Citizens vent about council politics

LEWISTON — About 60 people gathered in a Ramada Inn conference room Wednesday to complain about city politics and the City Council, to look over potential council candidates for the November election and to organize.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Mark Paradis announces during a forum held at the Ramada Conference Center on Wednesday that he will run for mayor of Lewiston.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Nick Knowlton of Lewiston tells citizens at a forum held at the Ramada Conference Center on Wednesday that he will not run for mayor of Lewiston.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Norman Boulay of Lewiston signs a petition to nominate Mark Paradis as a mayoral candidate at a citizen forum held at the Ramada Conference Center in Lewiston on Wednesday.

"We're venting tonight, and that's what we need to do," said Mark Paradis, candidate for mayor. "That's OK. But we also have to find a way to tell the citizens and the city employees that we can really have a responsible council and mayor without all the chair slamming and the walking out of the room."

The meeting was part candidate rally, part town hall, part organizational meeting. People listened to City Council President Tom Peters, several former councilors and possible candidates talk about ousting Mayor Larry Gilbert and the whole City Council.

They signed petitions urging the sitting council not to hire a new city administrator. Peters said he planned to make it an issue at the council's next meeting Aug. 18.

"I hope we get a lot of people to show up and urge the council to do the right thing, and put off a decision," he said. "Then, I guess we'll see what they do."

Peters and his brother, Ward 2 Councilor Nelson Peters, cast the only two votes last month against firing City Administrator Jim Bennett. Both of them voted against buying out Bennett's contract.

Tom Peters defended Bennett on Wednesday, saying he was a good administrator who had been treated unfairly by councilors. But Wednesday's meeting was not designed to find a way to rehire Bennett.

"That's a decision that neither I nor any of the sitting councilors should make," Peters said. "It should be something left up to the next council, whether it's the incumbents or new people."

Tom Peters has said he won't run again for his Ward 1 seat. Nelson Peters is circulating nomination papers. But Wednesday he said he'd decided not to run after all. He threw his support behind former Ward 2 Councilor Renee Bernier.

Bernier stepped down from the council two years ago because she could not work with Mayor Larry Gilbert, she said. She'll be happy to come back to the council because she's sure Gilbert will be gone after the election.

"There is no doubt in my mind now that we will have a new mayor," Bernier said. "There just was no working with that individual before. He made everything very, very difficult."

Local performer Nick Knowlton said he has taken out nomination papers to seek the mayor's job. During the meeting, Knowlton said he instead would throw support behind Paradis, a former city councilor.

That disappointed a number of his fans, and Knowlton said he was reconsidering running.

"I don't have anything against Mark," Knowlton said. "I just think that the person in the mayor's job needs to be a great cheerleader, and I'd be a great cheerleader. I'm not interested in being a legislator."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Robert61 -- some unsolicited

Robert61 -- some unsolicited advice: 1. You should consider refraining from commenting on almost every post; it weakens your opinion. 2. Posting as much as you do makes it appear that you take most of these comments personally, which is not a good trait for an elected official. 3. True leaders spend more time listening than they do talking; sometimes followers (voters, employees, etc.) just want to vent or be heard.

 's picture

In the world of city and

In the world of city and county managers, no egregious behavior is necessary -- just a majority of council votes. In my 25+ years of local and state government service, I've seen "at will" leaders fired due to the wind direction, and I've seen others do things that make you wonder why they're still on the job. However, it has gotten much better over the past few decades, but the average tenure of a city/county manager is still less than 5 years.

 's picture

In the world of city and

In the world of city and county managers, no egregious behavior is necessary -- just a majority of council votes. In my 25+ years of local and state government service, I've seen "at will" leaders fired due to the wind direction, and I've seen others do things that make you wonder why they're still on the job. However, it has gotten much better over the past few decades, but the average tenure of a city/county manager is still less than 5 years.

 's picture

The people at this meeting

The people at this meeting expressed themselves very well. It is time for a new beginning, and this council and Larry Gilbert need to go. We need a mayor with no agenda and no personal political stake. If a person wants to be in the legislature, or be governor, then he/she should run for that office. Also, lame duck councilors with only a few months to serve should not be saddling a new council with an administrator. Let the new council pick the new administrator and be in charge of their own fresh start. Hopefully, the new council, and the new mayor, will realize that it is not their job to micromanage the city and they will carefully weigh their choice of an administrator with that fact in mind. They need to examine the past record very carefully and see if the candidates words compliment the actions. The new council needs to carefully set and arrange its priorities and then allow the new administrator to implement the policies and manage the day to day activities without interference from council members. Towns and cities often make mistakes in governing, but the biggest mistake is in not carefully reviewing the methods of operation od a potential administrator. Hiring the correct person is paramount, and then understanding the role of a council after hiring is very very important. So bottom line, Tom Peters has it correct. Please say goodbye to this council and mayor and let them fade into the sunset. I hope the current council members, those that voted to remove the administrator, will fade away and at last put the people of Lewiston first.

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