Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 13, 2014
Four vie for second selectman seat in Deer Isle
Two candidates for road commissioner
by Jessica Brophy
Four candidates have thrown in their hats for a chance to be Deer Isle’s second selectman, a seat held by Twyla Weed for 15 years. Michele Dur, Ronald B. Eaton, Karen Galella and Paul Gray are all on the ballot.
In the race for road commissioner, Mark Cormier and Ken Eaton are on the ballot.
Becky Knowlton will be running uncontested for an eighth year as town clerk. Lorraine Weed will be running uncontested for treasurer and tax collector. Weed has served in this role for more than 30 years.
In Deer Isle, voters head to town hall to vote between 7:20 and 11:30 a.m. on March 3. Town meeting will reconvene at 2 p.m. to act on the remaining articles.
Michele Dur for second selectman
Michele Dur’s ties to the island go back to the late 1930s when her grandparents, the Rohrbachs, came here to have their daughters attend Les Chalets Francais. Her grandparents purchased land on Conary Cove, including Black Point. Dur spent many summers here and about nine years ago, decided that summers were not enough time. Having volunteered time with Seamark, the Island Nursing Home and Island Heritage Trust, Dur wants to give back to the island by serving as second selectman.
“I have an open mind, a passion for learning, good judgment and Dur-ability,” said Dur. “I want to keep Deer Isle viable, sustainable and cooperative.”
Dur said she’s interested in maintaining and expanding some of the ongoing projects for the town, like Island Cleanup Day. She says it’s a priority for her to preserve lands, especially to maintain access to open shores.
“I’d like to see the community stay or become more involved,” said Dur. What people will want from her as an elected official will help determine her priorities, she said.
Dur said she was encouraged to run for office by many friends, and she’s eager for the opportunity to serve Deer Isle.
In terms of the challenges facing the town over the next three years, Dur said she sees taxes and improving roads as two challenges.
She said the selectmen’s job of being “Overseers of the Poor” is something she would take seriously—“I’d like to see assistance for the challenged,” she said.
Ronald B. Eaton for second selectman
Though fourth-generation islander Ronald B. Eaton of Sunshine Road hasn’t run for public office before, he says he has the common sense and good judgment to serve the town well.
A lifelong fisherman, Eaton is treasurer for the Island Men’s Christian Fellowship, and a member of the Deer Isle Fire Department. “I am not bull-headed, I can work well with others,” he said.
Eaton said he’d like to see safety improvements for employees, including the road crew. He’d also like to see improvements to the sanitary conditions at the transfer station. That could include community involvement with recycling and other cleanup efforts.
“I hate to see litter on the side of the road,” said Eaton. “It absolutely breaks my heart.”
One of the major improvements he’d like to see is the computerization of the town’s records. “The town of Deer Isle is still running on paper,” said Eaton. “We’ve ‘gotta’ get up with the times. I know how it is, if you need something it’s right there and not in a box somewhere.”
Eaton said he would be interested in looking into possible police coverage for the island too. “It would be better to have [a police officer] around,” said Eaton. “It’s not a must, but I think it’s something I’d like to look into.”
The biggest challenge of the next three years is likely going to be the transition from Twyla Weed to whoever wins the seat, said Eaton. Eaton said he knows Neville Hardy well and feels he’ll be able to work well with him. “I want to help keep things running well, as it has over the last 40 years with Neville,” said Eaton.
Karen Galella for second selectman
Karen Galella has always been active in town politics, wherever she lives, whether that was attending town council meetings in New Jersey or attending town meetings here.
“This type of government allows so much input, allows citizens to be so involved,” said Galella. “I love that.”
Galella has a degree from Rutgers University, managed the Island Country Club for five years and served on the board for the Deer Isle-Stonington Chamber of Commerce. Galella has lived on the island for a decade.
The two big issues Galella would like to tackle as a selectman are the lack of year-round employment and the lack of affordable housing. “There’s basically one major employer in Deer Isle for year round work,” she said. And affordable, year-round housing is very difficult to find, she continued.
She is also concerned about the school system. “The best and brightest go off to college and there’s nothing to come back to for work.”
She would like to see efforts to promote the downtown. “We had potentially three businesses close in downtown Deer Isle last year. A viable downtown would be nice to have.”
The biggest challenge of the next three years? The transition from Twyla Weed to a new second selectman, said Galella. “There’s a lot of things we’ve done by tradition, or because it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Paul Gray for second selectman
Paul Gray has served as road commissioner for the town of Deer Isle for a decade. His familiarity with the town’s road maintenance accounts and budgeting give him experience with how the town works.
Gray said he’s sat in on selectmen’s meetings for years, and understands how they work.
“I know quite a lot about the snow and road accounts, which is a big part of the town budget,” said Gray. “Plus, I’ve worked with everyone up here a long time, and I have a good working relationship with everyone.”
Gray said he’d like to see changes at the dump, particularly the debris pile. “I hate to spend more money,” he said. “But it needs to be done.” Gray said it might be a good idea to charge to put waste there, even a small fee.
“I know it’s a lot of contractors who are doing work for homes around here, but I don’t think it would hurt too bad and it would help with taxes,” said Gray.
In other changes he’d like to see, Gray said he wants to advocate with the state to get a better rate for the town taking care of state roads, and to do more work on the roads in general. “We spend a tremendous amount,” he said, “I don’t think the state pays us enough to plow them.”
Gray would also like to see the state do some work on the causeway, including putting up a guardrail. “I think we get put on the back burner because we’re at the end of the line,” he said.
The major challenge moving forward will be keeping taxes down, in part because of “all the foolishness that comes out of Augusta” in terms of laws and regulations, said Gray.
Gray sees himself as someone willing to speak up. “If I believe in something, I’ll fight to get it accomplished. It’s my nature.”
Mark Cormier for road commissioner
Mark Cormier has held a Class A drivers license for 27 years and has been running equipment and machinery since age 16. “I’ve always been involved with that kind of work in one way or another, my whole life,” said Cormier.
Cormier, who is the chairman of the Deer Isle-Stonington School Board, said he’s used to working with budgets. “I’m used to working as a school board member to do as much as we can with as little as possible,” he said. “It’s a juggling act to keep the taxes down.”
Cormier said things are done “really well” currently. “In general, I think the public is really happy.”
What Cormier would like to see would be a long-term improvement plan for the town roads that moves beyond paving and repaving. “Without addressing the substructure, you can keep doing that over and over again,” he said.
“A lot of our roads are old horse paths, and they weren’t built as roads,” he said. “Paving is a short term fix, and I’d like to see the town each year take a small section and do the substructure work that will last years and years.
Ken Eaton for road commissioner
Ken Eaton has been on the road crew in Deer Isle for several years and before that worked on the town of Stonington’s road crew. “I’ve been around dump trucks and plowing for a long time,” he said.
Eaton said the road crew has done a good job under Paul Gray’s oversight, and hopes to run the crew much the same way. Eaton is familiar with the town’s equipment and operations.
The biggest challenge for Eaton personally will be learning to be the person whose phone rings all the time, he said. “I’m not much of a people person, so that will take some getting used to,” said Eaton.
“It’s good working with Paul [Gray] because you know what to expect,” said Eaton, who continued that he hopes to be the same kind of road commissioner.