Who are the Madawaska Board of Selectmen candidates?
MADAWASKA, Maine — Four of the seven candidates who are running for Madawaska Board of Selectmen responded to a St. John Valley Times questionnaire on their backgrounds and views on local issues. There are two three-year terms up for election and one one-year term.
Elections will be held 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, July 14, at the Madawaska Multipurpose building.
Responding to the questionnaire were: Jason Boucher, Chris Braley, incumbent Dave Morin, Manon Bilodeau-Raymond and Dan Daigle; not responding were: John L. Cyr and Dale D. Ouellette.
Here are their responses:
Who are you?
Jason Boucher: “I’ve been a longtime member of the Madawaska Fire Department for 19 years and currently work at Twin Rivers Paper as a systems analyst. I was born and raised in Madawaska. Currently in my spare time I am helping raise money through St John Valley Live to help those affected by COVID-19.”
Chris Braley: “I am employed by Twin Rivers Paper as an environmental, health and safety representative for [United Steelworkers] Local 1247. I was born and raised in Dixmont, Maine. I started as a Junior Firefighter when I was in middle school and went on to volunteering as a licensed Emergency Medical Technician before I graduated from high school. Serving in my community is just something I’ve always done. I served eight years in the U.S. Army. I am married with three children — Krista, Tyler and Cody. We spend a lot of time in our camper during the summer months, [and] often travel in-state during the winter months. I have been a resident of Madawaska since 2002, and a taxpayer since 2003.”
Dan Daigle: “I’m 64 and I have lived in Madawaska all my life. I worked 28 years in the papermill and have operated ‘The Other Maine’ cabin rentals for the last 13 years. I am also a registered Maine guide.”
Dave Morin: “I am a life-long Madawaska resident born on a farm as one of 10 children.” He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and was self-employed for 44 years.
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: “I currently work at the Inn of Acadia as a breakfast hostess. I am from Madawaska and have lived here all my life with the exception of seven years where I lived in Edmundston. Prior to my work at the Inn of Acadia, I worked for the town of Madawaska at the Town Office for 28 years.”
Do you have committee, board or budgeting experience?
Jason Boucher: Yes. “I was one of the original founders of the St John Valley Aero Club and served as the president of the club for many years.”
Chris Braley: Yes. “I am currently co-chair of the environmental health and safety committee at Twin Rivers Paper. I also served on the executive board of local 1247 [and] was on the Acadian Festival Committee for several years serving as president the past two years. I am currently chair of the Madawaska Finance Committee. I am a previous business owner of KTC’s Brainfreeze, and being part of the Acadian Festival I would say qualifies.”
Dan Daigle: Yes and no. “I have never served on any board or committee, but I have been actively involved in municipal affairs for the last 40 years.” Regarding budgeting: “I own and operate a local business and have never needed a bank or other financial institution to set me up or to keep our business running.”
Dave Morin: Yes. He currently serves on the Board of Selectmen and is the incumbent up for re-election.
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: No, but town office experience. “I have not been on a board, but I have taken minutes for the Board of Selectmen, Budget Committee, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and any other municipal board that would require minutes. I worked under four town managers and several different board members through my 28 years.”
What is your approach to the downtown revitalization project?
Jason Boucher: Focus on small business. “Having a great looking downtown is nice, but what’s even better is having flourishing small businesses for tourists to visit and spend their money. We need to ensure that we focus on our current small businesses and help them to improve their ability to survive.”
Chris Braley: Can’t turn back now, look ahead. “[Being] open-minded — and with the positive input and support from local business owners and residents — we can make downtown the best it can be. This is a project that has been in the process for several years and to look backward and second guess or try to change course at this point is not something I’m willing to do. I’m willing to look to the future plans of this project and ensure they meet the needs of this community.”
Dan Daigle: Help businesses. “I personally would stop the foolish spending during a time of financial crisis. Rather than to spend $1 million on parks, look to help out existing businesses in need.”
Dave Morin: Gather input and manage money. “[I want to see] more inclusive input from all [members of the] public and better money management.”
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: Against the pocket parks, grants aren’t free. “I don’t support these pocket parks. The town is not in the real estate business and I can’t see how any pocket parks will bring any economic growth. We are not located in the lower part of the state — we are in northern Maine where our summers are short and our winters are long. Other types of grants could have been sought as not a burden to the taxpayers. I was around when we got our first grant for Downtown Revitalization under a previous town manager who was a very good grant writer. Infrastructure is needed, but pocket parks are nothing but an added tax burden to maintain. I think we need to think beyond grants as this is too costly and none of the ‘grant’ money is ever free.”
What are ways to help stimulate the Madawaska economy?
Jason Boucher: Bring industries. “We need to bring more industries into Madawaska. Madawaska is a great place full of hard working people, if we can bring large manufacturing businesses to the area it would help employ these hard working individuals and introduce outside money to our economy.”
Chris Braley: Be attractive to businesses and tourism. “We need to be an attractive community that will allow potential business owners to see the benefits we offer — a community with a culture who supports each other, and a community who is respectful of our own and our visitors even when we don’t all agree. [It should be] a community that wants to be a go-to destination for travelers year round.”
Dan Daigle: Not possible. “You can’t. We are struggling through the worst financial crisis in 80 years.”
Dave Morin: Help existing businesses. “Take care of existing businesses [and] develop an organized volunteer group to provide business opportunities.”
