Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque was re-elected to a second term on Nov. 5. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — When Mayor Jason Levesque won re-election in November, he called the victory a “mandate” from voters who want the city to continue with efforts for “smart development growth.”

Many saw the election as a referendum on the direction of the city as the issue of development, particularly in the city’s Agriculture and Resource Protection zone, has dominated the recent work of elected officials.

With only one meeting remaining for the current council, that work is still not done.

The November elections in Lewiston and Auburn saw significant turnover, including an influx of younger generations taking seats. The Sun Journal looked at the incoming City Council and what the changes could mean for Auburn in 2020.


Some believe it’s almost a guarantee that the new City Council, with four new members to be sworn in Dec. 16, will have to act on the proposed agriculture ordinance. The council is holding a special meeting Dec. 9 to hold second readings and public hearings on the new language, but recent Planning Board recommendations have asked for a series of changes.


Ward 1 Councilor Holly Lasagna, who was re-elected to a second term, has been among the critical voices on the council regarding the agricultural zone process. Another, Robert Hayes, lost his seat to newcomer Tim MacLeod.

Lasagna said recently, however, that the new council will benefit from two new councilors with knowledge of the material. Both Brian Carrier, taking the Ward 4 seat, and Katie Boss, at-large, are coming from the Planning Board. Stephen Milks, another newcomer, has served on the recent Strategic Plan committee.

“That will help us to hit the ground running, even if there needs to be another first vote on the proposed amendment due to major changes suggested by the Planning Board last night,” she said following Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting.

But Lasagna and others are also ready to move on to other issues in 2020, after months of council and staff time has been devoted to the agricultural zone.

“Having the (Agriculture) zone and (Agriculture) Committee work completed early in the new council’s tenure will free us up to address some interesting and important issues that have had to take a back seat to this work,” she said. “This includes focusing in the new (Edward Little High School) and helping to craft the final physical design as well as focus on how what goes on inside the school can reflect this fantastic space in terms of student achievement and community access.”



Levesque said he’s already had conversations with each of the incoming councilors, and that he’s “very excited” for the next two years.

“The year 2020 is going to be the start of the decade of Auburn,” he said. “You’re going to see Auburn take tremendous leaps forward.”

Levesque, since elected, has said he wants to grow Auburn’s stature in Maine and New England. According to Levesque, Auburn has “stabilized property taxes,” and is now in prime position for growth.

He expects the council to continue efforts to brand Auburn with events like New Year’s Auburn and find ways to get the most out of Norway Savings Bank Arena now that it’s owned by the city.

The incoming council, he said, is “a great mix of returning councilors and fresh ideas. That combination is going to be extremely beneficial for the city.”

With younger faces such as Boss and MacLeod coming in, Levesque said it’s “a changing of generations in Auburn.”


“I’m no longer the youngest,” he said. “I think for the current council, it was hard for them to have a vision for the next 30-40 years. You could feel some undertones of ‘This is how it’s always worked, this is what needs to happen.'”

Hayes did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

When reached this week, Boss said she believes younger generations are paying closer attention to politics at all levels and “are feeling compelled to get involved.”

“Working at the local level is an effective way to make change that can have a direct impact on daily life in your community,” she said. “Young people have a valuable perspective that can be used to grow communities and encourage engagement, if their voices are valued and lifted up.”

She said she’s also expecting the new council to take up issues that are important to young people, especially as Auburn looks to attract more young families.

“As a new council, we should focus our efforts on what makes Auburn residents want to stay and what brings Mainers back home: a vibrant and walkable downtown, thriving businesses, good schools, quality affordable housing, nature and green space, and things to do,” she said. “There is a lot that we can accomplish when we share a positive vision for our community and are willing to work for it.”


“I am very excited about the new council,” Lasagna said. “Having people who represent a broad range of ages, experience and skills will help to create a strong council. Having the majority of the councilors be new will bring a needed fresh perspective to the work.”


For those on the outside looking in, it’s not all optimism. While local elections are nonpartisan, many followers of local politics keep tabs on political party affiliations.

Matt Leonard, who ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat this year, said he’s concerned the incoming council will be “very idealistic.” Leonard ran on eliminating new spending.

“I fear that idealism and new vigor to ‘do something’ will result in increased spending, a larger budget, and higher taxes,” he said.

Adam Lee, a former councilor who lost to Levesque in the mayor’s race two years ago, has been closely following the agricultural zone discussions. He and others have often criticized Levesque’s leadership style and the current council for not properly using its authority.


“I’m hopeful that this group of councilors is well situated through their knowledge, disposition, and capacity to reassert the authority of the council as the sole policymaking entity of the city,” he said recently.

Former City Councilor Bob Stone said the incoming council “appears to be a group of competent, cordial people.”

He said he believes “they likely lean to the more liberal side of the political spectrum, so we’ll have to see what that means in terms of their ability to control taxes over the next couple of years.”

In terms of issues, Stone said the new council needs to find ways to control taxes while growing the tax base. He said he’s paying closer attention to the School Department, which has its longtime superintendent leaving as a massive high school project is underway.

“I think most of the risk facing the city is on the school side,” he said. “The School Committee needs to find a great superintendent with excellent leadership and (administrative) skills.”

Current elected officials disagree with the focus on political leanings.


“I truly feel that party affiliation or political leanings do not color our decision making,” Lasagna said.

Levesque agreed.

“Political affiliation has no bearing whatsoever in municipal governance,” he said. “It’s your vision. We all want lower taxes. Period. We all want smarter investment. It’s just different roads to get there.”

City Manager Peter Crichton said city staff have a similar council orientation process to the one used in Lewiston.

The city will hold an orientation session for the City Council on Saturday, Dec. 14, two days before the inauguration. Crichton said staff is also planning a retreat for the new council.

“With four new councilors, I am looking forward to seeing how everything comes together,” he said in an email. “We have a great staff and with our elected officials we will continue working hard and moving forward in a positive direction. I am really expecting the next few months to be a dynamic process of everyone learning how best to work together. As always, there is a great deal to do.”

Auburn’s inaugural ceremony will be held Monday, Dec. 16, at the newly-completed Auburn Senior Community Center.

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