Rick Fournier has been civically involved in Bangor for decades, and now he will lead the nine-member council of Maine’s third-largest city over the next year.
Fournier, 62, was elected as chair by his fellow councilors unanimously on Monday after serving on the council since 2019. He is also newly retired, serving his last day as a vice president of Bangor Savings Bank only days before his election as chair.
Along with his decades-long career in banking, he has become familiar to residents due to his years chairing the Bangor Planning Board and Bangor Water District. He has also played prominent roles on the boards of the Bangor YMCA, Maine Discovery Museum and American Folk Festival.
Growing up in Cape Elizabeth, he began working in banking in 1984 after graduating from the University of Maine with a finance focus. Starting as a teller, he worked his way to being a commercial loan officer in the late 1980s. He continued to serve in that role until his retirement last week.
Comparing that job to his new role as council chair, he said he planned for he and the rest of the council to provide guidance to city staff on how to operate and to make sure they looked at all available options before making decisions.
“I want them to bring items up so that we can then make more of a global decision if you will,” Fournier said. “It’s really about collaboration and getting a good understanding of what these issues are.”
While he didn’t have a specific inclination to be in government, his role within the community ultimately led him to run for council in 2019 after being asked several times before. After a few years on the council, he saw becoming chair of the council as a natural progression.
“To me, it’s all about Bangor and how we can create a better Bangor,” Fournier said.
One of his most significant priorities in the future is expanding broadband internet in Bangor. He has already done some work while leading the Business Economic Development Committee in the past year.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent numerous Bangor residents out of the workplace and into virtual home offices, he said digital infrastructure is more important than ever.
“At this point, it’s like water and sewer,” Fournier said. “Broadband has become such a critical thing.”
Other priorities include hiring a new city manager to replace Cathy Conlow, who left after more than a decade on the job earlier this year to become the new executive director of the Maine Municipal Association. The hope is to fill that spot by the end of the year, Fournier said.
There is also the $20 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the federal government that the city will need to spend, along with addressing Bangor’s homelessness problem. It’s a topic that dominated Bangor’s city council race and one that Fournier specifically addressed in his opening speech as chair.
“There’s no silver bullet,” Fournier said. “But you’ve got to pull together as a community to figure this out.”
Fournier said he would gain inspiration from a number of his past roles. One thing he enjoyed about the Water District was that it needed to plan 20-30 years ahead. Such long-term thinking, along with short-term goals, is necessary for the city to move forward, he said.
He was spending one of his first days of retirement on Friday working in his garden. He wants a better crop for next year, he said.
As he looks to take the reins of a city he has played various roles in for decades, he said trying to develop Bangor economically wasn’t so different from his role at Bangor Savings Bank.
“We’re not going to bring a Fortune 500 company to relocate to Bangor,” Fournier said. “But it’s all the nurturing that we need to do with our current businesses. That will have a permanent effect on where Bangor goes in the future.”