Bridgton elections: Who will fill the void?

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Two of Bridgton’s most outspoken elected officials, Woody Woodward and Fred Packard, are stepping down.

In their combined 28 years of service both men have represented opposite poles on the political spectrum. With nomination papers only available since Monday, it’s too early to say who might try to replace them. One thing, however, seems clear: Bridgton’s upcoming elections on June 11 should be interesting.

Woody Woodward

When asked why he wasn’t running again, Woodward said, “Twelve years is enough. It’s time to switch up and let someone else have a turn.” He said that when he began on the board back in 2001, he decided to wear a tie to meetings, to remind himself as he took his seat that “I’m at work for the town.”

The tie idea caught on, he joked; “Now, everybody wears a tie,” except for Bob (McHatton). He takes pride in having set that standard, as he does in recalling his second year as a selectmen, when he was named chairman.

Former Town Manager Ron Belanger died unexpectedly while he was chairman, just before budget season began, and Woodward said he is still grateful the town was able to rely on Administrative Assistant Georgiann Fleck during the transition, until current Town Manager “Mitch (Berkowitz) hit the ground running.” In subsequent years he served through the town’s replacement of both its fire chief and its police chief.

He expects he may have an extra thing or two to say about certain matters once he leaves the board. He and his wife have had to endure a not-insignificant amount of ridicule and harassment because of some of the positions he has taken on controversial issues, he said.

“I hope that whoever goes on the board after me can go in there without an agenda and do their best in all areas” of town policy, and not just in one or two areas, he said.

Fred Packard

Packard has served 16 years on the planning board — five full terms and one year of Dave Lee’s term — and said, “I’m tired.” Over the winter he has suffered with bad back problems that make it hard for him to sit for any period of time.

He planned to retire after nine years, but got enlisted back into service after a board member moved out of town and left a void. In the last election, Packard received the highest number of votes ever cast for a town official, he said proudly.

Packard is a lifelong Bridgton resident with a degree in business administration. He made his living as a real estate appraiser for 23 years, and as a broker for 11 years.

“Since I’ve been on the planning board, we’ve seen a Subway, a Renys expansion, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a new Hannaford grocery store and a McDonald’s,” said Packard, a pro-business advocate who has been criticized in the past as being too lenient on business development standards. “Before that, there was nothing. We’ve accomplished more in the last 10 years than the 20 or even 30 before that. In between (strict or lenient) is where you got to be.”

Packard said either of the board’s two current alternates, Roxy Hagerman and Adam Grant, would make good candidates for his seat, and he believes it’s only right for alternates to have an edge in elections, since they’ve paid their dues by attending meetings as a non-voting member.

Current Planning Board Chairman Steve Collins’ term is also up this year, and he said he is planning to run again. Collins has served six years on the board, and said he wants to continue the work the board has begun.

In other elections, there are two open seats available for three-year terms on the SAD 61 Board of Directors. Karen Eller, who holds one of those seats, has decided to run again for another term; Karla Swanson-Murphy, who holds the other seat, was unavailable for comment.

Wesley Gorman’s term as a trustee of the Bridgton Water District is due to expire, and he is running again.

 

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