By Paul Koenig
WEST GARDINER — A former Maine legislator who left the State House last year after a decade of service is seeking to win the seat of a selectman who has been on the board for 44 years.
Earle McCormick, who decided not to seek re-election last year after three terms in the Maine Senate and two terms in the House of Representatives before that, said residents encouraged him to challenge Victor Goodwin Sr., chairman of the Board of Selectmen in the town election March 23. “I think it never hurts having someone look at what we’re doing and see if we can do it better,” McCormick said. West Gardiner residents will vote on elected officials at the March town meeting from 8 a.m. to noon. They vote on the budget and warrant articles starting at 1:30 p.m. Goodwin has been a selectman since 1967 with the exception of two years in the 1970s. The other two selectmen, Merton Hickey and Gregory Couture, have been on the board for a combined 45 years. “They evidently like who’s in here,” Goodwin said. “They wouldn’t keep voting them in.” Hickey and Couture were both challenged the last two years and handily defeated their opponents with more than five times more votes than their opponents. Goodwin has run unopposed for more than a decade. “Maybe it’s not doing the town any good,” Goodwin said. “I don’t know if anyone can do a better job. Maybe [McCormick] can.” Hickey and Couture are paid $6,000 a year and Goodwin is paid $12,000. Goodwin’s pay has been raised over the years and was increased by $1,000 in 2011 for the amount of time he spends working for the town compared with the other selectmen. He said he’s usually working at the town office every day it’s open. Since voters approve the salaries of elected officials as part of the town budget later in the day, residents could decide to lower the salary for McCormick if he is elected. In the other races, Heidi Peckham, town clerk and excise tax collector, is running for her position unopposed, as is Sue Pierce, treasurer and tax collector. McCormick, who has lived in West Gardiner for 25 years with his wife, Darlene, said he’s not planning any type of formal campaigning. “[Residents] seem to find out who the candidates are, and they go vote. It’s pretty low-key on the municipal level,” he said. McCormick said he knows the town issues well since he’s been hearing from constituents in the area about local and state-level issues for a decade as a legislator. If he wins, he said, he’ll continue doing what makes the town a great place to live. He said the positives include quality schools, a volunteer fire department, recycling efforts and a low tax rate. But McCormick said he thinks the town could do a better job at using technology, particularly by having a website. Right now, West Gardiner has a website through the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, which has a link to a file listing only basic information about the town. McCormick said he thinks he has a good chance in the election because he has represented the town on the state level for so long. Goodwin wouldn’t speculate about his chances for re-election. “It’s up to what the people want to do,” he said “If they don’t want me, they won’t vote me in.” Paul Koenig — 621-5663
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Staff file photo by Joe Phelan
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