As term ends, Lewiston Mayor Gilbert reflects on his term

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Outgoing Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert and his wife Pat.

LEWISTON — It's ironic, Larry Gilbert said, that the mayor's job gets so much scrutiny.

In Lewiston, at least, the mayor's role is very limited. The mayor runs meetings and acts as the ceremonial head of the city.

But he doesn't get a vote or a say in the day-to-day running of the city.

"But the mayor gets all the attention. You have the mayoral debates and all that stuff, televised — and the mayor has no power," Gilbert said. "Because of that, people expect more from a mayor. You can't live up to the expectations people have about you because you just can't do it."

Gilbert said he's done his best to live up to people's expectations, fighting when he had to and cooperating when he could.

"The mayor doesn't have a lot of power, but he has a job to do and I took that very seriously," Gilbert said.

His term officially ends Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., when Mayor-elect Robert Macdonald and the 2012-13 City Council are sworn in. The council's inaugural ceremony will be held at the Franco-American Heritage Center.

Gilbert won his first mayoral election in 2007, while working for Maine Community Policing Institute. He'd already announced his plan to seek the job in fall 2006, planning to run when incumbent Lionel Guay reached his two-term limit.

"I just turned 62, and I knew that our funding was running down," Gilbert said. "I knew I could start over and start a new career. But I enjoy public service. This was my community, I raised my family here and I was serving on the Downtown Advisory Board. So I decided then, I was going to run."

Guay resigned a year before his term ended. Gilbert ran for and won that seat, taking the mayor's chair in 2007.

"When I campaign, I campaign hard," Gilbert said.

Norm Rousseau, councilor for Ward 7, ran for the same seat and he had a good deal of support from his council colleagues.

While Gilbert won that election, conflicts between him and the councilors made the last year of the term tough but memorable. They fought over making city appointments, creating a citizens committee to review the budget and privatizing or selling off the Colisee.

"It was unpleasant," Gilbert said. "But I persevered."

All seven councilors stepped down or lost their re-election bids in 2007, and Gilbert found himself sitting among a new group of councilors as 2008 began.

"And that group came in as a block," Gilbert said. "And then they started breaking off."

That group devolved into controversy as Gilbert and several councilors worked successfully to oust City Administrator Jim Bennett. Gilbert declined to discuss that issue.

The most recent council, which began serving in 2010, was much more to Gilbert's liking.

"They haven't always agreed on the issues, but everyone was respectful," he said. "Everyone was there to serve, not to serve themselves."

Gilbert gives much of the credit for the council's smooth sailing to City Administrator Ed Barrett. 

"For Ed, it's never been about him," Gilbert said. "He wasn't controlling, he gave us the information and let the council set the policy."

As far as Gilbert is concerned, he's the same mayor he was when he began serving.

"The same person, but the reaction is different," Gilbert said. "I haven't had to fight. When I see people doing something, violating the charter, I have a duty to speak up. When the council president says he's going to find a way to go around the mayor, I have to fight." 

Gilbert also ran for the State House District 71 seat in 2008, losing the June Democratic nomination to former Lewiston Fire Chief Michel Lajoie. Gilbert won't repeat that attempt, he said.

"It's time to enjoy my family," Gilbert said. He's looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Pat, and getting notes, letters and memorabilia from his career in order.

"I could not have done anything without her support," he said. "So now, we're looking forward to having more time for each other."

Look for him to get more involved in local charities and community efforts, he said. He'll work for some other political campaigns, if he's asked.

"And I've been noticing that some of the fire hydrants need painting," Gilbert said. "Maybe I can do that."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

"In Lewiston, at least, the

"In Lewiston, at least, the mayor's role is very limited. The mayor runs meetings and acts as the ceremonial head of the city.

But he doesn't get a vote or a say in the day-to-day running of the city." This makes me feel a lot better about Bob MacDonald....there will be a lot of bark but no bite.

 's picture

Change

It might be more interesting to change the City Charter and give the Mayor a VOTE so that he/she can be more responsive to the people and follow through on what he/she would like to see done. It might be a good thing. Regarding the Mayor vs. the City Manager, if you check the background of these people you will find that the Manager is better trained in the overview of all depts and collecting data, then reporting his finding to the council for their approval. The two jobs really are different and should not be combined ever.

David Marsters's picture

Mayor

If the Mayor of Lewiston has no no say in running the city, why pay him and an administrator? Eliminate the mayor position and save the money.

 's picture

LMAO

Every time I read your post Danny boy I bust out laughing, cause you are so uninformed. County Commissioners collecting fat salaries. HaHaHa. What a joke. You are something.

Larry T. Doughty's picture

Mayor Gilbert's leaving

Always good to read about Bangor's former City Manager, Ed Barrett. Ed did an excellent job in managing Bangor. Very unwise move by a few City Councilor's brought Ed's journey to an end, however, it also brought an end to a couple of Councilor's terms,just a few months ago.

Lewiston's major gain, and Bangor's huge loss.

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