Robert Nichols said May 17 that he was running for a seat on the Rockport Select Board because “the town needs some qualified people on the Select Board.”

Five candidates will vie for two seats on the Rockport Select Board. Chairman William Chapman’s current term, and that of Tom Farley, will expire in June. The names of Chapman, Gordon Best, Patricia Egan, Nichols and Geoffrey Parker will appear on the ballot for those seats, with the top two vote-getters winning election.

“I have experience on the Select Board, Budget Committee and planning board and have contributed in the past to the town,” he said. “I would like to continue contributing in the future.”

“I have a background as an entrepreneur,” said Nichols. He said he has a financial background, having started several different companies and that he has been the chief financial officer of many organizations.

“I have had to deal with managing people and satisfying customers and those are all relevant to the job on the Select Board,” he said.

Nichols said the ideal solution for the future of the former Rockport Elementary School property at the corner of Route 1 and West Street would be “something that would be of benefit to the town long term, in that it would enhance the town and not just be a piece of property that would be a drain on the town.”

“I think the [proposal from] Maine Media Workshops [and College] has potential and should be pursued in terms of whether it makes sense or not,” he said. “The ultimate decision, of course, lies with the voters.” He said the Select Board should prepare a well thought out option to citizens before bringing it to a vote. Such a proposal should describe the positive and negative aspects of the plan, and include an estimate of costs to the town, said Nichols.

“I believe the process has developed and opened up over time,” said Nichols. He said the town is looking directly at possible solutions.

“I think if they continue to have that approach and expand on that, hopefully a decision can be reached that is appropriate for the town,” he said.

“I think we had a process that maybe wasn’t the smoothest and probably not everybody was happy with, it but it came up with a decision and we need to respect that decision and move on,” said Nichols.

Nichols said he respected the Select Board’s May 9 decision to reverse action taken by the board April 11 to not renew the town manager’s contract for unspecified reasons.

“However, the town manager is a highly paid position, currently over $120,000 per year of salary plus benefits and is a position which sets the tone for the entire town,” he said. “As citizens of Rockport, we have a right to expect high standards of ethics, competence and performance from any town manager. We also have a right to expect those standards [to] be enforced by the Select Board.”

Nichols said board members who have a bias on an issue should abstain from voting.

“That applies not only to Select Board members but also to committee and other board members,” he said.

“In an ideal world we would have every board or committee member have no bias or financial gain related to any decision of the town,” he said. He said that became difficult in small towns such as Rockport.

“I believe it’s the responsibility for each board or committee member to apply the highest standards to themselves,” he said. Nichols said the boards and committees should ensure that their members and actions are free of bias or personal gain.

“The purpose of government is to provide essential service for the constituents,” he said.

“I think Rockport is a town with a lot of character,” said Nichols. “It’s a small town and it’s a nice place to live. Going forward I would like to see it retain those characteristics.”

“My hope for Rockport in the future is that we are a town which retains the characteristics many of us know and love, and a town where our children will want to live and can afford to live,” he said.

“The comprehensive plan is a guide,” he said. “It’s not a law or ordinance.” Nichols said the plan was more like a wish list.

“If all the wishes were granted there would be potential conflicts between them,” he said. “As we go forward it’s a balancing act to try to implement the spirit of the comprehensive plan and resolve the conflicts between the various parts of it.”

Nichols said he didn’t feel there were major divisions between Rockport’s diverse villages.

“I know people from all of the areas in the town and I don’t feel there is a major division between them,” he said. “A select board needs to represent all the pieces of our community.”

Consolidation of public safety functions in Rockport and Camden is not a good idea, said Nichols.

“When I was [previously] on the Select Board we looked at that,” he said. “The decision was that it didn’t make sense at that time. And I’m not sure that anything has changed since then.”

He said he did not think there were other ways for the towns to consolidate services.

“I can’t see any opportunities at the moment,” he said. “We did do one regionalization. That was the dispatching for public safety. That worked out well. There may be potential in the future if another opportunity such as that exists.”

“My focus, if I were on the Select Board, would be to have open, honest, government,” said Nichols. “I believe in recent years we’ve had a lot of turmoil and decisions which were being made out of the view of the public and I believe that’s inappropriate for a Select Board.”

“If elected, my focus on the Select Board would be to be a Select Board member who fairly represents the citizens of Rockport,” Nichols said.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

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