Wiscasset will elect two new selectmen Tuesday, June 8, and will pick among three candidates for the jobs.
Selectmen Katharine Martin-Savage and Jefferson Slack are not running for reelection.
None of the candidates, Terry Heller, Dusty Jones, and William Maloney, are from Wiscasset, but all are eager to serve the town they have chosen to make their home.
Terry Heller said she tells people she came to Maine because she wanted snow; she came to Wiscasset because it is beautiful, and stayed because it felt like home.
She decided to run for selectman because she wants to be a strong voice for taking care of her community, by focusing on the town’s resources, values, and infrastructure, and for helping the community move forward toward a more vibrant economy.
She believes a selectman’s primary duty is to listen and observe and then apply knowledgeable, caring leadership through shared decision-making.
This is Heller’s first run for elected office in Wiscasset, although she has become known for her work in the community the past five years. She sits on the appearance of the town committee and has worked with the Friends of Wiscasset Village.
This past year, Heller initiated a project to restore part of the town’s historic legacy by rebuilding the original landscape architecture of the Sunken Garden. Currently, she is helping to plan and implement an annual Wiscasset festival to promote tourism and benefit the local economy.
Schoonerfest is designed as a remembrance of the Hesper and Luther Little, the iconic ships long associated with the Wiscasset waterfront, as well as a celebration of Wiscasset’s early history of shipbuilding and coastal commerce.
Heller would bring over 40 years of experience as a senior adviser to elected officials in Texas, researching issues, talking to constituents, leading discussions on policy, crafting legislation, writing fiscal notes, and working with state and local agencies to interpret and carry out policies.
“My best roles in that process are finding the key questions, creating a climate for consensus or compromise, and taking action,” she said.
Heller said that Wiscasset faces urgent infrastructure and maintenance needs. The wastewater treatment plant has immediate needs and she wants to see new public restrooms downtown, or a boardwalk to connect the creamery pier to the recreational pier, which would make the existing restrooms more accessible. She also wants to see repairs to the White’s Island footbridge.
“In hindsight, these might have been handled earlier if we had a broader funding base,” Heller said. “Underneath all these issues is the need for a town planner who could usher in new growth and development.”
“To provide for these needs and to remedy issues, we need to build our economy. The bottom line is, economic development may well be our overall most pressing issue,” Heller said.
Heller would like to seek out opportunities to add a grocery store and pharmacy to the village, along with a bookstore and a walking path along the waterfront.
“Wiscasset is a town with real services, with an extraordinary history and a veritable army of talented citizens volunteering on town committees and an amazing array of opportunities for generating a supportive economy,” Heller said. “It feels to me like Wiscasset is poised to become an even more vibrant and economically thriving community.”
Heller supports a proposal to lease 20 acres of town land near the airport to a private company for the development of a solar array.
“Good questions have been asked and all the necessary information has been gathered by the select board to be able to address the concerns raised, such as future decommissioning compensation and loss of forested land,” she said.
Heller does not support a proposal on the ballot for the selectmen to appoint a committee that would study the future of Wiscasset’s schools. She said any committee to study the future of the schools should be convened by the school committee.
She said that any savings from tuitioning out high school students, as some have suggested, would be minimal. She noted that Gov. Janet Mills recently committed to funding K-12 public schools at 55%.
Heller feels that communication between the selectmen and town committees has improved under Town Manager Dennis Simmons. She said committee members appreciate the new practice of appointing a selectman to serve as a liaison to each committee.
She said Simmons produced a handbook for committees, calling it “a fantastic example of administrative leadership in improving organization and lines of communications.”
As chair of the appearance of the town committee for the last two years, Heller has dedicated herself to coming up with seasonal plans to beautify the downtown. She has planted daffodils on the common and filled planters with colors of spring and summer, among other work.
“It will be my honor to serve as a selectman, representing the residents of Wiscasset,” Heller said. “There is a genuine feeling of community here, and that is the biggest asset ever.”
Dusty Jones, a behavioral analyst, is a newcomer to town government. He previously lived in Bath, but started working as a consultant in the Wiscasset schools and other schools north of Wiscasset 10 years ago. He has spent the last several years writing educational curriculum.
He said he always chose Wiscasset for rest stops when traveling. “It was a good place to walk along the harbor and decompress after a tough day, a good place to inspire curiosity by browsing the town’s antique stores, bookshops, and historic buildings,” he said.
He bought a home in Wiscasset over a year ago and decided to volunteer his service and experience to the town.
“I see my role as selectman as performing the specific tasks of conducting a town’s business, relying heavily on community input, consensus, and keeping in mind that the board and the seat belong to the town,” he said.
He has served on boards and committees related to his professional career, but this is his first time running for government office.
Jones joined the U.S. Navy in 1993 for a six-year enlistment. He trained as a nuclear power plant electrician and served on the USS Carl Vinson, doing two tours in the Persian Gulf. He volunteered to build and run a program to rehabilitate incarcerated service members, which succeeded and earned commendations for his team.
