BIDDEFORD (AP) – The retired four-star general who took office last month as this blue-collar city’s first Republican mayor in 40 years says he never expected to be elected.

Wallace Nutting’s party affiliation was at odds with that of most voters in this Democratic stronghold and he helped lead a movement in favor of Biddeford Pool’s secession from the city in the late 1990s.

A model of military bearing at age 75, Nutting said he became a candidate for various reasons, including a concern about coastal property taxes and a desire to improve the city’s reputation.

He said he hopes to change what he perceives as a negative image of Biddeford in other parts of Maine.

“I’m getting tired of living in a town that’s the butt of jokes around the state,” he said.

A native of Saco, the West Point graduate was twice wounded in Korea, where he was awarded the Silver Star. He put in three tours in Vietnam and, after becoming a general, commanded the Army’s 3rd Armored Division in Germany and the U.S. Southern Command.

After a 35-year Army career, he and his wife Jane bought a retirement home in Biddeford Pool in 1985.

But the couple’s golden years were shattered in 1991 when he was indicted for allegedly selling defective munitions to the Army while working for a Florida defense contractor after his retirement.

After a six-month trial, Nutting was acquitted. But the charges, which he likens to treason, still rankle him.

“It makes me mad as hell. It never should have happened,” Nutting said.

Nutting acknowledges that several officials of the company were convicted of financial misdeeds, but he denies that the munitions, used to detonate 25 mm cannon shells in the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, were faulty or defective.

Ten years ago Nutting lost a state Senate race and has dedicated himself to volunteer work at his church and with the Boy Scouts, as well as teaching adult education classes at the University of Southern Maine.

Then last year, he was asked to run for mayor.

“When he was approached to consider running for mayor, at first I couldn’t even believe that he was going to consider it,” Jane Nutting recalled.

AP-ES-01-23-04 0216EST

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