PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATES

Five seek seats on growing Blue Hill Select Board



BLUE HILL — Voters at the 2021 annual Town Meeting approved expanding the Select Board from three members to five.

The additional members will be voted on during this year’s Town Meeting election on Friday, April 1. Polls open at the town office at 9 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Voters will be asked to choose two of three candidates to serve three-year terms on the Select Board. Those candidates include incumbent Jim Dow, Butler Smythe and Rebecca Wentworth.

Voters will also be asked to choose one candidate of two who are running for a two-year seat on the board. The two-year candidates include Sean Dooley and James Wootten.

Incumbent Dow said the Select Board has made “great progress in addressing a range of important town issues over the last three years. But the work is not done. I think I can be helpful as the board continues that work.”

“Because of the pandemic, it has seemed like a long three years,” Dow added, “but our Select Board has worked well together confronting the unusual and immediate challenges that the pandemic posed. We have also dug into the major long-term issues facing our town — broadband service for all, necessary road reconstruction, wastewater treatment plant renovation and solid waste disposal, to name just a few.”

“I was an advocate for increasing the size of the board,” Dow said. “I see it as a ‘good government’ measure. I think it will increase representation on the board, add differing perspectives and ease the workload. My hope is that it will also make it seem possible for younger members of our town to serve on the board. Helping to ensure that the transition to the five-member board is as smooth as possible is another reason that I have chosen to run again.”
Dow grew up in Belfast and has lived in Blue Hill for the last 30 years, where he has served on the boards of various community organizations. He retired from his position as the first executive director of the Blue Hill Heritage Trust in 2016, completing more than three decades of work in the conservation field. Dow is married, the father of two adult children and lives in East Blue Hill.

A local man who has spent the past seven years working as a volunteer on broadband access for Blue Hill is running for a seat on the Select Board.

“There is a lot facing the town in the coming years and much needs to be done to address the economy of the town, its infrastructure and the sustainability of its value to the region,” said Smythe. “My efforts for broadband over the last seven years and specifically for the last 3.5 through the creation of the Peninsula Utility for Broadband group (www.peninsulautility4broadband.org) have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today.”

Installation of broadband on the Blue Hill Peninsula has now started with engineering and is expected to be complete with customers online by December, according to Smythe, who met with project officials last week. Fidium is the company installing fiber internet, thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Commerce.

“I grew up in Philadelphia, Pa., and Rochester, N.Y., retiring from the Navy in 1998 after many years on the West Coast and overseas,” said Smythe. “After retirement, I supported NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center and then Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md., moving permanently to Blue Hill in 2014.”

“My family has had an association with Maine for over 130 years and with Blue Hill for 95 of that, with my first summer here in 1955,” he continued. “I’ve served on several local boards and am the secretary and treasurer of the Duffy-Wescott Post of the American Legion, working on a major building restoration of the original 1833 Blue Hill Academy building.”

Rebecca Wentworth, who is retired and follows local politics, also seeks a three-year seat on the board.

“I will be a very important asset to the Select Board,” Wentworth said. “My understanding of the County Commission, how it works and how to take advantage of the benefits from the commission are very important in developing relationships with other towns thereby accessing the funds that flow through the commission. My connections with the representatives in District 17 and Senate District 7 are also important, knowing how benefits and legislative outcomes are going to affect Blue Hill. My skills in demographics and population shifts will be an asset in Select Board decision-making.”

“But most of all, I pledge I will spend time at the Blue Hill town office to listen to people’s concerns,” Wentworth said. “My phone number and email will be available as well. I will not depend on an administrator for public relations. I would like to explore convening citizen assemblies where people can talk to each other about what is important to them.”

“It may be asked how I will do all that town business of contracts and such,” she continued. “Fortunately, our town has a wonderful team of people who do the town’s business, an expert staff and four other select people all with different talents and abilities. I will round out that team.”

The candidates for a two-year seat on the board include Sean Dooley and James Wootten.

“I would be proud to serve on Blue Hills’s expanded Select Board,” said Dooley. “I have the time and energy to contribute to finding practical solutions to the challenges facing the town. As a business owner, taxpayer and public-school parent, I have a balanced perspective on how the town serves its residents. I don’t have any particular agenda, and I am ready to work to get things done.”

Dooley said he and his wife moved to Blue Hill in 2010 to raise their family.

“A dozen years later, not a week goes by that I don’t find some reason to be glad we moved here,” Dooley said.
Dooley owns Misty Morning Farm and supports food security on the peninsula. The father of two has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Loyola University.

“A lifetime of experience as a business owner has given me a deep toolbox of skills to overcome obstacles, find solutions and keep operations under budget,” Dooley said. “The Select Board exists to act on direction provided by the voters, and I have the time to help the town move forward in a practical and constructive way.”
James Wootten also seeks a two-year position on the board.

“I hold the town of Blue Hill close to my heart, as I was born here and graduated from GSA,” Wootten said. “The future of our town is to acknowledge maintaining/repairing existing assets and infrastructure.”

The operations of the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station are of particular concern for Wootten.

“As selectman, I will advocate to get the transfer station the funding it deserves and reopen the seven days a week we were all promised when the facility opened,” Wootten said.

Traffic backing up at the entrance to the station is also a concern.

The Blue Hill native said he hopes to bring common sense to the board.

“I have never held an elected position, and I don’t hold a degree from any college,” said Wootten. “I believe honesty and integrity is the foundation for anyone that holds an official position. I promise to do what’s best for the residents of Blue Hill.”

In other election business, Blue Hill School Board member Jan Snow is running uncontested for a three-year term on the board.

Residents also will find two newly appointed Planning Board members on the ballot: Emily Cushman and Wilson King.

The Select Board appointed the two, but they need to be officially voted in to fill two openings for three-year terms on the board. Cushman and King are running unopposed.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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