Franco leader Lionel Guay wants to bring his leadership style to City Hall.

LEWISTON – The city’s mayoral race began Wednesday with the announcement of its first candidate, Lionel Guay.

A force behind the Festival de Joie and the Franco American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s, Guay wants to help bring his leadership to city government, he said.

“I want to expand on the culture and heritage of the city, and not just for the Francos,” Guay said. “I can pull people together.”

Guay announced his candidacy on the steps of Lewiston City Hall, joined by about 40 supporters. Among them were current Mayor Larry Raymond, former Mayor James Howaniec and his brother, Auburn Mayor Normand Guay.

“I guess I am kind of responsible for this,” Normand Guay said. “I encouraged him. He’s done so much for the community. This is really the next step for him.”

Though the election is still five months away, the new candidate timed his announcement to ensure that he would be the first in the race.

No one else has stepped forward yet. Former state legislator Stavros Mendros began a “maybe” candidacy on Monday, issuing a statement that he is considering a run. He has formed an exploratory committee and has begun talking to locals.

There will likely be others, Lionel Guay said. He’s preparing.

“It’s going to be a long campaign,” he said. “I’m going to start slow and low-key.”

He has begun forming a campaign committee, led by Paul and Rita Dube. He is also planning to attend area gatherings, meeting as many people as possible.

His message will be continued progress, building on business and nonprofit expansions in the city.

In his City Hall speech, Guay spoke about the new cardiac unit at Central Maine Medical Center, the Lisbon Street courthouse project and the lights of Saints Peter and Paul Church as symbols of city progress.

He wants to maintain the marketing of the Bates Mill, eliminate blight and lower taxes.

“Lewiston is on the move,” he said, co-opting former Gov. Angus King’s “Maine is on the move” slogan.

If elected, Guay said he would follow the policies of current Mayor Raymond, who stood beside Guay as he read his announcement address.

“I don’t think he’ll differ that much at all,” Raymond said. “He has the same goals and the same agenda.”

However, Raymond, who announced last week he would not seek re-election, has been characterized by some as an absentee mayor. He came under particular fire in January, when he vacationed in Florida as white supremacists and their opponents marched in Lewiston.

Guay said he would be more available.

“Whenever the mayor of the city is needed I will be there,” he said.

If elected, Guay said he plans to loosen his work schedule and make the time to serve. The 62-year-old Lewiston native runs an accounting firm on East Avenue.

He also serves as president of the Franco American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s and the Festival de Joie, all busy activities. None will suffer, he vowed.

“The secret is you need to surround yourself with the best possible people,” Guay said. “They make my work possible.”

Besides, being the mayor is not a full-time job.

Guay said he agreed with Raymond’s assertion that the City Council and the mayor are comparable to a company’s board of directors and CEO. Daily operations are up to administrators and staff. The elected officials are the policymakers.

It’s a lesson he also learned from his brother, Auburn’s mayor since January.

If he’s elected, Lionel Guay said the “sister cities” of Lewiston and Auburn would have to call themselves the “brother cities.”

Normand Guay agreed. The cities would be closer than ever, he said. And squabbles would be resolved quickly.

“We’ve had a lifetime of resolving conflicts,” Normand Guay said.

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