Four square off in Paris selectman race

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PARIS — In Paris, incumbents Janet Jamison and Kathy Richardson will square off against political newcomers Gary Vaughn and John Andrews as all four candidates vie for two selectman’s seats, each with a three-year term.

Each candidate for a contested seat was asked to provide some biographical information about themselves and to respond to three questions:

  • Why are you running for the Board of Selectmen?
  • What do you feel are the most important issues facing the town?
  • What do you hope to accomplish as selectman?

Voters will elect two candidates when they head to the polls on Tuesday, June 13. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Paris Fire Station, 137 Western Ave.

Two of the four SAD 17 director positions are up this year, each with a three-year term. Incumbents George “Buddy” Coffren and Henry Raymond are running unopposed.

There are two spots available for the Paris Utility District Board of Directors, each with a three-year term. Incumbents Ray Lussier and Matthew Dieterich are running unopposed.

Janet Jamison

Jamison currently serves as selectboard chair and has been a career letter carrier with the United States Postal Service for 15 years.

Janet Jamison

She is running for a second term “to continue our steadily improving path in Paris.”

“We have a relatively new town manager in Vic Hodgkins, and I believe he needs the support of people who have the institutional memory of where Paris has been over the past few years (or decades),” she said. “We need to maintain our focus on ‘soft’ infrastructure – those things which people need to feel good, and enjoy, the community in which they live.”

Jamison wants to ensure citizens have quality services they expect that are on par with other communities, although other towns often have “greater financial resources than Paris.”

The most important issues facing the town include the “ever-increasing costs of labor, benefits and insurances, particularly health insurance” for employees and maintaining current and future infrastructure.

She noted the town has no control over the school or county budgets, nor the “ever-shrinking state revenues.”

“We are tasked every year with keeping Paris affordable, while being open to all ideas to expand our tax base – which is the same goal of every other town and city in this state,” Jamison said.

She wants to see faith restored in the town’s management, as “Paris has been on a rocky road these last seven or eight years.”

“We are all ‘neighbors,’” Jamison said. “We need to remember that every citizen has a voice, and compromise is not failure. Everyone should feel valued in their hometown. We can work together, or we can fall apart. I choose the first option.”

Her “first foray into community service” was serving on the Fox School PTO when her son was young.

Previously, Jamison served on the Paris selectboard for four and a half years in the early 1990s. She was first elected to fill a vacancy and re-elected for a three-year term. She also served as a Paris Utility District director in the past.

Over the years she has served on the boards for Norway-Paris Solid Waste and Oxford County Regional Recycling. Currently she is the chair of the NPSW board. Roughly a year ago, she joined the board for Norway Paris Community Television.

Gary Vaughn

Vaughn currently serves as the vice chairman of the recently formed Economic Development Committee and is a retired ironworker.

Gary Vaughn

Since he is recently retired, Vaughn has “ample time to serve the citizens of Paris.”

He has attended a number of selectmen and town meetings and feels “the current board is not exploring options that may better serve Paris.” He said neither he nor fellow EDC member Andrews support “the tax and then find a way to spend the taxpayer’s money attitude.”

“Paris needs to prioritize the decisions we make to benefit Paris in the long term,” Vaughn said. “I am determined to bring new ideas forward and to live by the will of the people. The same old way we do business is not working.”

He said he has conducted “significant research” and concluded Paris needs to follow surrounding towns that have a lower tax rate.

“A stable (and lower) rate makes Paris more attractive to potential businesses and new homeowners,” he said.

There are two ways to do this – spend less or add to the town’s tax base.

“Although there are always ways to spend less, increasing our tax base is the best route,” Vaughn said. “We can only increase our base by being attractive to outsiders. Our current citizens should also be proud of our town’s attractiveness.”

He wants to ensure “each department has not only a reasonable budget, but a ‘looking forward’ capital account is necessary for long-term success.”

Vaughn also wants to revitalize the downtown and Market Square area.

“Investigating the expansion of Route 26 North is also another item that can move Paris forward in a positive economic and community direction,” he added. “Bringing our town together with a positive vision is job one.”

In addition to the Economic Development Committee, Vaughn is a member of the Road Committee. He has served as a volunteer firefighter, as a certified hazmat technician and high angle rope rescue instructor.

