Waterville mayoral election: get to know the candidates

With the debate at Thomas College on Oct. 24 and the election less than two weeks away, the Waterville mayoral race is heating up. Current Republican Mayor Nicholas Isgro, who is seeking reelection, faces opposition for his seat from former City Council Chairman and Democrat Erik Thomas, as well as Independent John Levesque.   This election comes at a time of uncertainty for Waterville. The city is embarking on various high-profile, high-cost projects downtown (most notably the residential building being constructed in collaboration with Colby), and these developments, among other topics such as property tax increases and school funding, are at the forefront of many voters’ minds.

    “I think that it’s good for the three candidates to all be discussing the issues together,” said Levesque of the Tuesday debate in an interview with The Echo, performed before the event took place. “People [will] have a chance to hear from each of us regarding issues of concern to them.”

   The Mayor’s Race Debate was held in the Ayotte Auditorium of Thomas College at 6 p.m. this past Tuesday. Sponsored by the Morning Sentinel, the debate was moderated by Jim Libby, professor of business administration at Thomas College, and was free and open to the public.

  “I am looking forward to speaking more about my ideas to a large audience [at the debate],” said Levesque. “It’s been door to door and one person at a time since July.”

    The duties of the mayor are vast and, according to Waterville’s city charter, include much more than serving as the face of the city. On top of their role as ambassador, the mayor has the power to veto ordinances and responsibility to review fiscal capital budgets, among many others. Ultimately, the person elected to fill the prestigious position must be capable of monitoring the goings-on of the city, while functioning on an annual salary of $5,000. 

   Current mayor Isgro, who worked closely with Colby on the multimillion dollar developments downtown, said in an interview with Central Maine that he is seeking reelection in order to see Waterville through its current “renaissance”.

   “With everything going on, I feel … that I’ve made a commitment to the people of Waterville and to our partners. I feel an obligation to stay on and see it through.”

  Isgro first ran for mayor in 2014 and won the three-person race with 2,470 votes, edging out Democrat Stephen Aucoin and Independent Karen Rancourt-Thomas, who received 2,047 and 955 votes respectively. According to his reelection statement, Isgro feels that after his initial election three years ago, the Waterville community “started a movement” to revitalize the city that he must continue.

  “In three years, we have achieved great things,” said Isgro in his reelection statement. “But much work remains and there is so much more in store…. Right now Waterville has an incredible amount of momentum, so it’s important that we have a positive spokesperson out in front of that and that we really do keep that ball running and keep that momentum moving forward.”

   Thomas, the Democratic candidate, is running for mayor because he is concerned about Waterville’s current political scene and believes change is desperately needed.

   “There are people more interested in gaining power by misleading people than they are in solving problems,” said Thomas in an interview with Central Maine. “I’m talking about a fraction of people who associate themselves with the mayor. These are people who traffic in innuendo and half-truths and mislead people about what’s going on with the city.”

  Thomas also expressed in the same interview with Central Maine his frustration with the lack of communication and understanding in regards to the city’s problems. “We can’t solve problems in this community until we agree on what the problems are and how we got there and that’s the mayor’s responsibility communication with the outside world and the citizens of Waterville.”

   One of the biggest of these problems, according to Thomas, is the city’s spending. “The city is spending $2 million more than it brings in this year the fiscal year we’re in right now,” said Thomas in his interview with Central Maine. “[Isgro] is not doing anything to fix the problem. I would challenge the mayor to give a list of all the spending he has cut… You can’t make cuts to the budget without cutting things like public works, police, fire, schools… and services will suffer.”

   Levesque, who is running as an Independent, said in an interview with The Echo that the turmoil of national politics was what initially inspired him to run for mayor.

   “I was, like many, despondent after the [national] election last fall,” said Levesque. “I felt like it was time to get involved beyond just being informed.”

   According to Levesque, Waterville needs to prioritize creating jobs and bringing businesses into the city in order to promote its economy. If elected, he plans on working with Colby as well as Thomas College and other local leaders in order to attract new businesses and companies to the area. However, he believes manufacturing needs to be deemphasized.

   “We should be talking to companies in the right sectors of the economy- [like] the service sector- about relocating or expanding here,” stated Levesque. “That’s where our future will be built, not on manufacturing jobs. Healthcare, insurance, finance, technology, information, education, consulting, etc. are the types of businesses we need to focus on.”

   While he has not held political office before, Levesque has high hopes for Waterville and believes that he can help the city reach its full potential.

    “My vision is to have people working together for the betterment of the community by promoting the city and it’s people…. I’d love to see Waterville be an example of what a city can accomplish when we listen to each other and put our focus on commonality instead of our differences.”

    The Waterville mayoral election is scheduled for Nov. 7. Polling will take place at the Thomas College Field House from 8:00a.m. to 8:00 p.m.