A sing for Millinocket. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

MILLINOCKET, Maine — Voters chose a newcomer to fill an open seat on Millinocket’s Town Council and approved the 2024 school budget during Tuesday’s election.

As part of the town’s special municipal election, there was a council seat left unfilled after Steve Golieb, who has served as a councilor since 2017 including two years as chairperson, resigned in March to focus on his new business. The term expires in November 2024.

Tammy McLaughlin received 234 votes for the town council, according to unofficial results provided by Town Clerk Diana Lakeman on Tuesday night.

The other candidates were Jimmy Busque with 83 votes; Richard W. Angotti Jr. with 69 votes; and Gilda Stratton with 11 votes. There were no write-in candidates.

Millinocket voters cast 399 ballots in Tuesday’s municipal election and 397 votes for the school budget validation referendum, unofficial results show. Voter traffic was slow in the morning, though it picked up throughout the day and more people came out than expected, Lakeman said just before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

McLaughlin is a lifelong Millinocket resident and raised her kids there. She spent the last 26 years as a bookkeeper for Millinocket School Department’s central office and secretary at Stearns Junior-Senior High School. Before that, she worked at a bank for 10 years.

In a Q&A video for candidates, McLaughlin highlighted her financial knowledge and involvement with her church, where she has served as treasurer and in other leadership roles. She’d like to see the relationship between the town and the school improve, she said.

“I think I can bring a new perspective,” she said. “I’ve never done this before. I’m very open to new ideas and ways of doing things.”

Golieb stepped away from the council to focus on Chiron Farms, a new business that he and his fiancee operate in Chester, he said.

The council spurred significant change during the years when he was involved, sometimes making difficult decisions, such as firing its former manager, John Davis, and former police chief Craig Worster, and disbanding the police department in 2020. Those moves pushed Millinocket in a positive direction, Golieb said.

“We challenged the idea that [our town in] rural Maine doesn’t need to follow the same destiny as other rural towns, where young people leave and the economy goes downward,” he said. “We’ve proven that by thinking differently and building our community back up.”

Of the four candidates who ran to fill the open seat, only McLaughlin can move the town forward, Golieb said Tuesday afternoon before the polls closed. He saw McLaughlin’s open mindedness and role within the school system as assets.

Voters also approved the Millinocket School Department’s budget for the upcoming school year, which was $7,898,255.11, an increase of about 4 percent. The fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2024.

The Millinocket Town Council adopted the budget during a meeting May 11.

In the referendum, 275 voters approved the budget, while 119 voted it down, and three ballots were left blank, according to unofficial results.

A second question on the ballot asked voters if they wished to continue the budget validation referendum process for another three years. It drew 286 votes in favor, 99 against and 12 blank ballots, unofficial results show.