Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 21, 2019
Two candidates, one seat in Blue Hill selectman’s race
by Anne Berleant
Voters will choose between two candidates for a three-year seat on the board of selectmen on town election day, April 5. In uncontested races, incumbent Janis Snow seeks reelection to the school board as does Henrietta Clews to the planning board, while a second planning board seat, currently held by Fernald Leach, drew no candidates. Polls will be open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at town hall.
A selectman’s candidate forum, hosted by The Weekly Packet, Blue Hill Public Library and the Hancock County League of Women Voters, will be held Monday, March 25.
James Dow, selectman
A first-time candidate for public office, James Dow has lived in Blue Hill for 25 years, where he raised his two children, and traces his family roots to the town where his family settled in the late 1700s.
“I have ancestors born here in 1772 and [one] was married by Jonathan Fisher,” said Dow, who was born and raised in Belfast. “I expect to be buried at Seaside Cemetery.”
Dow retired in 2016 as executive director for Blue Hill Heritage Trust, a position he held for 16 years, after 13 years with The Nature Conservancy. He has served on the boards of the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill, The Bay School and Blue Hill Public Library, as well as the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Aquaculture, the Maine Sea Grant Advisory Council and chairman for the Maine Land Trust Network. Dow also spent nearly two decades as a grade school basketball coach for The Bay School and Blue Hill Consolidated School boys teams.
“I believe in public service, which is part of my family tradition,” he said. “Blue Hill is my home and I care about the town. I have a set of skills and experience that is relevant.”
Dow cites “the variety of people, the physical beauty of the place, and the history that’s still alive here,” as what he likes most about Blue Hill. “I like the community feeling, the small-town feeling,” he said.
He favors adding a town administrator position, notes the 30 miles of town roads “needing some serious upgrading,” and views the proposed South Street sidewalk project as “an important development. That’s an economic issue, a safety issue and a health issue.”
Commercial development on South Street and Mines Road is “a reality,” Dow said. “We need to get used to it. It’s a commercial center we need to work with.” He added, “At the same time, we need to give attention to downtown.” Dow also sees bringing wide broadband access to town as needed to attract people to the area and to keep young residents from leaving.
The board of selectmen “is really, in my mind, the managers of the town,” Dow said. “The town is their legislative assembly [that] the selectmen have their marching orders from. The selectmen are leaders who need to identify issues that need to be brought to the town.” He also would like to see the board’s weekly meeting moved to the evening hours so more working people could attend.
“The town of Blue Hill has incredible assets,” Dow said. “Incredibly natural features, a diverse population of smart people. It has a host of nonprofit organizations doing really good work that in other places is done by town government. It saves a lot of money and involves the community. The willingness to be involved is a great asset.”
Adam Gray, selectman
Born and raised in Blue Hill, and in his second three-year term on the planning board, Adam Gray said he decided to run for selectman after “multiple people stopped [me] in the grocery store, multiple phone calls” asking he run.
Married, with one child in Blue Hill Consolidated School, Gray is a carpenter, general contractor and, for the past three summers, a lobsterman. He cites “the small town atmosphere” as what he likes most about the town. “We don’t really need a heck of a lot more than we have in Blue Hill. If you need a pair of blue jeans you might have to go to Ellsworth or Bangor, but all the essentials are here.”
The “number one” strength of Blue Hill is the ocean, Gray said, plus “the fact that we have a hospital, a fire department and ambulance, and multiple schools that serve the peninsula.”
But Gray pointed to a need for “more deep water oceanfront for the fishery. “We’ve outgrown South Blue Hill and the Steamboat Wharf.” And for the Water Street wharf to be fully utilized, it needs dredging, he added. “I’m for it, with hesitation. I think it would be huge for the town but mooring space would be compromised.”
He also hears the call for better internet access. “Broadband is the biggest, latest thing. [But] I don’t know how much [the lack] is hampering the town.”
Gray also favors the growing uptown commercial development. “I’m pro business. It creates jobs. It creates vehicles coming into town,” he said, adding “I don’t foresee anything like a McDonald’s coming in [downtown] due to lack of parking.”
He trusts the selectmen’s call for a town administrator. “I sat in on the meetings about it. Now I have to go by the what the select board says. They know better than anyone. I do think it will open a lot more doors for the town and free up time for the selectmen to be more in the public and find out what’s going on.”
The role of the board is to “take care of [town] business…and serve the people with what’s presented to them,” Gray said. “I don’t believe the select board should be coming up with things, as far as purchasing property.”
If elected, Gray said he will bring transparency and consistency to the board. “I think I’m a leader. I listen to all reasons and sides to move forward.”