ELLSWORTH — The City Council welcomed its newest member Monday morning and elected a new chairman for the coming year.
Dale Hamilton was sworn in by City Clerk Heidi Grindle after finishing second in a four-way race for two council seats last week. He beat out John Phillips, who finished a close third (Hamilton got 850 votes while Phillips received 829).
Phillips had served as the council’s chairman for the past year, so without him serving the seven-member council was guaranteed to have a new leader coming out of Monday’s annual organizational meeting.
After Hamilton was sworn in, John Moore nominated Marc Blanchette to serve as chairman while Dawn Hudson nominated Bob Crosthwaite. Blanchette was elected on a 4-3 vote.
Each nominee voted for himself. Hudson and Gary Fortier voted for Crosthwaite, while Hamilton, Moore and Steve Beathem voted for Blanchette.
Moore, who finished first in the four-way race last week, was also sworn in Monday. Council seats carry a term of three years.
Blanchette said several times Monday there will be a learning curve for him in his role as a first-time chairman. Councilors called his attention to several formal, procedural items after he was sworn in, albeit in a friendly way.
“We’re here to help,” said Fortier, himself a former council chairman.
Blanchette said after the meeting he wants to talk with people and find out what their vision of Ellsworth is: what they like about it and what they want it to be.
Speaking for himself, he said he loves the people here and loves the downtown. He said the city has experienced growth and will continue to grow while still retaining small-town feel and charm. He said he is not looking for Ellsworth to become a Bangor, Lewiston or Portland.
Blanchette said The Jackson Laboratory’s mouse production facility that is set to open in March is “phenomenal” for the city. He said he looks forward to working with its management team as construction finishes up and the facility opens its doors.
Blanchette has served on the City Council since June of 2013.
Hamilton, for his part, said he is “pleased and very happy” to have been elected to the council. He said he sees it as a way to give back to the community. One of his priorities, he said, is to be sure city officials think about where the city is headed and what the short- and long-term implications are for decisions that are made at City Hall.
He said he wants to see the city “manage growth in a way that doesn’t increase the burden on taxpayers.”
Hamilton said Ellsworth is a “great community” and, like Blanchette, said he is interested in hearing from residents.
Councilors stuck with their traditional meeting schedule (third Monday of the month, except in cases of holidays) and format. They also kept their stipends at the same level they have been in recent years — $2,500 for the chairman and $2,000 each for the other six councilors — even though under the City Charter they could have gone as high as $2,800 for the chairman and $2,240 for individual councilors.
The city’s Finance Committee has three council members on it, each of whom is appointed by the council chairman. Blanchette and Beathem had been serving and will continue to do so following Monday’s meeting, while Hudson will be the third member after she expressed interest. Moore will continue to serve as an alternate member on the Finance Committee.