Kathy Richardson

Richardson is about to finish a six-month term on the selectboard, which was vacated by current Town Manager Vic Hodgkins. She is a retired school teacher, most recently teaching at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris.

Kathy Richardson

Richardson is running for a three-year term on the selectboard because “the municipal level is the last frontier of hands-on interaction with voters.”

“These are the people we live next to and see every day,” she said. “I value civil discourse; working through conflicting ideas to common ground; encouraging groups to work together to plan.”

The “most obvious issue facing the town” is how taxpayer dollars are spent, while balancing “a level of services that the voters expect to have in a town they pay to live in.”

This includes trying to maintain the 80 miles of road in town which “are still a cause for citizen frustration.”

“Jamie Hutchinson, highway director, is a gem and is doing a yeoman’s job with a small crew and constant budget concerns,” Richardson said.

She added she wants to see Paris continue to move in a positive direction.

“But it is critically important, as well, to preserve a level of stability and integrity, a positive attitude about the town that will allow Paris to put its best face forward,” she said.

Richardson promised to listen and respond to residents and remember she is representing them, not giving directions.

“I would like to encourage a wide variety of citizen input and involvement,” she said. “I would like to see a constantly growing number of citizens who take pride in this town.”

For several years, Richardson was a facilitator in an Oxford Hills area peer support group for adults recovering from mental illness. She has been active in historical preservation on Paris Hill, with the Hamlin Memorial Library and Museum and Paris Hill Community Club.

John Andrews

Andrews is the current chairman of the Economic Development Committee and a stay-at-home dad. Previously, he was a manager at a national nonprofit in Washington, D.C., ran a small town newspaper, worked as an AmeriCorps program manager teaching literacy to at-risk youth, and was the operations manager for a taxi cab company.

John Andrews

He said he is running for selectman because of his kids.

“Paris is at a pivotal point; great things are ahead of us if we make the right choices,” he said. “I want Paris to be the best place it can be for every kid here to grow up in. I want them to be proud to be from South Paris, Maine.”

Andrews is running also because people asked him to. He noted he previously encountered roadblocks with the selectboard while trying to better Paris through volunteer and committee work.

“I also want to bring the town together. For too long selectboard meetings have been full of personal agendas and condescension,” he said. “I want to create an environment of positive attitudes and questions at selectboard meetings. I want Paris residents to be there and be involved in the process.”

Important issues for Andrews are making Paris more business friendly and stabilizing the town’s increasing mil rate.

His “big picture goal” is creating a nonprofit for Paris “focused on community and economic development similar to Norway Downtown.” The idea is to obtain grants and complete community development projects, which could be run out of the Town Office conference room so there is not “a real estate footprint.”

As for the mil rate, Andrews noted that increases almost every year.

“It affects everything from town morale to citizen/business retention and growth. High property taxes do not lead to happy citizens and businesses,” he said.

He added the biggest contributors to the mil rate increase are the town’s payments to SAD 17 and Oxford County and he advocated for teamwork between municipalities.

“The towns in the Oxford Hills need to start working together to stabilize these payments and the school and county need to start to realize that their increasing budgets have a huge ripple effect on the taxpayers in the small towns that support them,” Andrews said. “It’s not a sustainable model and ways to improve it need to be explored by all parties involved.”

The town can have sounder budgeting by saving for items needed in the future and bond for big projects such as roads “to soften the hit to our tax revenue stream over many years instead of a big hit all at once.”

Andrews wants to examine alternative revenue sources, including grant funding, tax increment financing districts and business sponsorship for programs and events.

And he continues to look to the future.

“There are great things ahead of us if the right candidates get voted into office. It’s economic prosperity, new ideas and a respectful attitude versus three more years of the same old Paris politics,” Andrews said. “I think the voters are smart enough to make the right decision.”

He is currently a member of the 1 Paris Hill Committee, trustee of the Paris Hill Community Club, Paris T-ball coach and Paris representative for the Broadband ConnectME access grant. He is currently a member of Norway-Paris and Waterford Fish and Game organizations and Sportman’s Alliance of Maine.

Previously Andrews volunteered at the Maine Foothills Artisan Co-op, was a member of the Paris Revitalization Committee and volunteered as a grant writer for local nonprofits.

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