Meet the Bar Harbor Town Council candidates



Stephen Coston

Stephen Coston

Work and town government experience: Co-owner, Inn on Mount Desert; Partner, Coston, McIsaac & Shea Investment Advisors; Owner, Primrose Inn; current Town Council member

What do you value about Bar Harbor? Bar Harbor offers its residents an extremely rare blend of idyllic small-town living and substantial economic opportunity. For three generations, my family has been able to start and build successful small businesses across several different industries right here in this town. I am incredibly grateful that my family and I have been able to realize such opportunities over the past seven decades, and it is of the utmost importance to me that I do everything I can to ensure that such opportunities continue to be available to all those who wish to pursue them.

What are your concerns for the town? How should they be addressed? Long term, I believe Bar Harbor has a wonderful future ahead of it, but right now our community faces one of the most difficult times in its history. Our economy has effectively been legislated to a standstill, and it is unclear exactly when and to what extent it will bounce back. I had already been concerned about the degree of taxation and bureaucracy that our townspeople are subjected to, and the current crisis has only magnified these concerns.

If we expect Bar Harbor to revive its economy today and thrive tomorrow, then we will need to make responsible fiscal choices and reduce the number of hoops one must jump through to start a business or develop affordable housing. I feel I have consistently demonstrated fiscal responsibility during my time on Council, and I feel I have the experience and the background necessary to help our town focus on the important work that needs to be done to ensure we come out of this current challenge as successfully as possible.

What is your vision for the future of Bar Harbor? I would like to see our Town Council focus on doing all it can to empower citizens and business owners to get back on their feet.

Once we’ve achieved that, then we must refocus on finding ways to enhance our town while at the same time keeping a close eye on the budget. We will need to continue exploring non-property tax revenue sources, and reduce unnecessary zoning and policy constraints so that we can create housing opportunities and attract young families and entrepreneurs.

Doing this will help us expand our economy and our tax base, making Bar Harbor more affordable for all. I will continue to fight to reduce red tape, to defend your property rights, to keep a close eye on the budget, and to do all that I can to ensure that people who grow up here can and want to stick around and contribute to our community.

Erin Cough

Erin Cough

Work and town government experience: Branch Office Administrator at Edward Jones; current Town Council and Parking Solutions Task Force member, previously a member of Design Review Board, Parking & Traffic Committee, and Warrant Committee

What do you value about Bar Harbor? I value how people come together to support each other, as well as the tenacity and spirit of the community as a whole.

What are your concerns for the town? How should they be addressed? Housing inventory, shrinking job opportunities, and raising property taxes are among my primary concerns. While we are currently addressing some of these issues, there is more to do. We need to encourage innovative businesses that will pay a wage that enables home ownership. By diversifying our housing inventory, we will be able to have family homes, as well as 1-2 bedroom apartments and larger residences. This approach will create a broader tax base, so we all would pay less in property taxes.

What is your vision for the future of Bar Harbor? By encouraging new types of businesses and housing in Bar Harbor, I see an engaged, stronger year-round community that values and appreciates the outstanding quality of life we have to offer.

Kevin DesVeaux

Kevin DesVeaux

Work and town government experience: Owner/operator, West Street Cafe; Zoning Advisory Group member

What do you value about Bar Harbor? I love the small town feel and lack of anonymity. In one square mile you can eat out, shop, bank, get groceries, go to the hardware store, buy stamps, have your gallbladder removed and get your hair cut!

What are your concerns for the town? How should they be addressed? Bar Harbor has a communication bias problem. “My way or the highway” is completely unhelpful. Life is not as simple as black and white or red and blue. Life is the grey area. The grey area is where things get done.

I grew up in the era of Bill Cohen and George Mitchell and bipartisanship. I will work hard to listen to and balance both the residential and business communities’ needs. I will do this because we need each other.

What is your vision for the future of Bar Harbor? I would love to see Bar Harbor to continue to thrive as a premium sustainable resort destination. The success of A Climate To Thrive is proof that we in the business community want to do our part! However, finding that elusive balance between those wanting Bar Harbor to become a retirement community and others pushing the sky’s the limit will be more difficult.

I am encouraged by the smart, progressive ideas and work of the Planning Office and Planning Board over the past year in addressing the affordable housing crisis.

