BUCKSPORT — Bucksport residents have six choices for three seats on the Town Council that are coming up for renewal, according to Town Clerk Jacob Gran.
Incumbents Jim Morrison, Paul Bissonnette and Dan Ormsby are all seeking re-election. They are being challenged by Tracey Hair, Joe Davanzo and Bruce Ashmore.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Each candidate was asked why he or she is running for office and what the candidates see as the larger issues facing the river town.
Housing for older adults and families was cited by each candidate as a priority.
Bissonnette has a history of public service with Bucksport.
“I was on the Bucksport School Board from 2000 to 2010, and I really enjoyed that,” Bissonnette said. He chaired the board from 2003 to 2010.
“I’m really happy to be part of the group that helped lead during the pandemic,” Bissonnette said. “I would like to be part of the group to help post-pandemic as we get there.”
The native said he’s good with planning. He works for Athena Health as the manager of a workforce management team.
There are a number of issues facing Bucksport right now, Bissonnette said. “As we move forward, I and other people wonder when we’ll see Whole Oceans begin construction and what will happen with our tax base as we move forward.”
“Housing and senior housing is something we need to push on,” said Bissonnette. “We need to make sure seniors and families can afford to live here whenever possible.”
Bucksport needs to decide what type of investment to put into the town marina.
“I want to continue planning around roads,” Bissonnette said. “I want to continue as much as the Town Council can be a supporter of the schools.”
“I just like being part of the community and helping the community make decisions,” said Town Councilor Dan Ormsby. “I’m a good decision-maker.”
“I grew up in Bucksport,” said Ormsby, another incumbent seeking re-election. “I’ve lived here my entire life. I hold it dear to my heart.”
“This year I think we’ve been through a lot,” he added. “The team we have on the council right now works very well together. We can change our minds when we need to. Those are important qualities.”
Ormsby cited housing, including senior housing, as an issue facing Bucksport.
“I’d really like to figure out the median income housing,” said the Regional School Unit 20 vice principal. “I think that’s going to be really important. We have a pretty massive influx of people moving into this area. That and senior housing is important.”
“Obviously one of the top issues Bucksport has right now is Whole Oceans and figuring out what’s going on right now,” Ormsby said. “I’d really like to see that start to move. I think that’s going to be really important for the town.”
“The waterfront is important,” the councilor said. “We have a plan to upgrade the town dock. That opens up a plethora of possibilities for us. We were absolutely chock full this year with a waiting list at the marina.”
Ormsby would also like some work done to protect items in the historical society being affected by the humidity.
“Those are some of the top issues that I really care about,” he said.
Morrison is seeking re-election as well.
“I see a need for representation by a lot of people that don’t seem to have much of a voice here,” he said. The councilor described those people as “the silent majority. They don’t want to say anything until you get them one on one.”
The retiree is concerned about housing needs, especially for older adults, as well as the needs in general of Bucksport’s older residents.
“There are a lot of issues with people needing help with their homes,” he said. “See what we can do about that. A little volunteerism in this town would go a long ways.”
“I deliver meals on Wednesdays for the senior center,” Morrison said. “Before COVID I was delivering 10 meals or so. During COVID the town came up with some grant money they used to supplement the meals. I went up to like 30 meals a day I was delivering. After the town stopped paying, I was down to delivering four or five. That says to me there’s a need.”
“Like everybody else, we have an aging population and they’re more or less falling by the wayside,” he said. “We’re not utilizing them. Their needs aren’t being met to the degree they should be.”
Morrison said he hears from older adults that they would pay to get rides. They need to go places more than the one day a week that there is public transportation in town.
“We’re a community that has plenty of money in reserve and we could use that for the citizens,” Morrison said. “As long as I’m on there, I’m going to push the issue.”
The councilor would also like to see Bucksport Economic Development Director Rich Rotella freed up from community development work to focus on economic development.
“They saddle him with a lot of responsibilities with the community development as well as the economic development,” Morrison said.
The council needs more representatives of the people than not, he said. “People who represent the town government, they aren’t really helping us much,” Morrison said.
Newcomer Tracey Hair, who is the executive director of HOME Inc., is seeking election to the council.
“In any crisis or challenge the most enlightening place to look is always local and I am running because I want every resident of Bucksport to continue to have a strong foundation from which to thrive,” Hair said.
“In the years that I have called Bucksport home, I have dedicated my time to working with community members, so they have resources to meet their basic needs,” said Hair. “When we focus on the livability of our communities, seniors and young people alike, can thrive right where they are. I will work hard on a vision toward affordable housing for seniors and our workforce, accessible transportation, in-home supports for seniors and growing local businesses. When we lift all community, we lift ourselves.
“This campaign is a response to the pressing challenges our town faces today — an affordable housing crisis impacting the lives of seniors and our workforce, an opioid problem and the most obvious are the effects of the pandemic on Bucksport businesses. Like most small towns in Maine we’ve experienced the blows directly on our livelihoods,” Hair said. “At some point, the emergency will be over. Then the longer-term recovery will begin. Where do we want to go? I want to build on the work that’s already happened and happening.”
Bruce Ashmore, who owns Automotive Elegance in the town’s industrial park, also seeks a seat on the council. Ashmore said he was asked to run for office.
“A lot of my friends, relatives and people currently on the council said it would be a good place for me to be,” said Ashmore.
Ashmore said economic development as well as local roads are issues for Bucksport.
“Rejuvenating and putting to use the industrial property we have available that’s sitting empty now,” Ashmore said.
The road system needs work “so that our residents and businesses have serviceable ways to get to and from home and work.”
Ashmore has lived and worked all over the U.S. and ran his own business in Germany for nine years, so he says he would bring more of a worldview to the council.
“My roots are here; even though I’ve been everywhere, my roots are generational,” Ashmore said. “No matter where we were, the one place in the universe that always stayed constant and never changed was 76 Mcdonald Street in Bucksport, Maine.” That was grandma’s house.
Speaking of Germany, Ashmore taught himself how to speak German while he was stationed there.
To that end, for the past 30 years he has been a U.S. Department of Defense Diplomat Corps interpreter.
That means if there’s a situation with a German passenger at the Bangor International Airport, for example, Ashmore may be called to translate between the passenger and the English-speaking authorities.
Joseph Davanzo, a retired mail carrier and union representative, also seeks election to the board.
“I’m a very active person and I love being involved in the community,” said Davanzo. “I just really like living in the town and I thought maybe to try and help. If the people like what I say. Then they would vote for me. If they don’t, I’ll still help out.”
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native has been living in Maine since 1974, initially in Ellsworth.
Davanzo is involved in helping a number of organizations, including serving as the liaison for the Salvation Army of Portland, which can provide assistance for heat, electricity and food for those in need. Davanzo helps residents in Bucksport, Orland and Verona Island apply for that help.
He is also a Grand Knight at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church.
Davanazo also helps at the Methodist Church with its free family film program and volunteers with Friends in Action in Ellsworth.
He also serves on the Maine Federation for National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.
Davanzo said the biggest issue facing Bucksport is affordable housing.
“The prices of homes have grown so fast,” said Davanzo. “I don’t see how young people starting out could even afford a home.”
Property taxes and “a clean quality of life in town” are the other main issues, he said.
Polls at the G.H. Jewett School at 66 Bridge Street in Bucksport will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2. In addition to three state referendum articles and the Town Council race, Bucksport residents also will vote to elect a Regional School Unit 25 Committee member. The candidates are Scott A. Frazier and Keith H. Kneeland Jr.