Seven local residents, including one incumbent city councilor, are running this year for three seats on the council. Each person who is elected to the City Council this year will serve a three-year term that expires in 2025.
The candidates are Michelle Beal, John Linnehan, Bob Miller, Tammy Mote, Kristen Schlaefer, Jon Stein and Gordon Workman.
Beal and Mote, both in their 50s, are former longtime Ellsworth city administrators who now both hold administrative positions with Bangor law firm Rudman Winchell.
Linnehan, 74, is a longtime local businessman and a controversial conservative activist who has run for public office several times. Linnehan also is running in a separate race this fall for the state Legislature against Democrat Mark Worth.
Miller, 57, is a pharmacist and incumbent city councilor, having first run and been elected in 2019. Stein, 34, owns and operates Fogtown Brewing in Ellsworth. Schlaefer, 35, is a financial analyst, and Workman, 61, is self-employed as a building contractor.
This is the first time Beal, Mote, Schlaefer, Stein or Workman have run for public office.
Beal, Mote and Workman each have said that Ellsworth needs to diversify its economy, which for decades had been dominated by the retail sector. More biomedical science entities such as The Jackson Laboratory, manufacturing firms and financial services were among the sectors they cited.
Stein voiced support for drawing more people to the city through events and festivals, and making the city more appealing to young working families and entrepreneurs by supporting the schools and developing more affordable housing. Miller also cited the schools and workforce training as important to business development, while Mote said the city would benefit economically by attracting more young people and families.
Miller and Schlaefer each said more needs to be done to boost broadband internet availability in Ellsworth.
Linnehan has said government is an obstacle to business development. He has said Ellsworth is “over-regulated” and that the city budget should be cut by 5 percent. Workman also has said that the city should have fewer restrictions in its building codes to boost development.
Schalefer, like Linnehan, has said taxes are “too high,” while the other candidates have said that taxes need to be kept in check so that the city remains affordable.
“There are consequences to continuously cutting the budget and public services, especially when the cuts are arbitrary,” said Michelle Beal, who served as Ellsworth’s city manager from 2007 to 2015. “There needs to be a balance.”
Stein and Miller both said that the city should regularly pursue state and federal grants to help reduce the burden on city taxpayers, but Workman said such grants sometimes come with “golden handcuffs” that hamper development.
Miller also said Ellsworth “needs to ensure large corporations pay their fair share of taxes” — an apparent reference to Walmart’s consistent efforts to reduce its local property tax bill.
Infrastructure and planning
Workman, Schlaefer, Mote, Miller and Beal each said the city’s roads and the network of subsurface pipes that direct stormwater, drinking water and wastewater through the city all need urgent upgrades. Stein has said infrastructure maintenance is essential to business development.
Linnehan has not cited infrastructure improvements or developing city-wide development plans as things the city should pursue.
Other candidates have said advance planning for the city’s needs is important, but vary on to what extent such planning has been pursued. Miller, the incumbent, said the council is “looking ahead at capital projects, finding out what our large expenses will be in the future, and planning for them now.”
Schlaefer said there has been “a general lack of planning” in all aspects of city government and that Ellsworth needs to strategize on infrastructure improvements before further substantial development occurs in the city.
“We already cannot handle the influx of visitors coming into and through our city each year,” Schlaefer said. “We cannot continue to put the cart before the horse.”
Stein said the city desperately needs to plan ahead for capital improvements and that it needs to update its comprehensive plan, which is required by the state in order for the city to qualify for infrastructure funding assistance. The last time the city updated its comprehensive plan was in 2004.
“We’re playing budgetary whack-a-mole with any issue that seems most pressing at any given time,” Stein said.
Stein, Workman and Miller each said that the city should continue to protect local natural resources and public access to green spaces. The same three candidates also have expressed support for establishing a city-run ambulance service, rather than relying on Northern Light to respond to local emergency medical calls.
At an Oct. 18 candidates’ forum held at The Grand Auditorium, Linnehan said the city should put out a request for bids and should contract with a private ambulance firm to provide the service to local residents. Beal and Mote each said they would want to learn more about the issue, and the projected costs in particular, before deciding whether to support a city-run EMS service.
Another topic city officials have been researching in the past year is whether to set standards for mooring houseboats in bodies of water in Ellsworth The issue first arose in 2020 after shorefront property owners complained to city officials about people using a houseboat on Green Lake.
Schlaefer and Workman both said they do not think the city should consider setting restrictions for the use of houseboats on local lakes or rivers, while Stein, Miller and Beal have said the city should. Linnehan and Mote have not weighed in on the topic.
For voters not casting absentee ballots, the city’s polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8.