Auburn City Council, at-large, Belinda Gerry, R. Wayne Werts and David Young

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Belinda Gerry

Bio

Name: Belinda A. Gerry

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Office sought: Auburn City Councilor, at-large.

Occupation: notary public

Education: high school equivalency and some elective, noncredit college/educational and self-improvement courses

Family: Five really good nieces and nephews, my very dear friends, and my Auburn neighbors/residents, not to mention Pep E, my mischievous and comical 3-year-old Beagle mix.

Political experience: Auburn City Councilor, Androscoggin County Budget Committee, former 3-term state legislator representing Auburn and have volunteered for many election campaigns, from local races to presidential. 

Questions

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat?

I have the experience and time to give full attention to my councilor responsibilities. I enjoy talking or meeting with anyone who has ideas, or needs help with anything. If I don’t have the answers, I always get back to them when I do. I’ve built a solid history of being accessible, approachable, and a good listener of people have to say about how we can improve the city/operations and save money. I will always listen carefully to everyone and am one of those unusual political people who can actually admit when I’m wrong based on new information. 

2. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why?

The consolidation is the biggest threat for Auburn’s future. Auburn’s 150th anniversary is coming up shortly. A merger will make our government bigger, more remote for most people, harder to be heard and get needs met. Consolidation may look good on paper but the outcome will be different than expected when you consider the people factor and implementation. It removes the current checks and balances in place for joint economic efforts and gives more clout to special interests/organizations (and possibly Lewiston). All that Auburn has set in motion — city/neighborhood groups, and neighborhood schools — will take a back seat or vanish. 

3. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

I liked that it provided more funds to make infrastructure/road improvements, bike lanes and community gardens. More funding and matching funds from various resources were set aside to encourage economic development. Money was also given for the Auburn Senior Community Center, which allows Auburn seniors a place to call their own. I disliked that the council didn’t really work the city’s budget as they have in previous years. There wasn’t an overall budget target for departments to come in under or at least meet, and more staff was hired. I feel that this year’s mil rate should have been lower and more tax relief given.

4. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region?

Quit trying to compete with Portland … enhance and capitalize on Auburn’s current assets. We used to do this in the past. Businesses were drawn to us for our uniqueness/potential, our workers’ ethics, and for what our local businesses had to offer. We need to get back to helping our current business and new start-up businesses grow. To attract people to Auburn our ward groups are vital in make our neighborhoods more inviting, safer, and attractive to live in, and to improve our educational system. We also need weekly/monthly and year-round events Auburn residents and visitors can plan on, and publicize them better.

5. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn?

No merger/consolidation. I’m a founding member of the No Merger Group, COLAC. This idea is being generated not from L/A citizens but by a small group that includes some of the wealthiest people/developers in town. They are spending tons of money to railroad this through. I like these people, but don’t share their blind ambition toward making us one big city. Lewiston has very different issues from Auburn’s. Let’s continue to allow the two communities to govern in their own special way. Lewiston is much bigger. The merger amounts to a Lewiston takeover, politically. 

Russell Wayne Werts

Bio

Name: Russell Wayne Werts

Office sought: Auburn City Councilor, at-large

Occupation: assistant director, Atlantic Partners EMS

Education: Associates degree

Family: wife

Political experience: served in the 126th Legislature

Questions

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat?

Spending 33 years in municipal government with the fire service for the city of Auburn, including the last nine years as its chief, gave me a seasoned perspective on municipal operations and management. Creating budgets that perform while maintaining services is always a challenge, but is also rewarding. I also have the perspective from the state level on communication with local communities and, in reverse, communicating with our state representatives. The city of Auburn has been good to me and my wife and what better way to give back? 

2. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why?

The ability to attract new business and working families to our area. Understanding what attracts them and forming a comprehensive strategy to do this in a controlled fashion is extremely important. All forms of requirements for this need to be on the table, as well as all forms of process, alliances, and common goals of the community. We need to have growth to support us, but growth also needs to be measured, sustainable, and meet the community’s needs. 

3. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

Not having been intimately involved with the formulation of this year’s budget, I can only make observed comments. I think overall, the sitting council did an okay job with it. The communication between school and city still needs some work. Communication with the state, although not always successful, needs more attention. I get concerned about short-term savings that will cause long-term issues, and would want to take a very hard look at those types of decisions. As always, there are those who want more cuts and those who want less. Finding the balance is key, while insisting on transparency.

4. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region?

As stated before, a strategy needs to be formed, but not in a vacuum. All stakeholders should be involved from within and around the community. Best practices need to be researched, so fresh ideas do not have to be built from scratch, but can be refined to fit our needs. Absolute upfront communication about our area is a must, and should be developed with quantifiable, positive data, and have the ability to showcase the region, as well as our community. 

5. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn?

I have not been convinced either way as of yet. I have read the report twice and I continue to research data looking for information, best practices, etc., before I make my decision. I certainly think there are pros and cons to this. My major concern is that no matter what way the vote goes, as a city councilor, my job will be to govern in the direction the voters have said they wanted, and not ignore or try to change the outcome, as is done at the state and federal levels of our government. We cannot allow that type of dysfunction to leak to the level of local government.

David C. Young

Bio

Name: David C. Young

Office sought: Auburn City Councilor, at-large

Occupation: retired teacher, and a machine operator at Pioneer Plastic in Auburn for the past 20 years.

Education: University of Maine in Farmington, bachelor of science in education

Family: wife, Betty Keene Young of over 40 years, and two daughters, Amy Young and Caroline Young Coffin, both of Auburn. I have grandchildren, Edith, Mary, John, and one more on the way next month. Also a son-in-law, Dana M. Y. Coffin of Auburn. 

Political experience: Auburn School Committee, 10 years, and Auburn City Council since January 2009. 

Questions

1. Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat?

I am competent to do the job as one of the two Auburn City Councilors at-large for the following reasons:  I have been an Auburn City Councilor since January 2009. I have been a voting member of the Auburn School Committee for 10 years, and was elected to serve both the City Council and the School Committee for the same four year period. I am team player. I will be an asset to the Auburn City Council for the next 2 years.  

2. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing your city? Why?

Other than the biggest issue of the merger, which does not now look like it will pass, we need to continue to find ways to grow our tax base if we want to have a strong voice in Augusta, keep people here, and also attract people from everywhere to move here. Having two different options has to be a better plan than just one. 

3. What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

This is a difficult question because I was not ready to pass this year’s budget, so I voted against it. Many times we need to be careful of the debt we are loading up on the taxpayers. Having said that, I will support the budget as it stands. The good move was our support of the Auburn School Budget, with the agreement that any extra funding from the state be used for tax relief for the 2017-2018 budget. The school committee wanted to use it for future tax relief, but that was not what the City Council and the voters agreed to in the vote in June.

4. What is the best way for your city to boost economic development and its attraction to people from outside the region?

This is a great question — it is going on now. Things do not happen as fast as (people) would like. We have to ask the question, are we working for our goal or against our goal? I would say a better measurement of our growth is needed. 

5. Do you support the merger of Lewiston and Auburn?

The question of the merger is not the answer. If it is the will of the people, we will find a way to make it work, but it is not what the people want. The merger is a plan that most people feel comes with more costs than savings. The people I talk to are coming here to get away from Portland. Yes, they are still working in Portland, but there are not looking to move to “another Portland.” We would do better to look at Auburn and Lewiston as two different options for Portland workers to live and play here. 

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