Gouldsboro Selectman Roger Bowen has decided not to seek re-election. PHOTO BY JACK DODSON

Bowen won’t seek re-election in Gouldsboro

GOULDSBORO — Selectman Roger Bowen is sending a message to his fellow board members.

When he ran for re-election to the position in 2015, and subsequently won by a single vote, he decided that would be his second and final term on the board.

The idea was to “self-impose term limits, because I believe in them,” he said in an exit interview. “It’s a not-so-subtle message to some of the longer-serving members of that board.”

Bowen, 71, won’t be seeking re-election this year. Four residents have turned in paperwork for the two board seats that are open, his and Bill Thayer’s.

The other three candidates are Deborah Bisson, Roger Dean and Cheryl Robinson. Two others have paperwork out. The deadline for them to file is Friday. The vote will take place on June 11. Those elected will take their seats during Gouldsboro’s annual Town Meeting June 12.

“The board members I’ve worked with, we share in common a real desire to serve the community … we’re nonpartisan, we leave our party affiliation at the door… our focus is the common good for the people of Gouldsboro,” Bowen said.

Bowen is the director of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program run by the Council of Independent Colleges. He’s owned a camp in Gouldsboro since 1982, and lived permanently in the area for 10 or 11 years. Before that, he was director of the American Association of University Professors, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit.

An academic and longtime nonprofit administrator, he started his career as a professor at Colby College in Waterville.

In a look back at the six years he’s served on the board, Bowen said there were two main issues standing out to him that Gouldsboro needs to tackle: long-term planning and balancing the relationship between “two cultures.”

Those cultures, he said, are people who grew up in the area and have deep generational ties to Downeast Maine and people who have moved to the area. That group, he said, can collectively be referred to as “from away.”

Politics in Gouldsboro can boil down to representing these two groups, he said. While it’s important to maintain the town’s heritage and culture, the newer residents also make up a considerable portion of the population — and the tax burden, he said.

“One role of the select board is to help bridge these two cultures,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s vitally important to have, at any one time, one or two people from away.”

As for the long-term planning, he argued the town needs to be doing more thinking about the future. Economic and cultural changes mean Schoodic Peninsula residents should take a hard look at finances for the years ahead.

“The town lives from year to year, and our Budget Committee budgets from year to year,” he said. “We’re all fiscally conservative, and I put myself in that group because our resources are limited. But I think it’s critically important for any town to think beyond the year you’re operating in and think 5 or 10 years down the road.”

Bowen also said he thinks Gouldsboro and the neighboring town of Winter Harbor should combine. More than a century ago, the two municipalities were considered one town. They split in 1895.

He pointed out that the towns share schools and a fire chief. Soon, they could potentially share a police department. Gouldsboro Police Chief Tyler Dunbar and Winter Harbor Police Chief Danny Mitchell have spent recent months pitching town leaders and the public on the possibility of one department for the two communities.

“My basic view is that everyone who lives on this peninsula sees on a daily basis the changes that are coming,” he said, referencing tourists visiting Schoodic Woods and Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor. “We’ve gone 225 years without stoplights … you wonder if that day of reckoning is coming and there will be a stoplight somewhere. I hope not. I think we all love the rural nature of this area.”

Jack Dodson
Jack Dodson began working for The Ellsworth American in mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.

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