LEWISTON — People are angry, and mayoral candidate Mark Paradis understands that.
"But the question is how are we going to deal with that anger, and how do we understand what it's all about?" Paradis said. "And it comes down to, what can we do about it?"
Paradis said he's the man to help generate some of those answers — with a level head, common sense and a few years' experience — if voters choose him at the Dec. 13 runoff election.
"There are things a mayor can do, and one of those is lead," Paradis said. "I don't have all the answers, but I know we can figure it all out if we work together."
Paradis has a 14-year history in Lewiston government. He joined the Planning Board in 1997, serving four years. He ran for and won the City Council seat in Ward 6 and served there from 2002 to 2007.
He opted to run for mayor in 2009, losing to Larry Gilbert.
Paradis said it was a desire to serve that led him to volunteer for the city's Planning Board in the first place.
"It's just something that I enjoy," he said. "That cliche that one person can make a difference, it's true. Not as one standing up on a Moxie case and doing a testimonial or whatever. But being able to work with others to make things happen and pass the straight-face test. That's us. It's just a matter of working together."
Councilors made some controversial decisions during the years he served: purchasing the Colisee; promoting the Heritage Initiative, a massive downtown redevelopment project that was eventually scrapped; and creating a storm runoff fee to help pay for federally required storm-sewer work.
But Paradis said the city has gotten it right more often than not. He points to efforts to bring in the Wal-Mart Distribution Center at Exit 80 and work to redevelop the Bates Mill complex.
"I was fortunate from the get-go that I did not have an agenda," he said. "I wasn't going to go in and clear out City Hall and reinvent the wheel. My goal was to do two things: Maintain the tax level at a rate we could afford and maintain the service level. This is where the pro-activity of the council came in."
These are the kinds of things councilors will have to do in the next two years. It will be easier to do if they can work together, not divide up into opposing camps, he said.
Paradis has described himself as a maestro, leading the City Council orchestra.
"Do I know how I'm going to do it? Do I have all the solutions right now? No, I don't," Paradis said. "We have seven policymakers, and I'm sure they all have a little wish list. They are the policymakers. I'm not."
But Paradis said he wants to promote economic development using every tool in the city's arsenal — from state and federal grants and loans to city property tax incentives, such as tax increment finance districts.
He'd like to promote education as well, especially alternatives for those not ready for college.
"One part that hurts us is that we don't have the job base for unskilled workers that we used to," he said. "We need to give people a hands-on education for jobs that are technical. As council and mayor, I'm not sure what we can do about it."
The goal is to bring in new business and promote job growth in the city. That will promote redevelopment of the downtown and help change the city's image.
"People are angry, but we can't be angry on the council," Paradis said. "I want to promote civility and compassion, and that's what we'll need if we want to change anything. We can't fight amongst ourselves before we get down to fixing things. We need to start fixing them right from the start."