SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Voters here will elect two selectmen, one School Committee member and one member of the high school Board of Trustees when they go to the polls May 3 for the annual town elections.
Polls will be open at the fire station from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The open town meeting is scheduled for the previous day, May 2, and is to begin at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Pemetic Elementary School.
Two incumbents face two newcomers in the race for two three-year seats on the Board of Selectmen. The current chairman of the board, George Jellison, is running for another term, as is incumbent David Minctons. Chad Terry and Jesse Dunbar are seeking their first terms as selectmen.
Two candidates, Dani Piquette-Kelly and Michael Sawyer, are vying for a three-year seat on the School Committee now held by Eric Henry.
Incumbent Steve Hudson is the only candidate running for the open slot on the Mount Desert Island High School Board of Trustees.
George Jellison Jr.
George Jellison Jr. is seeking his third consecutive term on the board and currently is its chairman. A lifelong resident of the town, he is a financial advisor for Commonwealth Financial Group.
“I feel I can continue to help the town,” he said of his decision to run again.
Town officials have begun long-range planning to address future needs as identified in a 2010 engineering study of the town’s infrastructure. Jellison said he wants to see these issues taken care of while keeping in mind the effect on property taxes.
“We’re trying to do it in the most economical way,” he said.
Jellison said he would rather see money set aside and grants pursued for future projects instead of relying on loans.
Recent discussions between town officials and users of the harbor have been beneficial and should continue, Jellison said.
“We need to preserve the uses of the harbor as they are today but also look at use by future generations,” he said.
But before plans for the harbor proceed much further, the town has to get the owners of the Hook property to respond to inquiries about selling the shorefront lot. The lot, which the town now leases annually, is adjacent to the Manset Town Dock and is considered a key component in the town’s plans for the public waterfront.
“We have to know what their feelings are in order to do the things we would like,” Jellison said.
Chad Terry is running for elected office for the first time. An owner of GT Outhouses and Terry’s Tanks, Terry has been on the Planning Board for five years and is its chairman. For the past two years, he has been a member of the Warrant Committee.
“I think it’s time for another view,” he said of his decision to seek a seat on the board.
Terry said the fact that he is younger than some of the other candidates gives him a fresher perspective. For one thing, he said, he has children four and six years old and has an active interest in the Pemetic school that goes beyond budgetary concerns.
Terry, too, is concerned about the town’s crumbling infrastructure. The Manset Town Dock needs repairs, and the secondary roads “have been neglected for years,” he said.
“Band-Aids aren’t going to work,” he said.
Terry pointed out the municipal budget has been kept relatively flat for the past few years. Although that helps the taxpayer, that strategy might not be the best for the town, he said. Projects are being put “on the back burner,” and “it costs more in the long run,” he explained.
Terry said he recognizes the importance of the harbor to the town but would like to see immediate problems, like with the Manset dock, get addressed before going forward with other plans. Purchase of the Hook property should be pursued, he said.
Jesse Dunbar has been a member of the Warrant Committee for the past two years. This is his first time running for elected office. He is co-owner of Royal Promotions in Southwest Harbor and an associate broker with the L.S. Robinson Company.
“I care a great deal about Southwest Harbor,” he said. “I grew up here. I want to do more for the town and see if I can make a difference.”
Dunbar said his experience on the Warrant Committee has given him an understanding of the budget process. He said he thinks certain areas of the budget, especially the Pemetic school budget, need closer review to find more savings, or at least get more information on why a certain amount was budgeted.
Dunbar said he hears from some residents how difficult it is to keep up with property tax increases. Their concerns need addressing, he said. As a realtor, he sees fewer and fewer homes being sold to year-round residents, especially those with families. As selectman, Dunbar said he would like to help facilitate an increase in affordable housing in town.
Improvements to the harbor should not be overlooked, he said.
“It’s an important part of the town for the economy,” he said.
David Minctons is running for a third term on the Board of Selectmen. He could not be reached for comment by publication time.
Dani Piquette-Kelly grew up in Southwest Harbor and attended Pemetic Elementary School and Mount Desert Island High School. She and her husband, Bill Kelly, have two children, Edmund, 8, who is in second grade at Pemetic, and Ollie, 5, who starts kindergarten there in the fall. She is self-employed as a gardener, a member of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and is organizing a renovation of the playground.
Piquette-Kelly said she decided to run for School Committee because she supports excellence in education and realizes the important role the school has in the community.
“I try to keep an open mind; I don’t have a specific agenda,” she said.
Piquette-Kelly said she is keenly aware of the impact the school budget has on property taxes and the effect on those on fixed incomes.
“I think you need to find a balance,” she said.
Piquette-Kelly said she attended School Committee meetings where the budget was discussed and knows how difficult it is to keep costs down. The committee, she said, has done a good job at doing just that.
“I don’t see any gold-plated hallways in that school,” she said.
Michael Sawyer could not be reached for comment by publication time. He has mounted several previous, unsuccessful runs for the School Committee, including a run last year. He represents the town on the high school Board of Trustees.