STANWOOD “JOE” GRAY

Joe Gray

Occupation: Farmer and co-owner of Four Season Farm Market in New Auburn

Education: Some college

Family: I live with my wife, Kathy, on our farm in south Auburn. I have two adult daughters.

Political experience: I previously served as a city councilor in 2011.

Q: Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat?

A: I have attended nearly every city council meeting for the past decade. I study the agendas. I ask questions. I understand the issues facing Auburn. I have the temperament to listen attentively to residents and the insight to dig to the root of the issue and work collaboratively to find solutions.

Q: What should the mayor’s role be in Auburn city government and how will that determine your actions in and out of City Council meetings?

A: The mayor’s role is limited by city charter. The mayor is the representative of the city. The mayor also is tasked with running the City Council meetings. I feel it is the position of the mayor to support the councilors and help them to understand issues, to mediate conflict, to solve problems, and to represent the voice of the residents. The mayor is not a king, and he should not act like one.

Q: How do you think the city should proceed in regulating the Agriculture and Resource Protection Zone? Where should Auburn be focusing its economic development efforts? 

A: There is little imminent pressure to get new farms built in the AGRP zone. There are a few individual residents who want to build houses but don’t qualify according to existing rules. The original mayor’s ad hoc committee suggested establishing an Agricultural Commission that would have powers similar to the Planning Board. One purpose of this commission would be to research and offer special exemptions to help address the issues to help residents on a case-by-case basis. One of the victims of this two-years-plus focus on changing the rules in the AGRP is our economic development program. Instead of focusing on the city core where we would enjoy a greater return on our economic development investment, staff has been busy working on the AGRP zone controversy. I favor implementing the suggestions of those who have looked at this. We should establish an Agricultural Commission to effectively deal with these issues and advance the laudable goals of the Agriculture and Resource Protection Zone.

Q: What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?

A: Let’s be clear, the budget increase was limited this year not by any actions of the city. Auburn’s budget benefited this year from an increase in state revenue sharing. That helped Auburn taxpayers keep the increase down. The method the city uses to work the budget is very complicated. This method masks the details behind the numbers. We need to develop a better way to form a budget. We need a way so residents can understand what is going on.

Q: Is there an issue facing the city that you believe is not being addressed appropriately? 

A: I believe there are many issues facing the city that are being handled badly. Recently the city moved to limit the ability of our many boards and committees to record their meetings or gain staff support to do their work. If we involve boards and committees more, if we support them fully, they will do a great deal of the groundwork needed to establish meaningful policies to move Auburn forward. Our boards and committees are staffed by our greatest resources, our residents. Our residents’ voices must be heard.

JASON LEVESQUE

Jason Levesque

Occupation: Mayor of Auburn

Education: Edward Little High School, West Virginia Wesleyan, USM, and U.S. Army

Family: Wife, Tracey, children Alexandra, Ethan and Sarah

Political experience: Mayor of Auburn

Q: Why do you think you’re the most qualified, or best candidate for this seat?

A: It really doesn’t matter what I think, it’s up to Auburn residents to determine who is the best choice to represent them. I hope that they have seen the great things that have happened throughout the city, especially around Auburn’s 150th birthday, from New Years Auburn to the Memorial Day Parade.  I also hope they are feeling the positive impact of steady tax rates and increased growth for the last two years. And finally, the residents of Auburn should vote for someone with the real world experience needed to help usher in an era of opportunities for all, not just the few.

Q: What should the mayor’s role be in Auburn city government and how will that determine your actions in and out of City Council meetings?  

A: The mayors role is clearly outlined in the City Charter, and the mayor must act within the scope of what he/she allowed to do. There is one task which I feel can bring positive and efficient change to the city. First, representing Auburn and gathering information from within and outside of our borders that will help ensure Auburn is the best small city in America. That means taking the time to talk, listen and bring this information back to the council for proper decisions to be made in order to craft the appropriate policies to attract the growth we need.

Q: How do you think the city should proceed in regulating the Agriculture and Resource Protection Zone? Where should Auburn be focusing its economic development efforts? 

A: We need to modernize the ordinance so that it becomes an Agriculture Opportunity Zone, where new boutique farms can start, where young families or retirees can have the freedom to experiment on a dream, build a future business and in general make our community stronger with a more diversified tax base helping all of our residents afford to live here.

When you are a mayor or a leader, and you focus on one thing, you end up picking winners and losers. A strong municipal leader needs to have faith in the people that create growth and ensure that government sets clear simple policies and then gets out of their way. This needs to happen throughout our city. In short, we must create opportunity, not set up roadblocks.

Q: What do you like about the city budget passed this year, and what don’t you like?  

A: I was pleased with the overall flat-lining of property tax increases. I was discouraged that we didn’t take a firm stand on ending wasteful spending — transport and a failed recycling program are examples. I am hopeful that next year through a combination of increased growth in our tax base and more realistic look at non-producing programs and unfair joint service agreements we can actually buck the statewide trend and lower our tax rate.

Q: Is there an issue facing the city that you believe is not being addressed appropriately?

A: Our current workforce limitations, which are only going to get worse as our population ages and retires. If we are to keep our economic edge we must provide opportunities for more working-age people to work, live and spend money in our city. If we don’t do that effectively now our taxes will go up, and businesses will close.


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