximately 15 years active duty and reserve, before retiring to raise her four children.
Potter is a member of the fire fighting family. She is known to help her husband, Fire Chief Roy Potter, with some of the administrative tasks in the fire department and with cleaning. The only payment she asks for is a fire department T-Shirt.
Potter has also served as a budget committee member for the past three years, an experience she described as a “taste of reality.”
“It’s easy to yell at the news and say how hard is it to balance a budget, but that doesn’t take into consideration all the rules and hiccups involved,” Potter said.
Potter is also secretary for the Wiscasset Sports Boosters Club, which fundraises for sports teams and other community organizations to offset budget cuts. She also coordinates the youth group at Edgecomb Congregational Church.
Potter is undaunted by the training she will be required to complete if elected to the position of tax collector. Her background in the military gives her firm footing to complete the training required for the position, she said.
In the Coast Guard, Potter ran a store and was responsible for property management and accounting.
Potter took out nomination papers for the position of tax collector for two reasons. With her youngest child now 10 years old, Potter wanted to reenter the workforce. She also feels change will be good for the town office and hopes to bring a fresh face and fresh perspective to the role.
Potter listed automating tax collector services for the town office, so registrations can be completed on-line, as one of her goals. She also would like to see more accessible hours at the town office, noting the difficulty people have in getting there.
Potter said she would like to see Saturday hours at the town office, and is also willing to make herself available to the community to assist people in getting to the town office. “That’s one of the benefits of living in a small community,” Potter said.
“If you’re having trouble getting to the town office, give me a call. If you ask me to help you out, I will.”
Edgecomb businessman Mike Smith, owner of Woodsmith Carpentry, took out nomination papers in Edgecomb because, “it was time,” he said. A resident of Edgecomb since 1985, Smith has been an active part of the town. He helped build the addition to the old Eddy School in 1994 and to the old fire station in the early 2000s.
Dozens of volunteers turned out to help with those projects, Smith said. “It was a great community effort,” he said. Smith was also active in the process that resulted in a brand new Eddy School and fire station in Edgecomb – buildings the whole town should be proud of, he said.
Smith served on the school committee for four years in the late 1990s and on the budget committee from 2010 to 2012. He had been debating throwing his hat in the ring to run for selectmen for a couple of years, Smith said.
The 2015 municipal election was the time, he said, and his opponent just happened to be Stuart Smith. “Regardless of who wins, I want to thank Stuart for his service and taking it on the chin every once in a while for the town,” he said.
A builder and small business owner, Mike Smith is guided by the philosophy of his trade – if you start something, finish it. He hopes, if elected, to apply that philosophy to his role as selectman to resolve some of the outstanding issues Edgecomb has grappled with.
In terms of the town’s budgetary issues, Smith said he does not necessarily have the answer, but said he would like to help find the solution, which he is confident can be found through the collective effort of the town.
He is an outspoken supporter of Edgecomb’s Eddy School. “We have a phenomenal school. So many kids go on to do phenomenal things,” Smith said.
He noted the school’s budget will be reduced when the loan for the building is paid off in approximately seven years.
Smith said he would also like to see more economic development in Edgecomb. With the amount of tourists that travel through Edgecomb to visit Boothbay Harbor, Smith said, it would be nice to adopt a more aggressive economic development attitude to figure out how to transform the traffic into revenue for the town.
Smith also hopes to upgrade Edgecomb’s website and increase residents access to and awareness of their municipal government. Smith said he is ready, “to bring fresh energy to the town.”
Stuart Smith has served on Edgecomb’s Board of Selectmen for nine years and is an active member of a number of community organizations. Smith was recently elected chairman of the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission, the county’s economic development agency.
He is president of Healthy Kids, an organization devoted to preventing child abuse and neglect, and he is chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Committee; a board member of the Boothbay Region Health & Wellness Foundation, and he was recently elected to serve on the Legislative Policy Committee for the Maine Municipal Association. He has also served on Lincoln County’s Budget Advisory Committee.
Smith credits his parents for his community involvement and instilling in him a strong sense of serving others. Smith has strived to instill those same values in his son, whom he raised as a single father.
As selectman, Smith said he is on the front lines of issues in the community, issues he has worked hard to resolve. The many hats he wears helps him tap additional resources to help the citizens of Edgecomb, Smith said.
Smith named Edgecomb’s road paving project and use of tax increment financing funds to construct Edgecomb’s new fire station as two major accomplishments during his tenure.
According to Smith, Edgecomb is now on a 10-year cycle for repaving roads, which will benefit the town years into the future. “We’re not going to be in a reactionary panic mode to fix our roads,” Smith said.
Edgecomb’s Tax Increment Financing district, a public-private financing model to support infrastructure development, has been marred with complications and controversies, which Smith inherited when he was elected selectmen.
Figuring out how to use TIF funds to support the construction of a new fire station in Edgecomb was one of the highlights of his tenure as selectman, Smith said. The project allowed Edgecomb to avoid fees and penalties associated with the TIF and build a new desperately needed facility, Smith said.
Smith has grappled with Edgecomb’s surplus account since he was elected selectman. According to Smith, the previous board depleted the surplus account by withdrawing approximately $600,000 from it to artificially reduce taxes.
Rebuilding the surplus account was one of his focuses as selectman, Smith said, which came in handy when Edgecomb’s tax commitment error was discovered.
Smith was previously responsible for calculating Edgecomb’s tax commitment. That role was outsourced to an assessor from John O’Donnell and Associates in 2012, who failed to include a number of expenditures in the tax commitment over a two year period, resulting in a deficit of approximately $440,000 for Edgecomb.
The recent discovery the surplus account was in the negative was the result of miscommunication between the auditor and selectmen, Smith said. “We were all under the impression that we had enough in the surplus account,” Smith said.
According to Smith, selectmen are discussing bringing in a different auditor to give a second opinion on the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and are taking steps to improve processes to ensure the situation will not happen again. Smith is confident the surplus account will be rebuilt and selectmen will be able to establish a stable mil rate for the town.
Smith has a long list of things he would like to accomplish if elected to another term as selectman – chief among them is attracting more businesses to town. Smith is very aware of the tax burden on Edgecomb’s low-income and elderly residents, and would like to see increased revenue streams for the town to shift the burden off of them.
Voting for Edgecomb’s municipal officials will be held Friday, May 15 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the town office. The open portion of the annual town meeting will be held in the same location May 16 at 10 a.m.