Two Kennebec County Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination in the county commissioner race
AUGUSTA — The contested primary race to fill the open seat of Kennebec County Commissioner of District 2 pits a Democratic state representative against a retired employee of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
By Tuesday’s deadline to file petitions for the nomination, Hallowell’s Charlotte Warren and Gardiner’s Philip Garwood had both submitted petitions and will appear in the June 14 primary ballot for the Democratic nomination race.
Kennebec County has three county commissioners, each representing a geographic district. District 2 includes Farmingdale, Fayette, Gardiner, Hallowell, Litchfield, Monmouth, Mount Vernon, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, Vienna, Wayne, West Gardiner and Winthrop.
County commissioners oversee tax operations and the county budget which totaled $14.3 million in 2021. They also make policy decisions that affect the county government and its 170 employees. County budget obligations include funding departments such as the county jail, sheriff’s office, emergency management, and probate and deed registries.
County commissioners also govern unorganized territories. In Kennebec County, commissioners oversee Unity Township.
The salary for the position is currently $13,047; the salary of the president, who is elected annually, is $13,768.
Nancy Rines of Gardiner was first elected Kennebec County District 2 Commissioner in 1982 and was the first female elected County Commissioner. She has served nearly every term since then and has refused to seek another.
Both candidates see an opportunity in the $23.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds the county is receiving from the federal government to advance COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, and grants to organizations that he will fund.
Garwood said he supports using the money to benefit as many people as possible.
“How many people will benefit and what kind of needs would be met by a particular request that may or may not have other sources of support,” he said.
At the same time, he said, it is money that can only be spent once and is not suitable for projects that require ongoing funding.
Warren said that with the influx of funds from ARPA and the expected settlement of the opioid lawsuits, she would like to make the county government’s budgeting process more transparent and involve more county residents in decisions about how how that money is spent at the county level.
“I envision this involvement in the same way that I have always done my job, which is to use all the tools I have access to to invite citizens to join us,” he said. she stated. “I think a lot of us work, raise our kids, pay our bills, and unless something is put in front of us, it’s hard to keep track of everything. I see it as the role of the entity itself to provide people with opportunities to get involved.
She said she sees the government’s role is to provide opportunities to get involved. When she was mayor of Hallowell, the town’s website was revamped and a newsletter was launched which continues to this day.
“As a communications consultant, I do this for other entities, and I would like to do this for the county government as well,” she said.
Both candidates say they see no need to propose changes if elected.
Garwood said his story of being involved in a lot of things was about forming opinions about what was going on and looking for ways to improve.
“There’s nothing I’m aware of that seems wrong to me,” he said. “I like to argue that someone like me who has never been involved can ask ‘dumb’ questions and maybe that will lead to a worthwhile reassessment of the way things are done.”
Warren said people don’t talk about county government much because it does so much good, and she wants to continue that trend. She has worked with county commissioners as both a municipal and state official.
“I have always been proud of Kennebec County and I want to continue that tradition,” she said.
Garwood has not run for elected office before, but accepted when members of the county’s Democratic committee asked him to run.
Prior to his retirement, he was active in the Maine Service Employees Union, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, as an annual convention delegate for many years and as a vice president and chapter president. . For three terms, he served on the union’s statewide board of directors.
Although county and union government departments are different, he said the duties of a board member and a county commissioner are very similar in concept – overseeing the activities of the department and approving the budget, for example.
He said he had been involved in a number of activities in his personal and professional life that aimed to make things better and better, from improvements to his home to serving as a scout leader for 5 and a half years to the Boy Scouts of America. , an organization dedicated to developing future leaders. In his church, he worked to improve and provide facilities to run better programs.
Warren, who is currently a state representative for District 84, representing Hallowell, Manchester and West Gardiner, and served as a councilor and mayor of Hallowell, said she has a wealth of budget experience that she can use as a that county. official.
As House Chair of the Maine State Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, she and her Senate co-chair oversaw budgets for the Departments of Public Safety, Corrections and the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
A bill she sponsored to stabilize funding for county jails receives a unanimous bipartisan vote in the Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday, following stakeholder meetings to hammer out a deal that could gain the committee approval.
While the process is not complete, she said, it is advancing the solution to a chronic funding shortfall, increasing the requested appropriation from $12 million to $20 million and placing this request for funding on the same footing as any other request from the Commissioner of the Department. Corrections.
“That meant staying at the table even when it was tough, that meant lots and lots of meetings and lots of listening,” she said. “Those are my skills. That’s what I love about working in government. I like to listen, bring people together and try to solve problems.
The winner of this primary will face the Republican in November Joseph Pietroski Jr. of Winthrop, who has no main opponent.
The deadline for petitions for non-party candidates to appear on the November ballot is June 1.
Chesterville will vote on the budget, more on Monday