I would also love to see us revisit the idea of a parking garage in the downtown area.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Work and town government experience: Retired RN, MDI Hospital; Government Relations director, The Jackson Laboratory, 2003-2013; state senator 1994-2002; current Town Council member (interim appointment), formerly served nine years on the council.

What do you value about Bar Harbor? It’s a community with a diverse mix of people: health care providers, fishermen, businesspeople, world-class scientists, teachers, artists and retirees. It is possible to know and maintain friendships with people of many different backgrounds and points of view. And it’s a beautiful place to spend peaceful time outdoors.

What are your concerns for the town? How should they be addressed? Number one is housing. One out of every three Bar Harbor homes is a second home. One of every seven is a vacation rental. The market for those has made year-round homes unaffordable. Vacation rentals are a great way for a resident family to afford to live here but as a business venture with multiple units owned by non-residents they are eroding our year-round community and our school population.

Number two is diversifying the economy so that we are not entirely tourism dependent. We are seeing the downside of that this year. Our scenic beauty will always be a tourist draw but we need to make Bar Harbor more of a livable, year-round community, not one where we end each summer exhausted and overwhelmed.

What is your vision for the future of Bar Harbor? A Bar Harbor that is a better-balanced community with more year-round economic opportunity and more affordable housing so our young people can stay and start a family here, the local workforce can live here, and year-round businesses can survive. A Bar Harbor with a diversity of ages, occupations, income levels, and backgrounds, with a thriving commercial fishing industry.

 

Val Peacock

Val Peacock

Work and town government experience: Education consultant with Rural Aspirations Project; current Harbor Committee member, served on the Ferry Terminal Property Advisory Committee

What do you value about Bar Harbor? I like the layers of Bar Harbor. The heart, for me, is the ocean and working waterfront. I appreciate the entrepreneurship and welcome mat represented by our downtown businesses surrounded by our community centers such as the schools, library, YMCA, YWCA, and churches feed us both in body and mind. We have the nonprofit cornerstones of COA, MDIBL and Jackson Lab. And, I love our more rural villages like Town Hill and Salisbury Cove, small farms and businesses on side roads, local swimming spots, homemade pies and dooryards full of fishing gear. I value the interconnectedness of the people and the places that make up Bar Harbor.

What are your concerns for the town? How should they be addressed? I am concerned about how polarized the world, including Bar Harbor, is becoming. We are losing our ability to find win-win situations by listening, hashing things through, and actively searching for common ground.

We might not even realize how our systems and structures make it intimidating or hard to participate such as the times that meetings are scheduled and the one-way nature and tone of public hearings. For example, the Land Use changes suggested on the current ballot are hard to understand, both for their technical language and for their implications.

I think we have a responsibility to make the work accessible and to actively engage a broad range of stakeholders. We have to stop saying, “People had their chance to have a say,” and start asking, “Why didn’t more people participate?”

What is your vision for the future of Bar Harbor? My vision is a Bar Harbor that is balanced and resilient, where folks feel like they belong and they are heard.

To quote Margaret Wheatley, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

 

Christopher Strout

Christopher Strout

Work and town government experience: Owner, Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding; Charter Commission member

What do you value about Bar Harbor? When I moved to Bar Harbor almost 20 years ago I was still a college student in environmental science and looking for a way to share my passion for the natural world with others and make a living doing it. I found the close-knit community, the economic opportunity and the proximity to the national park as the ideal way to realize those dreams.

Over time Bar Harbor became more than just the place I lived and worked but the place that felt like home. The only way that happens is when you begin to feel kinship with others. I have also come to deeply value the diversity we have here and the ways in which we truly embrace it as I feel it’s part of what makes our town so vibrant.

What are your concerns for the town? How should they be addressed? I am concerned about our housing situation. We need a solid, well-thought-out solution to provide access to affordable year-round housing as well as a way to ensure that our seasonal worker needs are met. Our LUZO is cumbersome, overly restrictive, and a huge impediment to this. We need a way to make it easier to enact changes.

I’m also a firm believer in fiscal responsibility. I think the town should continue to explore ways in which we can use non-tax revenues to lower the tax burden of our small population while also making smart budget decisions.

What is your vision for the future of Bar Harbor? My vision of Bar Harbor in the future is a town that is able to better support the needs of a year-round community while continuing to allow for Bar Harbor to be the economic engine of the area.

We need to look forward to how Bar Harbor can continue to be a place that works, whether your goal is to raise a family, start a business or retire.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.