PARIS — One candidate brings years of legislative experience, including being a member of leadership at the State House. The other candidate stresses his many years working in public safety.

Lisa Keim

State Sen. Lisa Keim of Dixfield and former state police Trooper Kyle Tilsley of Rumford are vying in the Republican primary for an open seat on the Oxford County Board of Commissioners from District 2.

They are hoping to succeed Chairman David Duguay of Byron, who decided not to run for reelection and is seeking a seat in the state Senate.

The primary is Tuesday.

A lifelong resident of western Maine, Keim, 51, is in her fourth and final term as a state senator because she has had the maximum of four terms under state law. She is the assistant minority leader.

If elected, Keim would be Oxford County’s first female county commissioner.

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Kyle Tilsley

Tilsley, 55, is a former lieutenant and troop commander for the Maine State Police. Born in upstate New York, where his father worked for the U.S. Border Patrol, the family moved to northern Maine where he graduated from Fort Fairfield High School. He has worked in public safety for 32 years, beginning in emergency medical services.

“I’m running because I still have a very strong pull to give service to my community,” Tilsley said. “I’ve been a public servant for my entire adult life. I still feel very strongly to continue that service.”

Keim said if elected, she will relish the switch from the all-encompassing job in the Legislature to serving as a commissioner.

“I’m going to enjoy it,” Keim said. “The service part without the political part. This is a very nonpolitical role.”

With the overlap of towns in her Senate district and the commission, Keim will be serving many of the same individuals in her new role,

“I have a connection now with people that is deep and has gone on for years,” Keim said. “I’m sure that things I’ll hear will be a lot of the same things that I’ve heard. I’ll be very conscious of that.”

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Saying that commissioners “do not have to reinvent the wheel,” Tilsley said he would be open to any new ideas from other areas that might work in Oxford County.

“My biggest skill is my understanding of public safety in general,” he said. “They have a very embryonic relationship, and they all have to work together to make public safety function. When one part of public safety struggles, it causes a ripple effect across the other parts.”

Both candidates brought up the lack of funding for the county jails across the state as an issue that needs a solution.

“Jail funding is a constant problem,” Keim said. “My experience in the Legislature will help me to better advocate for jail funding.”

“The Department of Corrections needs to step up to the plate again and start offering more funding for our county jails,” Tilsley said. “That could start freeing up some of the revenue streams to help the other areas of county government.”

The budget is foremost in Keim’s mind. She said her experience in the State House has helped prepare her for reviewing the Oxford County Budget Committee’s recommendations. She said she will consider all options.

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“I always have a perspective of being a fiscally conservative,” Keim said. “For me, it’s going to be how can we stretch the dollars, and do what we need to do to take care of the needs without being exorbitant. People are really pinched with their real estate taxes. This is probably one of the biggest complaints I hear in my years of service.”

“The county commission budget does impact that,” she added.

Tilsley sees recruitment and retention of employees as a big issue facing the county.

Keim would like to see better transparency with county government, starting with better use of video recordings at meetings and posting them online. That will allow people to see how decisions are made, she said.

Both candidates see a path forward working with Sheriff Christopher Wainwright, who the commissioners attempted to oust from office earlier this year for what they described as him acting outside his legal authority. Gov. Janet Mills ruled that his actions fell far short for her to remove him from office.

“I can work with anybody to achieve a common goal,” Tilsley said. “I’ve worked well with Chris my entire career. We may not have always seen eye-to-eye on certain things, but we’ve always been able to work together.”

“I think it is really fortunate there will be a change now in two of the three commissioners,” Keim said. “That’s a good thing. There needs to be a real willingness to work together. I think transparency will be helpful in dealing with that. We need to make sure that we both respect the roles. The sheriff’s role and the county commission’s role.”

With no Democrats on the ballot, the winner will likely face no opposition in the general election in November.

District 2 includes towns and territories of Andover, Bethel, Byron, Canton, Dixfield, Gilead, Hanover, Lincoln Plantation, Magalloway Plantation, Mexico, Newry, Peru, Roxbury, Rumford, Upton and the unorganized territory of Milton, Riley and Northern Oxford County.

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