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: Bring in and encourage small businesses, while supporting all in town. “The Grand Plan that was revealed has not been successful. I have not seen any new businesses in Madawaska in almost three years. [It’s] hard to attract [businesses] with a 3 mill increase and a major blight left with the former Kmart/Shopping Plaza. We need to concentrate on getting small local businesses to emerge and provide services needed for the town such as a Laundromat … some sort of gift center where local crafters could sell their beautiful products. [There is] a need for a convenience store to serve people who are without cars and need such products in the Downtown area. We need someone to be motivated in moving this town in the right direction without there being a personal gain.”
Do you think the town should get involved with the Acadian Festival?
Jason Boucher: No comment.
Chris Braley: Yes. “Absolutely, and I think they already do a great job. Since I am coming straight from the trenches of that festival, it is the one event that can be a propeller for this region.”
Dan Daigle: Not right now. “Not at this point in time. At a later date, if funds allow, yes.”
Dave Morin: Yes. “The Acadian Festival needs support and redirection from the town.”
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: Should be self-sufficient. “Volunteers are difficult to find in Madawaska. It is a lot of work with more criticism than praise. It became part of the town at one point and invoices for the Acadian Festival were processed through the town. It would be ideal if every festival could be self-sufficient without town assistance. When you review the overhaul municipal budget, you need to review each of these outside agencies and the cost factor. It is not a simple decision to make. All these budget decisions need to be made by the entire Board of Selectmen. The Finance Committee should be an advisory board only and no board member should serve on the committee as that is a direct conflict of interest.”
What will you do to help keep the mill rate as steady as possible?
Jason Boucher: Better budgeting. “I will ensure that every penny spent by the town is necessary and beneficial to the townspeople. I will ensure that no money is wasted and help look for ways to reduce the current budgets.”
Chris Braley: Collaboration on better budgets. “There is nothing I can do alone to keep the mill rate steady. But I can advocate for balanced budgets, I can give suggestions when appropriate, and listen to each department and let them show us [the board] how they are operating on a fair budget and still provide essential services that we all need and rely on.”
Dan Daigle: Hold Twin Rivers accountable. “I will push to keep the spending within our means. The unpaid tax from Twin Rivers is the biggest tax issue for Madawaska. Twin Rivers must come good as honorable corporate citizens and pay tax on their true value.”
Dave Morin: Lower mill rate and hold Twin Rivers accountable. “The mill rate needs to go down 3 mills and the [paper] mill needs to pay their fair share.”
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: Cut the budget. “You need to cut the budget. There are people in this town who live on a very fixed income. Not necessarily just those who are retired but anyone working at minimum wage. There are plenty of business owners in this town who pay a lot of taxes only they have no voice on those taxes. The board needs to consider ALL the taxpayers and not with the attitude that it is what it is. Making cuts is not easy but they need to be made for this town’s survival.”
Do you support Valley Unified’s efforts to regionalize a high school?
Jason Boucher: Yes. “Yes I fully support Valley Unified and all its efforts to help bring better education. I have two young children currently in the school system who would benefit from the new school.”
Chris Braley: Yes. “Absolutely, after serving on the site selection committee and taking the opportunity to see what these types of educational opportunities provide our kids by traveling to see them I can’t express the need not only for our kids, but for the future growth of our region.”
Dan Daigle: Maybe. “[It is] depending on how and where it is set up.”
Dave Morin: Did not answer.
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: Unify services at school and municipal level. “We need to unify services, period. Whether it is school or municipal, there has to be a way for the surrounding communities to work together to provide services at the least tax amount.”
Do you support the location of the proposed school?
Jason Boucher: Yes. “I fully support Frenchville as the proposed location for the new Valley Unified School.”
Chris Braley: Yes. “[I] 100 percent support the process and selection of the proposed site.”
Dan Daigle: Yes. “Only Frenchville … yes.”
Dave Morin: Did not answer.
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: Yes. “I find that Frenchville is a central location.”
Why should people vote for you?
Jason Boucher: “People should vote for me because I have no hidden agendas. My goal is to represent the people of Madawaska and ensure their tax money is well spent according to what [the people] want. I have two young kids and want to make Madawaska a place they are proud to call home.”
Chris Braley: “I will speak from facts and will be transparent. I would serve with respect to other board members and to the community. I have absolutely zero self-interest other than to see this community survive. I didn’t serve on the Acadian Festival because of my heritage, I volunteered because I care. When I commit to something I commit to it 100 percent. The same is true for running for selectman. I encourage you to speak to me if you don’t know me. Speak to those who have worked or work with me. What you see is what you get. If you’re a taxpayer and just want stability, fairness, integrity and honesty then I am your choice.”
Dan Daigle: “If they want to see change, if you want to see a ‘bull in a China shop,’ if you want answers, if you want representation … vote for me. If you don’t want me, stay home and pay your rising taxes.”
Dave Morin: “I want success for my town. I’m a saver, frugal and not a spender.”
Manon Bilodeau Raymond: “I will be the one that will represent the taxpayers [who have] no voice. Those elderly who just shut up and pay when they have no increase in their monthly pay and have to make decisions on what bills to pay — an increase in taxes should not be a concern for them. Those business owners who cannot vote at town meetings because they do not reside here but who pay a good percentage of the taxes in this town [is another example]. I have 28 years of municipal experience … [have] seen a lot of board members over those years. [I have] served a lot of the public who are still taxpayers today. We need this town to grow. We have to remember where we live and stop believing that they will come to us if we build parks. What attracts people here is the friendliness of the townspeople and their love of their heritage. You cannot put a price tag on pride.”
This story may be updated online if more candidates submit questionnaires.