AUBURN — After being sworn in Thursday, incoming Mayor Jeff Harmon echoed many of the statements he made that seem to have resonated with voters in November.

His priority, he said, is building trust in local government, with a more collaborative decision-making process where policies are more broadly supported by the community. Residents want “a change in the way we govern,” he said, and his tenure will represent a clear change in leadership style at Auburn Hall.

“Like all municipal governments, Auburn faces many challenges — challenges that did not change as the result of the election. What did change was the expectation, expressed by the voters, that we employ different strategies to address these challenges,” he said.

Harmon, who soundly defeated former three-term Mayor Jason Levesque on Nov. 7, was sworn in along with other elected officials Thursday during the inaugural ceremony at the Donald Gay Performing Arts Center at Edward Little High School.

In his address, Harmon laid out a number of goals that he said stemmed from talking to more than 1,200 Auburn residents during the campaign, which include transparency, the protection of natural resources like Lake Auburn, and an effective curbside recycling program.

Harmon’s candidacy followed his involvement for months in public discussions — and open opposition — to several initiatives by the outgoing mayor and council, including proposed rezoning. Through it all, Harmon argued that the public process was lacking and that residents felt powerless in their attempts to be heard. He and others also employed citizen petitions, and an ethics complaint and a court appeal during the fight.


On Thursday, Harmon said he will implement a “public policy process” where city issues can be “openly and fully discussed so a wide range of options can be explored before decisions are made,” but he did not expand with details on what changes to the current process he would pursue.

Regarding Lake Auburn water quality, Harmon said he plans to work with the council “to take actions and implement policies that protect” the lake, which “will be taken in collaboration with other stakeholders that have an interest in water quality.”

Earlier this month, the previous City Council approved final readings on several ordinance changes related to Lake Auburn, including a new septic design standard in the watershed, and rezoning land off Gracelawn Road. It’s unclear whether the new City Council will pursue changes to those ordinances.

Auburn Mayor-elect Jeff Harmon, center left, shakes the hand of councilor-elect Adam Platz prior to the start of the inauguration ceremony Thursday at the Donald Gay Performing Arts Center at Edward Little High School in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

On recycling, Harmon said that in the coming weeks he plans to work with the City Council, city administration, and the Sustainability and Natural Resources Board to “develop a plan to transition from the current interim solution to a more permanent solution.” The city just recently rolled out a new recycling program after renegotiating its contract with Casella. During the negotiations, the city had a drop-off-only system that was met with criticism from residents.

Harmon touched on several other issues, including Auburn’s current focus on housing. He has long questioned the city’s approach to rezoning, particularly in single-family neighborhoods. In his address Thursday he said residents “want thoughtful and responsible development and land use policies that promote growth, but which also consider the impacts of growth on neighborhoods and the community.”

He said housing affordability is a major concern, and that during the first meeting of the new council on Dec. 18, he will announce the formation of an ad hoc housing committee that will be “charged with making recommendations to the City Council on the creation of a comprehensive housing strategy.”


“A strategy that will identify the housing needs in the community, both the types and number of housing units needed, to provide housing opportunities for individuals and families of all ages, and incomes, for both current residents of our city, and those that will join our community in the coming years,” he said.

In 2021, Levesque set a goal for Auburn to build 2,000 new housing units by 2025. According to city data, 604 units have been permitted or built since 2020, with another possible 1,500 in the development pipeline.

The related discussion on homelessness, which Auburn has struggled to adequately address, was also touched on by Harmon on Thursday.

He said homelessness and people facing housing insecurity in Auburn “is a real and serious problem that will only continue to get worse without coordinated intervention.”

“It is far past time for action to be taken to address this problem,” he said, adding that he will be requesting recommendations from city administration, as well as local service providers, on “what actions can be taken immediately to assist people living outdoors this winter.”

This fall, the city jointly applied for MaineHousing funding to establish an overnight warming shelter, but was not awarded the grant.


Harmon said he will also announce an ad hoc committee on homelessness when the council meets next week.

When talking about the incoming School Committee, Harmon said he will appoint incoming Councilor Adam Platz to serve as the mayor’s representative on the committee.

He said Platz, who is a graduate of Edward Little High School and served as a student representative on the School Committee when there, “shares my commitment to strong public schools.”

After being sworn in, School Committee member Pam Albert said that as many school boards across the state and country have been embroiled in controversy recently, Auburn has kept the focus on education. She pointed to Auburn’s graduation rates and test scores, which have increased dramatically at a time when many districts nationwide have seen setbacks due to the pandemic.

Albert also mentioned Thursday’s venue, which she said “has been a dream for so many years” and is “incredible to be here tonight.”

“It’s a true testament to what we can achieve as a community when we work together,” she said.


Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline, who had an at-times strained relationship with Mayor Levesque over the last two years, congratulated Harmon and the new council Thursday.

“There is much opportunity for cooperation between our two cities and I look forward to working together with them on goals that matter to all of us,” he said.

The elected officials sworn in Thursday were:

Mayor Jeff Harmon

City Council

Rick Whiting, Ward 1


Tim Cowan, Ward 2

Steve Milks, Ward 3

Benjamin Weisner, Ward 4

Leroy Walker, Ward 5

Belinda Gerry, At large

Adam Platz, At large


School Committee

Korin McGuigan, Ward 1

Pamela Hart, Ward 2

Patricia Gautier, Ward 3

Daniel Poisson, Ward 5

Pamela Albert, At large

Casey Knight, At large

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