After the Navy, he worked for a utility company, plotting and installing underground electrical and other utilities across North Texas, while attending college to earn a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree in behavior.
For nearly 20 years he has worked with foster families and people with developmental disabilities, autism, and behavioral needs. He has built treatment programs for households, institutions, and school districts.
“I believe Wiscasset has the opportunity to see some exciting economic growth in the near future,” Jones said. “The ways Americans live and work are changing, and, aside from steady growth circling outward from Portland, a place like Wiscasset holds a lot of appeal to people looking to depart from city congestion and stress. I think it’s important that we make preparations now to capitalize on this growth.”
“When I was a visitor in this town, I did not like parking in front of the stores on U.S. 1,” Jones said. “I much preferred to find parking that got me and my vehicle away from the main road a little, so I was grateful to see the sidewalks expanded downtown and the pedestrian access improved.
“I think we need to continue these improvements all over town. Some areas of our town are visibly crumbling, and others, like the sewage treatment plant, are crumbling out of sight.”
“I grew up in a town that underwent growth due to urban sprawl. It was smartly managed, which resulted in a town that is stylish and modern with all its historical significance handsomely presented,” Jones said. “I think Wiscasset is a special place and deserves to have its unique character on display. It is an important site in American history and culture and, when people visit, I would like the town presented to them dressed in its finest.”
Jones supports entering into negotiations with MSD Wiscasset LLC to lease the company land next to the airport for the construction of a solar array. He said Wiscasset has a history of electrical generation, at Maine Yankee and Mason Station, so it should be considered a traditional industry for the town.
Jones said he would like to see expanded educational opportunities, museums for local history and industry, and ecological and historical research academies, with more commercial use of the harbor for community events and celebrations.
Jones said he would be skeptical of any effort to close the high school. He believes Wiscasset has an obligation to offer a high-quality educational program, including a high school. Good schools also factor into the town’s ability to attract industry, he said.
Jones said that Wiscasset’s biggest asset is “the people here, from the beginning to the present, who have organized this spot into a productive region with great benefit to the rest of the state and the country.”
“Maine itself has this character. Wiscasset, being one of the places that give Maine this character, speaks to the nation in this regard, setting a tone of tenacity, innovation, and community,” Jones said. “It is a small town that has accomplished a lot, to which credit is due to the forward thinking, volunteerism, and dedication of the people who live here.”
William Maloney ran for selectmen in June 2020. In a six-way race for three seats, he fell six votes short of securing one.
He has lived in Wiscasset since 2013, after retiring as director of sales and marketing for a multinational manufacturer of flexible packaging materials. He and his wife moved to Wiscasset after 36 years living in the Chicago area.
Maloney would like to bring his business experience to the board of selectmen. He was active in a municipality in Illinois, holding positions as president of a police pension fund and chair of a human rights commission and a planning commission.
Maloney also chaired a panel that developed a plan for a town center in Wheeling, Ill., working with developers and investors. Wheeling accepted the plan, which became a $110 million project that included several hundred apartments, a theater, retail space, and more.
He currently chairs the Wiscasset Budget Committee and serves as treasurer of the Wiscasset Rod and Gun Club. He has served as chair and treasurer of the Wiscasset Senior Center and chair of the public advisory committee that worked with the Maine Department of Transportation on the recent downtown project.
Maloney believes the most pressing issue for Wiscasset is holding down expenses, particularly capital expenses.
“We were spoiled when Maine Yankee was our largest taxpayer. We are left with amenities that are aging and need repair or replacement,” he said. “We can handle our everyday expenses; however, the capital expenses are our Achilles’ heel.
“Voters continue to vote to keep these amenities, so we must budget for their upkeep. We must look at everything we do and ask, ‘Do we need this? Can we do this more efficiently?’”
Maloney said he moved to Wiscasset because he liked the town as it is. But he said the town needs to broaden its tax base with new homes and new industries, while maintaining its character.
He is a strong advocate for an economic development specialist or town planner to assist in this effort. A planner could advise businesses and residents interested in Wiscasset.
Maloney said his position on the airport solar project is one of great caution. He is concerned about what will happen when the panels reach their life expectancy of 20 years.
Maloney does not support the formation of a committee to study the future of the schools. He and Judy Colby, a former chair of the board of selectmen, had asked the selectmen to form a committee with a different charge, to study the financial impact of tuitioning out grades nine through 12.
The selectmen changed the wording of the article and the charge of the committee. “The original wording was precise and to the point. The current wording is vague and could lead to unexpected results,” Maloney said.
Maloney said a group of people approached him asking if he would support closing the high school. He responded that it would not be a wise move.
“We have made some mistakes in the past by not knowing what the consequences of a decision would be,” he said.
As to communications between the selectmen and committees, Maloney also applauded the assignment of a liaison to each committee.
Maloney believes the town has many assets, including its residents, its history, and its location.