Selectman seat challengers say more voices need to be heard in Lamoine

LAMOINE — At a time when many towns have trouble fielding enough candidates to fill a ballot, Lamoine has a horse race.

Four candidates are running for two selectmen’s seats, with the two challengers saying the current board does not represent the cross section of residents in town.

The incumbents are Nathan Mason and Bernard Johnson. Running for the same two seats are Robert Christie and Kathleen Rybarz.

Nathan Mason
Nathan Mason

Mason and his wife, Becky, have lived in Lamoine for 11 years and have two children at the Lamoine Consolidated School, Nathan and Sydney, and one at Ellsworth High School, Samantha.

Mason, who has completed one three-year term as selectman, is a regional supervisor for RT Allen & Sons Inc.

He served for five years on the town’s Parks Commission and the Lamoine School Committee.

Among the issues facing the town, he said, are the ordinance governing gravel pit mining, the question of what the town should do with its refuse in 2018 when a current contract with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. expires, updating the comprehensive plan and, once that is completed, addressing the issues of affordable housing and the needs of the town’s older population.

As to the gravel ordinance, a hot-button issue in town, Mason said he supports continuing to work with the Planning Board to address significant changes made three years ago.

Bernard Johnson
Bernard Johnson

Incumbent Bernard Johnson and his wife, Angela, have lived in town since 2007 and have a daughter, Paige, in fourth grade at Lamoine Consolidated School.

Johnson, who works for Pine State Beverage, is a lieutenant in the Lamoine Volunteer Fire Department, coaches youth athletics and is on the board of the Ellsworth Little League.

Among his concerns are public safety, since the town does not have its own police department, and the question of whether Lamoine should continue taking its refuse to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington or go with a new plant in Hampden as proposed by the Municipal Review Committee.

“My current thinking is to run with the MRC pack and support the new Hampden facility,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he hoped work on developing a new comprehensive plan might heal some of the divisions caused by differences of opinion on curtailing gravel mining in town.

“If I could fix anything, it would be to repair the sense of divisiveness that many good people in Lamoine are feeling towards each other,” he said. “We’re surely going to find that sweet spot where industry and environment can co-exist.”

Robert Christie
Robert Christie

Christie, one of the two challengers, has lived in Lamoine for 30 years and raised his three daughters here.

A longtime tennis instructor and coach, he has served on the Board of Appeals, the School Committee, the Parks and Recreation Committee and is currently on the Comprehensive Plan Committee.

Christie is involved with At Home Downeast, an organization that provides services to help senior citizens stay in their homes.

He said the current perception is that a majority of the present Board of Selectmen favor gravel interests.

“I believe all citizens should be listened to and understood so that a balanced deliberation can allow common ground to be found,” Christie said.

Among the issues facing the town, Christie said, are the aging population, affordable housing for young families and senior citizens and the options facing the town on solid waste management.

“My responsibility on the Board of Selectmen is to provide leadership that truly listens and understands all points of view and find the common ground that best serves Lamoine,” he said.

Kathleen Rybarz
Kathleen Rybarz

Rybarz, the second challenger to the incumbents, has lived in Lamoine for 20 years and has one daughter in nursing school.

She was pharmacy director at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital and is currently working as an Internet-based pharmacist for seven Maine hospitals.

She has been a Girl Scout leader and a member of the Lamoine School Committee.

Rybarz said the Board of Selectmen should support voters’ decision on limiting future new gravel mining and reducing how closely they can excavate to their property lines.

“Our town must be ready to defend ourselves against the gravel industry’s lawsuits with the best legal help available,” she said.

She said gravel operators pay 2 percent of the property taxes in Lamoine.

“They are using Lamoine’s natural nonrenewable resources as the source of the wealth to pay for their suits,” Rybarz said.

Among other challenges facing Lamoine, she said, are a need to get new faces on local boards, maintaining open spaces, encouraging more public access and conservation, supporting small and home-based businesses and looking into housing for the elderly and young families.

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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